A man came up to me with a book in his hands.
I had just stepped off the field at historic New Bridge Landing after playing a vintage baseball game – no gloves, 1864 rules. I have my own books to sell so I know how it feels to share work into which you’ve put your soul. But I could not talk. I was rushing to an old-style daguerreotype team photo where the pose has to be held for ten minutes. After that, I could not find him anywhere. That book is the newest addition to the Fitzgerald’s 1928 Writers’ Bookshelf.
Two hours after the game I happened to stop by the Glen Ridge Library where as part of a Civil War display I saw the book – Baseball in Blue & Gray – staring back at me. That’s when I learned that author George B. Kirsch had been a town resident from 1984 to 2009.
His book is a reminder that whatever you may consider an institution today – something as fundamental as baseball — has not always been the way it is now.
Mr. Kirsch takes us back to the beginning. He tells us about the long struggle between the “Massachusetts” and the “New York” also called “Knickerbocker” styles of the game. New York won out; it is the earliest version of the game we play today.
You’ll learn from this book that at one point games went to the team that first scored 100 runs, that some versions included as many as 21 bases haphazardly placed, that hitting the runner with the ball was once a way to get an out. Mostly, “Baseball in Blue & Gray” is about national consciousness, the war that divided us, and the national pastime that brought us together. It is about the coming of age of a gentler contest at the same time that war ravaged the population.
I like this image: some soldiers shouldered along with their rifles, a baseball bat.
Find out more about the book here: http://amzn.to/1s7bIqL
Mr. Kirsch, Professor Emeritus of history at Manhattan College, is the author of several books including the latest one, “Six Guys from Hackensack: Coming of Age in the Real New Jersey.”