Book Review: Baseball in Blue and Gray: The National Pastime during the Civil War


by George B. Kirsch

Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. Pp. xv, 145 . Illus., biblio., index . $17.95. ISBN: 0691130434

Although the focus of Baseball in Blue and Gray is the experience of the game during the Civil War, Prof. Kirsch (Manhattan College) has wisely chosen to begin his book by addressing the origins and early history of the game, which arguably only began to become the "national pastime" during the gret national conflict. This takes him through various sports involving bats, balls, and running, such as rounders and cricket, which originated in England and were implanted in America long before the Revolutionary War. In the process, Kirsch naturally has to deal with the hoary tale about Abner Doubleday's alleged "invention" of the national sport, a fabrication that seems forever attached to the general's name, although he himself had no association with the game whatsoever and never claimed any, despite repeated demonstrations of its impossibility.

For the game and the war, Kirsch notes that baseball had evolved sufficiently by the 1850s that in some cities it was being played by amateur clubs with rules similar to those in use today, with games often being reported in newspaper sports' pages. Although strongest in the northeast, the sport could be found further west, brought by New Englanders and New Yorkers who'd migrated. The war saw games being played in army camps, and even prisoner-of-war compounds, and so served to spread the game still further, so that by war's end it was well on its way to becoming the "national pastime."

A good book for anyone interested in baseball or soldier life in the Civil War.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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