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Viva el Libros: The Summer of Beer and Whiskey

"Fireworks boomed over the stadium, splashing piercing colors into the sky that were reflected beyond center field on the Gateway Arch, symbol of the city's critical role in America's bold westward expansion. Another splendid page in St. Louis history had been written."

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Around these parts, we have jokingly referred to the blog as a "highbrow frathouse". I have never read The Summer of Beer and Whiskey by Edward Achorn, but based on what I have learned about the book, there isn't a more perfect selection for the inaugural book in our offseason bookclub.

The book itself seems to be about the birth of baseball in St. Louis and the man responsible, Chris Von der Ahe, a German brewer who knew little of baseball and saw the team as a way to promote his brewery. In his e-mail to me, fellow VEBer YearOfGlad goes into more detail about the book:

The Summer of Beer and Whiskey by Edward Achorn (A-korn, like oak trees) is is a history of the very earliest days of the team that would become our own St. Louis Cardinals. Mostly drawing on contemporary newspaper accounts, Achorn first profiles German beer impresario Chris Von der Ahe, a "colorful" figure who bought the struggling team to help promote his brewery and chain of beer gardens.

The middle section lays out the founding of the American Association as a "populist" competitor to the stuffy tsk-tsk National League, with Von der Ahe as the catalyst. The AA was like the XFL of its time, promoting their drunk, rough, and roustabout players, selling cheap tickets (25 cents), playing Sunday games, and selling BEER at the BALLPARK.  (Amongst the wild 'n'crazy players in the league were a young Charley Comiskey.  Bill Veeck would have been all over this concept had he, you know, been born yet.)

The third section re-creates the pennant race of 1883, with the St. Louis Brown Stockings challenging the powerful Philadelphia Athletics until the end.

YearOfGlad helped to choose this book and has reasons for the selection with much  more depth than my "because it seemed interesting":

  1. It came recommended by an author pen-pal of mine, who knows his sports biographies.
  2. What could more appropriate for the inaugural month of our Book Club than the origin story of the Cardinals?
  3. It has BEER and WHISKEY right there in the title!!!!  Should appeal to a broad selection of VEB-ers.
  4. There is no published book titled The Winter of Sandwiches and Underwear.  I looked, I really did.  Maybe VEB can fill that vacuum in the future.

With that being said, I am very excited to start reading. I hope to learn a lot and am curious what everyone else thinks!

The book is available on Amazon in Kindle, hardback, and paperback forms. You should also be able to find it at your local library or purchase it from these other fine retailers.

Don't have a book yet? Here are some reviews and excerpts to get you started!


NPR: Hard Hits, Hard Liquor In 'The Summer of Beer and Whiskey'
The Wall Street Journal: Take Me Out to the Brew Game (Will Leitch) 'The Summer of Beer and Whiskey' recounts baseball's accomplishments, growing pains in 1883 (Marc Bona)
Bluebird Banter: Review: The Summer of Beer and Whiskey by Edward Achorn (dexfarkin)


Edward Achorn
Google Books