kirsch baseballI once tried to explain baseball to a British friend while we watched a Cubs game. By the sixth inning, after going aground on the dropped third strike and tagging up on a fly ball, I said that baseball, like a foreign language, is most easily learned in childhood.

Like cricket. An impossible game that as far as I can tell lasts days, like one of those ball games played by Aztecs, cricket baffles the outsider yet addicts those who can tell a yorker from a nurdle. Thus, it shares something with itsĀ greatest descendant, baseball. But why invent a new game in the first place? In discovering how and why Americans chose baseball over cricket as the national pastime, George B. Kirsch takes us back to amateur playing fields around the country to recreate the excitement of the early matches, the players, clubs, and their fans. Baseball and Cricket places the growing popularity of the two sports within the social context of mid-nineteenth century American cities. At the same time, Kirsch follows baseball’s transition from a leisure sport to a commercialized, professional enterprise and offers the first complete discussion of the early American cricket clubs.

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