Sample Paper on Playing for Keeps by Goldstein Warren

Playing for Keeps

Playing for Keeps: A History of EarlyBaseball is a book authored by Goldstein Warren and released in the year 2009. The book documents the events that took place in the late 19th century and they frame the current society way of life and perceptions. It covers the history of baseball from the year 1874 to 1876 after it had graduated from an amateur recreation in 1850s to a professional competition. The author, Warren Goldstein, is a professor at the University of Hartford and plays a great role in unearthing the past American history. The book has an extensive chronology of the formation of the baseball game from the grassroots level in the 1850s to the initiation of the national league in 1876. It was first published by Cornell University Press in 1989.

Warren has received an array of accolades such as the Bent Award for scholarly creativity in 2006. It is essential to read this book because it equips the reader with the knowledge about how certain things started. Currently, baseball is viewed as a game and a business where owners and players are flying a handle at each other in full glare of the public. It is common that people are fanatic of baseball game but they do not understand how it came to being. Therefore, this paper provides an insightful summary of the book Playing for Keeps: A History of EarlyBaseball. Additionally, the paper accounts for the most intriguing parts of the book and how they reflect in today’s society.

Playing for keeps is a book that looks at the cultural setting and the structural design of early baseball. According to Warren, baseball culminated in the early 1850s as a casual game for amateurs who played just for fun. It was unprecedented how baseball came to emerge because Warren states that it rose dramatically. Players met at the Yankees stadium immediately after work or other activities to release tension and unwind by participating in this new adventure. Spectators were not left out as they passed by each night increasing significantly. The baseball fan enthusiasm multiplied and it was soon becoming intertwined with the American social life. It must be noted that baseball did not begin as a game for the common man but the middle-class people who identified themselves as skilled and intelligent.

However, the game started to be appealing to the people who had embraced the culture of the streets, common public. “The game appealed simultaneously to the culture of the urban streets and to the respectable and the new vigorous culture of middle-class Victoria men.” As a result, the game brought a bridge between the artisans and bourgeois cultures creating tension among these divide. As the game gained popularity, more and more skilled workers who sort to be incorporated in the emerging living standards of bourgeois joined the game. An editor of that time, John Montgomery Ward, said that baseball like anything else came with a rush attracting men and women of various social divide. Warren asserts that the division in cultural identities was becoming visible in the game as the elite middle-class wished to prove their skills and the artisans also wanted to be noticed.

After baseball had matured and become an incorporated game in the American society, it was involved in the sporting competitions. In 1860, the bourgeois followers formed their own clubs and the artisans on the other hand formulated their own teams. The club followers did not care much about the game but to emerge victorious among the artisans culture. Both players and spectators were paramount in spreading the popularity of the game in spite of the squabbles involved. As time progressed, baseball fraternity was formulated in order to oversee the professional clubs and competitive games. Henry Chadwick headed the baseball fraternity but he tried to distance himself from the boisterous culture brought by this game. Warren intrigues in his writings when he tries to portray Chadwick as a “gazelle that tried to control a den of lions.” Chadwick is described as a somber person who tried to bring sanity to the game but he was met with massive rebellions. The more he tried, the more the fans and players became as they sought superiority among the two cultures using the game.

Playing For Keeps: A History of Early Baseball” introduces a structural segmentation that can be attributed to the early baseball. This is visible when Warren introduces bourgeois sympathizers who tried to control the game but they seemed to be parochial in their campaign. Albert G. Spalding, the founder of the Spalding Sporting Goods Company, started influencing the baseball fraternity by paying a dollar for any dozen of Spalding balls used. This was seen as a marketing strategies but it later triggered special interests in the league. The bourgeois clubs were able to purchase the quality Spalding ball; hence, he Spalding became a sympathizer. Another impact created by Spalding is that he started commercializing the baseball game and it would soon start attracting monetary benefits.

In the year 1879, the National Major League Baseball was established which was entitled to make decisions and formulate rules governing the game. The national league propagated for commercialism of the game so that it gains resources to finance its operations. However, it was soon bombarded with governing challenges. The baseball owners were unreceptive to the clause that allowed only five players to be reserved. The rules formulated by the national league body continued to disadvantage the players as the reserved players could be terminated or sold without their consent. In 1883, the clause comprised the entire team that they could be dismissed with a 10 notice without their consent. The baseball owners were becoming rich and influential, and they did not mind the welfare of the players. Chadwick and Spalding tried to protest in order to return technical proficiency and decency in the game but their efforts came to naught. Interestingly, the two cultures formed as a result of the baseball game started uniting gradually. This is because the game had transformed into professionalism and a competitive sport which did not recognize the bourgeois and the artisans. Similarly, the governing body suppressed their rights inclusively.

In 1885, John Montgomery Ward’s Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players was initiated and led one of the most successful challenges to the national league governing body.  The main argument was that players were treated like black sheep instead of recognizing them as American citizens. A similar challenge had been staged by Henry Luca’s Union Association of Baseball Players in 1883. Lucas only wanted the change of reserve clause; hence, it was not very successful. The Brotherhood foundation initiated a parallel league that was to compete against the National League. This move was successful bringing the National League to its knees forcing the two associations to negotiate for peace. This negotiation was detrimental to the players because some of the rules such as the reserve clause remained. Players had to abide by these terms and they were to perform manual tasks such as cutting grass for their club owners. The reserve clause disadvantaged players such as Oscar Walker who had signed a contract with the Buffalo which deterred him from leaving when better offers came.

Warren does not leave out the press from bringing woes to the baseball game by spreading bias news. For example, the word “work ethic” was unfairly interpreted by the press giving the owners the power to overshadow their players. The press stated that baseball was operating under the concept of play and leisure. This implied that the players were supposed to play for passion and leisure and not with expectations of any benefit. The scholars and editors separated the meaning of work and recreation to the players’ disadvantage. The entire 19th century described sport as an antidote for a day’s work which meant that a sport was not an occupation. This strengthened the ambiguous rules such as the reserve clause. It is quite clear that the structural division kept on changing from one perception to the other. It started with a bridge between cultures, then it progressed to the clash between employers and players, and later it involved the government. The splitting of the game from amateurism and professionalism attracted numerous ideologies. It was unfortunate that the game was more of bringing disparity other than cohesion.

Early professional baseball had also challenges in terms of resources; for instance, the National Association had been threatened with bankruptcy. As soon as the rules were loosened for players entry and exit there was a significant influx of players as they tried to make ends meet. Local teams were left by their star players as they migrated to more resourceful teams leaving fans frustrated. As a result, building a devoted home team became a major challenge making the teams lose a lot of money. The National Association was replaced in the 20th century and the new tried to change the situation making the league more commercial and defending players’ rights.

Warren’s book is construed in a vivid style that engages the reader in a whirl of thoughts as he fathoms the changes involved in baseball game. In fact, the indulgence of press in spoiling the success of the game is quite intriguing. This situation reflects today’s society where the media acts as the societal mirror which guides the public actions. Media personalities have to be cautious in their selection of words and their coverage in order to avoid misleading the public. Similarly, politics in sport seems to have begun during the early days. The commotion between club owners and players in Warren’s books represents the current clash between players, sponsors, and authorities among other parties. Corrupt and bias associations are also symbolic in the book which fuels problems in sports. Playing for Keeps: A History of EarlyBaseball” is a well construed book that has numerous interpretations of American history. It delineates the struggle between class, culture, and power in the society. Therefore, it is an important book representing the history of baseball in America.