The following guest post was written by Peter Armenti and Darren Jones, research specialists in the Library’s Researcher and Reference Services Division.
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack — it’s Major League Baseball’s Opening Day!
To celebrate the start of the 2023 season, the Library is pleased to announce a new digital collection: Early Baseball Publications. The collection, which will grow over time, provides full-text digitized access to more than 120 early baseball publications.
The initial release includes a large selection of 19th- and early 20th-century annual baseball guides, including many volumes of Spalding’s Official Base Ball Guide, one of the premier baseball publications of its day. Also included are rule books, record books, scorekeeping guides and books on how to hit and play different positions.
Early Baseball Publications updates and expands the Library’s long-standing Spalding Baseball Guides digital collection, which will be retired in several months once its content has fully migrated to the new collection. The new collection will include the 15 Spalding’s Official Base Ball Guides published between 1889 and 1939 in the legacy collection as well as the 20 Official Indoor Base Ball Guides also found there (“indoor baseball” developed into what we know today as softball).
Many of the more than 120 publications in the new collection were published by Albert Spalding’s American Sports Publishing Company. Among these are not only the annual Spalding guides, but also a number of rule books and instruction manuals. The 1911 manual How to Pitch, for instance, provides detailed illustrations showing how to grip the ball to throw different pitches, such as the “straight, swift ball” (fastball) thrown by New York Giants ace and future Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson:
.The collection also includes a number of unexpected finds, such as The Orr-Edwards Code for Reporting Base Ball, an 1890 instruction manual for sports journalists covering the game. It focused on shorthand to use on the telegraph.
While the collection is focused on works of nonfiction, one poetic surprise we discovered was “Chick Gandil’s Great Hit” from 1914. Written by Gilbert Marquardt Eiseman, the poem adapts “Casey at the Bat” by imagining a tense game between the Washington Senators and Boston Red Sox. The hero is Washington first baseman Gandil, whose talent would be overshadowed several years later by his involvement as the ringleader of the 1919 Chicago “Black Sox” game-fixing scandal, for which he and eight other players were permanently banned from baseball.
Early Baseball Publications represents only a fraction of the baseball materials at the Library. You can learn more about our extensive baseball holdings — among the largest in the world — and many other baseball materials by exploring our online Baseball Resources at the Library of Congress.
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