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Detailed Book Review
Vintage Base Ball`s Enduring Legacy         
Vintage Base Ball`s Enduring Legacy
By Jack Pelikan
ISBN: 979-8-9852820-7-8
Price: $21.95
Shipping: $4.00
This book celebrates one of America`s few longstanding and fully intact traditions. Beginning with its humble, early-19th century origins, it chronicles the game`s history including its meteoric rise as the national pastime, subsequent commercialization, scandal and adaptation that has led to the nationwide revival of the 19th century game. The book discusses today`s proud yet unheralded community of vintage ballists (players), who nobly carry on the game of their ancestors. Inside its pages are a compendium of historical research balanced by interviews with today`s vintage clubs including St. Louis` Lafayette Square Cyclone, Upstate New York`s Mountain Athletic Club, Columbus` Ohio Village Muffins and Lady Diamonds, Arizona`s Fort Verde Excelsiors, Akron`s Black Stockings and Washington State`s Whatcom Aces. Vintage Base Ball`s Enduring Legacy also offers dozens of photographs, rules, a lexicon, and is a must read for historians, nostalgists and fans alike.

"Here is a real corker and a fitting tribute to the thriving vintage base ball community!" -- Peter Morris, baseball books author

Podcast with author Jack Pelikan https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/04-11-rotb-jack-pelikan-author-of-vintage-baseballs/id1492781741? i=1000615793175

Book Review Details:
Reviewed Appeared In: Vintage Base Ball’s Enduring Legacy
Reviewed By: Bob Sampson, Historian of the Vintage Base Ball Association
Text Of Review: Vintage Base Ball’s Enduring Legacy, Jack Pelikan, Punxsutawney, PA: Pocol Press, 2023; 306 pages, Appendix, Bibliography, and Index. $21.95.

In 2011, James Tootle, a long-time member of the Ohio Muffins vintage base ball team, published “Vintage Base Ball: Recapturing the National Pastime,” (McFarland & Co., Inc., Publishers), the first serious work addressing the game played coast-to-coast by over 400 by the author`s count. Tootle`s work is both a history and a how-to book for those interested in launching vintage teams and stands the test of time.

Added to that short list is Jack Pelikan`s “Vintage Base Ball’s Enduring Legacy.” Pelikan, an accountant who has worked in the private sector and academia, literally stumbled onto the game while living in St. Louis` historical Lafayette Square Park neighborhood. One hot summer Saturday in 2013 (those familiar with St. Louis will perceive the redundancy in “hot” and “summer” in reference to the city), Pelikan and his wife went for a walk.

“After reaching the park`s northwest corner, where a group of men dressed in full-length wool unforms reminiscent of the Civil War appeared to be playing some primitive baseball game, I briefly convinced myself that I was either hallucinating from the heat or traveling through time,” he writes (p. 1). He soon realized he was witnessing a “historical re-enactment,” though he had to fight off the temptation to intervene and note missed calls and other variations from the modern game. Finally, he asked a player on the sidelines, the now-deceased Jonathan “Charlie Brown” Farris, who provided a “15-minute crash course on vintage base ball.” (p. 2) Soon, Pelikan was determined to watch and learn more about the vintage game. A decade`s pursuit of this fascination led to this book.

Approaching the game as a fan, Pelikan seeks to encompass its geographic and recreated eras variations, noting that he has “remained steadfast in my mission to shine a brighter light on this unheralded piece of Americana.” (p. 3)

Readers will find the book well-organized. Part I, “Niche to National Pastime—Origin and Ascent of America’s Game (c. 1840-1870), provides a foundation for understanding baseball`s early years. Part II, “Passed by the Pro-s—Commercialization, Corruption and Adaptation,” deals with the various problems encountered over the years by the professional game and the resulting disillusionment of some fans.

Modern vintage base ball enters on page 97 in Part III, “Alive and Well—Vintage Base Ball’s Revival.” Pelikan approaches his primary subject by first reviewing the “remergence” of the game, moving on to examinations of five clubs/programs from the Mountain Athletic Club of Fleischmanns, New York, to the Akron (Ohio) Black Stockings, the Lafayette Square Cyclones of St. Louis, the Ohio Village Diamonds, a women`s club, and concludes with two western clubs—the Fort Verde Excelsiors of Arizona and the emerging Whatcom Aces of Bellingham, WA.

Vintage clubs will find more helpful information in the concluding sections. An appendix contains several pages of modern vintage base ball terms. Pelikan`s bibliography is a good source for the ongoing research into the early game. And for those who wish to jump around by topic or name, the Index is helpful.

In the book`s Epilogue, Pelikan is optimistic about the modern vintage game`s future, finding compelling evidence in the accounts of the clubs, players, and communities he examined in Part III. “While the clubs profiled herein are but a small subset, their dedication to historical preservation, sportsmanship and camaraderie as well as their optimistic outlook on the vintage game`s future are shared throughout the entire vintage base ball community,” he writes. (p. 211)

This book represents an important addition to the growing body of work on modern vintage base ball.
Date Reviewed: May 2023
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