Book Reviews

It Happens Every Spring – Baseball! The Glorious Beaneaters of the 1890s

The Glorious Beaneaters of the 1890s represents the combined efforts of more than 50 SABR writers and editors, including several from the DC Metro area.

(Photo: Amazon)

By Ralph Peluso, Literary Editor

Alexandria, VA – For more than 40 years, the Society of American Baseball Researchers (SABR) has led the way in publishing baseball historical and statistical research. Recently released, The Glorious Beaneaters of the 1890s represents the combined efforts of more than 50 SABR writers and editors, including several from the DC Metro area: Lyle Spatz, a historical records expert from Maryland; Bill Mortell, a SABR member since 1977; Brian McKenna, an avid Orioles fan who has contributed over 60 SABR articles; and, of course, me.

Bob Lemoine’s introduction is titled “Long Ago When the Team Was Known as the Beaneaters,” and that says it all. I doubt many Atlanta Braves fans know the genesis of their home team.

More than a century has passed since the Glorious Beaneaters era of the 1890s. Boston later added a second team that would capture the hearts of New England, the Red Sox. But while the Red Sox have had some terrific runs, they have never reached the level of dominance over a decade such as the Boston Beaneaters accomplished. Beaneaters captured five pennants in that one decade. Nine Beaneaters are enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. A handful of others, like “Happy” Jack Stivetts, have decent statistics and rationale to someday earn election.

This book includes the biography of every player to appear with the team in the 1890s, as well as year-by-year recaps of seasons 1891 through 1899. Also, the bios of the owner and manager, recaps of 50 of the team’s most thrilling games, articles about the ballparks they played in and the team’s impact on pop culture and 1890s baseball.

Sports news and player information did not spread as quickly then as it does today. I wrote my article, “Relieved Beaneaters Gain Title Again,” from the perspective of a beat sportswriter. It recounts the pennant winning game of October 11, 1898. By winning, they avoided a rematch with the Orioles and the prospect of another protracted brawl.

Legendary manager Connie Mack called the 1890s era “a turbulent decade of the so-called roughhouse days in baseball. The Boston Beaneaters were ready for any fray, ever willing to take on the pugnacious Baltimore Orioles and give them a dose of their own medicine.”

“The tumultuous 1890s witnessed a player revolt against high-handed and monopolistic management,” wrote baseball historian John Thorn, “The game was in a period of consolidation, or hibernation, or stagnation; one’s perspective depended upon whether he was an owner, fan, or player.”

A great deal of credit for this terrific book goes to its editors. Bob Lemoine is an adjunct professor who lives in New Hampshire. Bill Nowlin, a member of the SABR board of directors, lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Both are consistent SABR contributors and maintain active interest in Boston baseball.

This is a solid work for the serious baseball fan who is interested in baseball’s early history, heroes, and characters. Zebra Rating: 4.5 Stripes

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