by Robert D. Sampson
University of Illinois Press, 2023
Paper: 978-0-252-08718-9 | eISBN: 978-0-252-05434-1 | Cloth: 978-0-252-04505-9
Library of Congress Classification GV875.I3
Dewey Decimal Classification 796.35709773

Winner of the Russell P. Strange Book of the Year Award from the Illinois State Historical Society

Baseball’s spread across Illinois paralleled the sport’s explosive growth in other parts of the country.Robert D. Sampson taps a wealth of archival research to transport readers to an era when an epidemic of “base ball on the brain” raged from Alton to Woodstock. Focusing on the years 1865 to 1869, Sampson offers a vivid portrait of a game where local teams and civic ambition went hand in hand and teams of paid professionals displaced gentlemen’s clubs devoted to sporting fair play. This preoccupation with competition sparked rules disputes and controversies over imported players while the game itself mirrored society by excluding Black Americans and women. The new era nonetheless brought out paying crowds to watch the Rock Island Lively Turtles, Fairfield Snails, and other teams take the field up and down the state.

A first-ever history of early baseball in Illinois, Ballists, Dead Beats, and Muffins adds the Prairie State game’s unique shadings and colorful stories to the history of the national pastime.