Diamonds are a reader’s best friend

We have entered that mid-February time when catchers and pitchers report to spring training to prepare for the baseball season. To don the tools of ignorance. To pretend to run wind sprints in the outfield. To cadge a couple of extra days of downtime with “visa problems.” As one of the foremost academic publishers of sports titles, the UIP has spat on its hands and corked all bats in order to produce a murderer’s row of books that will get you ready for another campaign. Let’s go to the highlights.

pernotAlbert G. Spalding rose from a base ball internship on post-Civil War playing fields to big city stardom. His team, the Chicago White Stockings, was a founding member of the National League. One day, the White Stockings would morph into the Chicago Cubs, for better and (often) for worse.

A former 47 game-winner and a pioneer in wearing a baseball glove, Spalding became president and then co-owner of the White Stockings while using his rep as a star pitcher to simultaneously found a sporting goods empire. As Laurent Pernot chronicles in his crackerjack Cubs history Before the Ivy, the wily Spalding—truly a Chicagoan—found a way to make a buck off spring training:

The club’s only true moment in the sun that season came before the first game when Burns and his men headed to Hudson Springs in New Mexico for a boot camp-like spring training that, the Tribune reported, consisted mostly of “bronco riding, mountain climbing, and long hunting trips” that made the players “hard as rocks.” True to form, Spalding was likely mixing sport and business in organizing the trip; the resort where the team stayed was owned by Chicagoan Andrew Graham, who reportedly had put much effort into growing it at the prodding of Spalding.