My favorite title of the week, new but schlock-straight to paperback: Roswell and the Reich: The Nazi Connection (by Joseph P. Farrell). Alas, no vampires. Happenstance? Or just lack of alliteration?
Fifty-nine in '84: Old Hoss Radbourn, the Brutal World of Early Baseball, and the Greatest Season a Pitcher Ever Had
by Edward Achorn
"This is a beautifully written, meticulously researched story about a bygone baseball era that even die-hard fans will find foreign, and about a pitcher who might have been the greatest of all time."
-- Joseph J. Ellis, Pulitzer prize-winning historian and devoted Red Sox fan
Hold the peanuts and Cracker Jacks, fans, and let’s not be too hasty about that “great American pastime” distinction. In its infancy, according to the colorful and informative Fifty-nine in '84: Old Hoss Radbourn, the Brutal World of Early Baseball, and the Greatest Season a Pitcher Ever Had, 19th century baseball was often considered “one degree above grand larceny, arson, and mayhem, and those who engaged in it were beneath the notice of decent society.” Moreover, the players — usually hard-drinking illiterates in the game to escape work on the farms or in the mines — were exhibited before crowds of no more than 3,000, playing hardball in all senses of the word, with pitchers throwing toughened-up orbs at batters' heads, and catchers (and fielders) playing barehanded or wearing thin, fingerless gloves so that by the end of a game their hands were often covered with dirt and dried blood, putting them through such abuse at times that some would need fingers amputated. As this was before the introduction of relief pitchers, the starters were expected to play the entire game and to pitch often, sometimes on consecutive days — and sometimes even both ends of a doubleheader. The rough and ready aspect of the game included the fact that foul balls were not strikes, while a single umpire, often corrupt, called each game.