Cap­ti­vat­ing Book Takes an In­sight­ful Look at Henry Chad­wick; the “Fa­ther of Base­ball”

The Jewish Voice - - BOOK REVIEW - Re­viewed by: Robert Carver Writ­ten by: An­drew J. Schiff

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.

“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

The au­thor notes or­ga­nized base­ball’s his­toric first con­tact with the White House in 1865, when the play­ers of the Brook­lyn At­lantics (pic­tured above) on tour along with Chad­wick, who was trav­el­ing with them, were in­tro­duced to Pres­i­dent John­son

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.

His­to­rian An­drew J. Schiff is the au­thor of “The Fa­ther of Base­ball”: A Biog­ra­phy of Henry Chad­wick

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