Northern Illinois University Press

Before the World Series

Pride, Profits, and Baseball's First Championships

Larry G. Bowman

"Bowman's blending of narrative and anecdote is engaging, and his conclusions are thoughtful and intelligent. In telling the history of baseball's earliest experiment with postseason competition, he introduces the reader to many of the now-forgotten stars and journeymen of the 1880s."—Reed Browning, author of Cy Young: A Baseball Life

"A valuable study of early championship baseball."—Elysian Fields Quarterly

"Clearly written, spiced with entertaining anecdotes, and full of useful background material ... grounded in solid research in the periodical literature of the era."—Business History Review

In baseball history, no decade is more critical than the 1880s—a time of urban growth when sports stories began to fill the pages of newspapers and supporting the home teams became a hallmark of civic duty. Larry Bowman narrates the trials and triumphs of baseball's early championships, illuminating the complex circumstances that led to baseball's meteoric rise in popularity.

The first World's Championship Series arose in an ad hoc manner when the Providence Grays faced the New York Metropolitans in 1884. Seeking to maximize profits, team owners promoted postseason baseball to ensure that one team could bill itself as the world's best. Bowman traces the history of seven championship series, recounting the frenzied negotiations and media hoopla that often preceded events. He also analyzes the emergence of mascots, the evolution of the game's rules, and the impact of America's explosive urban growth on baseball's popularity.

Before the World Series brings to life colorful figures—from baseball magnates such as Albert Spalding, Christian Von der Ahe, and Frederick Stearns to legendary Hall of Famers like the fearsome Cap Anson, Charles Comiskey, and baseball's first union organizer, John Montgomery Ward. The story of Moses Walker, a black major leaguer 63 years before Jackie Robinson, sheds light on African Americans' early involvement in baseball.

Spirited and engaging, this illustrated account of baseball's first championships offers a fresh perspective on the development of America's national pastime.

(2003) 262 pp., illus.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-307-4
cloth $27.50

Larry G. Bowman was Professor of History at University of North Texas and author of Captive Americans: Prisoners during the American Revolution and several articles on baseball's early history. He passed away in 2002 as this book was in production.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. The 1880s
2. Interleague Play
3. The Beginning
4. Chicago and St. Louis
5. The Browns and the Wolverines
6. The New York Giants
7. New York and Brooklyn
8. Brooklyn and Louisville

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-307-4
cloth $27.50