A brief update: Last night I polished off the last chapters of “Fifty-nine in ’84,” the biography of Charlie “Old Hoss” Radbourn that I mentioned in a post a few days ago. The book by Edward Achorn was even better than I expected, bringing to life the game as it was played in the late 19th century.
I knew little about that era beyond that the game was different then. But what I discovered was that the game was not much different. Players bickered with owners over salaries, teammates backed each other up and betrayed one another in equal measure, and the fans (or “cranks”) loved the sport with a passion.
The book focuses on Radbourn and the Providence Grays, but there’s plenty about the Boston Beaneaters, Chicago White Stockings, Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Wolverines, Cleveland Blue Stockings and the New York Gothams of the original National League. I highly recommend the book to baseball fans, especially to those who appreciate the game’s rich history.
References to railroads, misguided medicine, alcoholism, prostitution and venereal disease only add to the book’s charm.