The Summer of Beer and Whiskey: How Brewers, Barkeeps, Rowdies, Immigrants, and a Wild Pennant Fight Made Baseball America’s Game

March 17, 2015 - Comment

Chris von der Ahe knew next to nothing about base¬ball when he risked his life’s savings to found the franchise that would become the St. Louis Cardinals. Yet the German-born beer garden proprietor would become one of the most important—and funniest—figures in the game’s history.Von der Ahe picked up the team for one reason—to sell

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Chris von der Ahe knew next to nothing about base¬ball when he risked his life’s savings to found the franchise that would become the St. Louis Cardinals. Yet the German-born beer garden proprietor would become one of the most important—and funniest—figures in the game’s history.

Von der Ahe picked up the team for one reason—to sell more beer. Then he helped gather a group of ragtag professional clubs together to create a maverick new league that would fight the haughty National League, reinventing big-league baseball to attract Americans of all classes. Sneered at as “The Beer and Whiskey Circuit” because it was backed by brewers, distillers, and saloon owners, their American Association brought Americans back to enjoying baseball by offering Sunday games, beer at the ballpark, and a dirt-cheap ticket price of 25 cents.

The womanizing, egocentric, wildly generous Von der Ahe and his fellow owners filled their teams’ rosters with drunks and renegades, and drew huge crowds of rowdy spectators who screamed at umpires and cheered like mad as the Philadelphia Athletics and St. Louis Browns fought to the bitter end for the 1883 pennant.

In The Summer of Beer and Whiskey, Edward Achorn re-creates this wondrous and hilarious world of cunning, competition, and boozing, set amidst a rapidly transforming America. It is a classic American story of people with big dreams, no shortage of chutzpah, and love for a brilliant game that they refused to let die.

Comments

Paul Tognetti "The real world is so much more... says:

The resurrection of baseball and its most improbable savior. “But in all eight of its markets, the Association was transforming the public’s perception of baseball itself, turning it from a fading game stained by corruption into a lively, affordable, fun-filled form of entertainment, the perfect two-hour escape from lives circumscribed by hard toil.” – p. 116 

Bill Emblom "Bill Emblom" says:

Baseball’s Rich and Rollicking Past I first read about Chris Von der Ahe, Arlie Latham, and the St. Louis Browns (today’s Cardinals) in a small paperback entitled “Comedians and Pranksters of Baseball” published by The Sporting News about 50 years ago. Thankfully author Edward Achorn has brought the period of early baseball back to life with this new gem on the 1883 pennant race between the Browns and the Philadelphia Athletics, both members of the American Association. 

Mark R. Brewer says:

Baseball in 1883 Edward Achorn is a first-rate historian. His books are well researched and well written. Baseball history is merely the topic he chooses to write about, and that’s a blessing to those of us who love to read about baseball in the 19th Century. 

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