Baseball Joe On the Giants; or Making Good as a Ball Twirler in the Metropolis (1916) by Lester Chadwick ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This is number six in a fourteen book series called The Baseball Joe Series, and I’d love to find more! The first eleven books of the series are on Gutenberg, but I read my physical copy.
My copy has writing inside. It says “Letitia Marris January 29, 1945” Someone wrote their name in a 29 year old book! 😲
It has obviously been read, because there are creases where the person dog-eared the pages every so often at convenient places.
Lets talk about the story! Joe is a rather upstanding citizen. He doesn’t drink, smoke, or chew tobacco, and he even has a mutual crush on his friend’s sister. He has no vices whatsoever and he tries to do his best in all he can. He’s practically perfect.
The book starts off with Joe playing baseball (inside a gymnasium, curiously) with his friends during the off season in his hometown. At this point in the saga, Joe has already gone through the minor leagues and has hit the big leagues, playing a year with the St. Louis Cardinals. During the game, one of his friends asks how fast he guesses his pitch was, and he roughly guesses ‘100 feet per second’, which is about 62 mph. The group is astonished at the speed. The contrast is very interesting, because today that would be a very slow pitch; the average pitcher’s speed nowadays is about 92 mph.
A professor comes upon the band of boys, and challenges Joe’s claim that he can throw a ‘curve ball’, saying there is no such thing, and that the move is an ‘optical delusion’. Joe says that he has a friend who has a movie camera, and he will have him ‘take pictures’ of him throwing the curve ball to prove him wrong. This is eventually done, and, of course, the professor is proved wrong.
At this point, someone runs in and announces that some madman has stolen a baby from a neighbor’s house, and Joe is Johnny On the Spot (as he seems always to be), and ultimately saves the baby by using his pitching arm. This is the first in multiple events where Joe helps his fellow man. He is a hero!
Soon, Joe gets word that he has been traded to the New York Giants. He is thrilled, as this is the best team in the league, and the three year contract even has a bonus clause for if he pitches to win 20 games in the season.
On his way to New York, Joe by chance meets a ball player, Wilson, from the Red Stockings of 1869, a very famous team. As far as I can tell, the name of Wilson was totally made up. That team played a perfect season, 57-0, the only perfect season in baseball history.
After Joe arrives in New York, much of the book goes game to game, play by play on how the Giants won the flag to go on to the World Series. It ends in a cliffhanger, so we can read in the new book what happened.
A lot of the phrasing is curious in the book. In addition to ‘optical delusion’, as it is put multiple times, they call the World Series ‘The World’s Series’ and varsity is spelled with an apostrophe like ‘Varsity. This was the first time I’d ever seen this old-time spelling of varsity, and I decided to look it up. I learned that Varsity is an altered and shortened version of University. Also, instead of constantly using the team name, they often will use the city name. So, instead of just saying The Giants, they will say the New Yorks, and instead of saying the Cubs, they say the Chicagos.
Also, all the ball players on the Giants are obviously based on the real Giants of the time, but the names are slightly changed. Denton must be based on Rube Benton, McCrae, the manager, is obviously based on John McGraw, Hughson must be based on Christy Mathewson,Byrnes must be based on George Burns. There are probably more, but those are right off the top of my head.
This was an enjoyable read. I love to read about how different baseball was back then, and there is some solid baseball history in there, too. Four stars for this.