|llustration by Homer Davenport in|
Albert G.Spalding's America's National Game
Thorn's investigation begins with explorations into the nature of other bat and ball games including rounders, one-cat (including two-cat, and three-cat), town ball and the standardization of cricket's rules. More importantly, Thorn examines the rules, official and unofficial, of these games and where these games were played. Without exception, Thorn offers evidence these games originated in England, and made their way across the Atlantic. In addition, he is able to demonstrate these games were played in various parts of the country well before 1839, the year of Abner Doubleday's immaculate conception of the national game at Cooperstown, N.Y.
|The Knickerbocker baseball club. Alexander Cartwright is the middle figure in the back row.|
Though Thorn devotes considerable ink to the history of the early years of professional baseball following the Civil War, the real hook to his story is the rise of Albert Spalding and his efforts to cast baseball as a homegrown American game. Tracing the growing power and influence of Spalding, a ballplayer, an owner, and a sporting goods magnate, Thorn links him to the rise of the Theosophist Society. The Theosophists became popular during the growth of secret societies, shrouded in mysticism that were quite trendy during the Victorian era. The real joy of Thorn's narrative is his development of the conspiracy between members of the Theosophists, including Spalding, and other leaders to anoint Doubleday (a Civil War hero and leader of the Theosophists until his death in 1892) as baseball's godhead by the Mill's Commission in 1904.
|Al Spalding as a player with the Boston club. He would later become extremely a powerful figure in the national game.|
|Author John Thorn|