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Testimonials

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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Monday, September 25, 2017

Long before billion-dollar stadium projects and performance enhancing substances, the mid-nineteenth century game of “Base Ball” was a speedier but lesser known alternative to cricket, populated by amateur players from the burgeoning professional and mercantile class of greater New York.

This nascent game, in all its permutations – the teams had differences in the number of players and innings, the distance between bases, and what was considered fair or foul, among other things – was an unwieldy enterprise.   

Enter Henry Chadwick, originally a New York Times cricket reporter, who was invited to attend the rules committee of the players’ convention to establish the official rules of baseball, many of which survive to this day.

“The Father of Baseball”: A Biography of Henry Chadwick is historian Andrew J. Schiff’s resurrection of Henry Chadwick from the margins of baseball history to his rightful place at its leading edge.  Although neither a player nor a team owner, Chadwick was America’s first modern sports journalist, who turned sports reporting into daily news.  Chadwick’s promoting and reporting of baseball, writing guidebooks, and his development of the box score and player statistics, ushered in the national pastime and earned Chadwick the title of “father of baseball” in his day.

Schiff’s book traces Chadwick’s involvement in baseball, from his observation of the game played in Hoboken in the 1850’s as a reporter, to his death in 1908 after attending a frigid opening day with 20,000 fans at the Polo Grounds.  The evolution of baseball in the Gilded Age into leagues and teams manned by professional players is put into historical context, and Chadwick’s harnessing of historical forces, and his victimization by them as well, are amply covered.

The author notes organized baseball’s historic first contact with the White House in 1865, when the players of the Brooklyn Atlantics, on tour along with Chadwick, who was traveling with them, were introduced to President Johnson.  Thirty four years later, in 1899, Chadwick would meet with President McKinley to lobby him to supply baseball equipment to the army at government expense.  And in 1904, on Chadwick’s eightieth birthday, President Roosevelt penned Chadwick a congratulatory note.  That the managing partner of a baseball club – George W. Bush – would become president of the United States would probably have been beyond Chadwick’s imagination, but he surely would have approved of it.

Reviewed by: Robert Carver
Written by: Andrew J. Schiff