Ballists, Dead Beats, and Muffins: Inside Early Baseball in Illinois (Paperback)

Ballists, Dead Beats, and Muffins: Inside Early Baseball in Illinois By Robert D. Sampson Cover Image

Ballists, Dead Beats, and Muffins: Inside Early Baseball in Illinois (Paperback)


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Baseball’s spread across Illinois paralleled the sport’s explosive growth in other parts of the country. Robert D. Sampson taps a wealth of archival research to transport readers to an era when an epidemic of “base ball on the brain” raged from Alton to Woodstock. Focusing on the years 1865 to 1869, Sampson offers a vivid portrait of a game where local teams and civic ambition went hand in hand and teams of paid professionals displaced gentlemen’s clubs devoted to sporting fair play. This preoccupation with competition sparked rules disputes and controversies over imported players while the game itself mirrored society by excluding Black Americans and women. The new era nonetheless brought out paying crowds to watch the Rock Island Lively Turtles, Fairfield Snails, and other teams take the field up and down the state.

A first-ever history of early baseball in Illinois, Ballists, Dead Beats, and Muffins adds the Prairie State game’s unique shadings and colorful stories to the history of the national pastime.

Robert D. Sampson is the editor of the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society and the author of John L. O’Sullivan and His Times.
Product Details ISBN: 9780252087189
ISBN-10: 0252087186
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Publication Date: May 2nd, 2023
Pages: 264
Language: English
"Highly entertaining with useful appendices." --Spitball Magazine

"Provides a wealth of detail about the origins of the Illinois game and the teams who played it from Chicago down south to Cairo and nearly every town in between." --St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"A delightful collection of history and baseball anecdotes for both casual and serious baseball fans." --Illinois Times

"Ballists, Dead Beats, and Muffins makes clear that there was a simplicity, innocence, and freshness to baseball in Illinois in these years, even as Sampson details the movement—probably inevitable—toward a more competitive and more professional level of play." --Third Coast Review

"Effectively blends history and nostalgia, sparking an appreciation of the National pastime. . . . This 250-page gem by Robert D. Sampson is an exhaustive focus on baseball's early style and sweep when gentlemanly players, civic leaders, and hosts of spectators stressed the bliss more than the score." --Community Word

“Detailed studies of baseball during these crucial years are rare, with ones that focus on a single state even more so. Bob Sampson’s Ballists, Dead Beats, and Muffins is thus both timely and valuable, confirming some long-accepted assumptions and forcing reexamination of others. Highly recommended!”--Peter Morris, author of Baseball Fever: Early Baseball in Michigan