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Viva el Libros: Discussion of The Summer of Beer and Whiskey

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What did you think of the innugural Viva el Libro?

"The National Game" by Alfred H. Spink (1910).

"According to one account, a mother chided her boy Bobby for attending a game on the Lord’s Day. 'Think how grieved your father will be when I inform him of it,' she said. 'Oh, you needn’t do that,' Bobby said. 'Oh, you told him, did you?' his mother asked. 'No,' replied Bobby, 'he saw me there.'"

Be transported to the 1880s where professional baseball is in its infancy. Follow along as Chris von der Ahe's St. Louis Browns, the Cincinatti Red Stockings, and the Phillideaphia Athletics battle it out for the pennant. In reading The Summer of Beer and Whiskey I found I learned more about baseball than I could have possibly imagined.

The story begins with the near down-fall of the sport, mentioning the lack of morality among the players - their drunkenness, womanizing, and gambling ways. The attempt to combat this created a "blacklist" that took many talented players away from the sport, and made ticket prices more expensive keeping blue-collar workers and rabble-rousers alike from attending games. This focus on cleaning up the sport took a team from baseball crazed St. Louis all-together.

Enter Chris von der Ahe, a German immigrant and entrepreneur who saw an opportunity to make a lot of money by returning the sport back to the baseball-starved city of St. Louis. When his plan was foiled by the existing League and its blacklist, von der Ahe simply started his own, dubbed the Association. With cheaper ticket prices, Sunday games, and alcohol sales, this new association quickly gained popularity. Keeping up with the growing demand of the sport's passionate fanbase would pose challenges, but these early teams formed baseball as we know and love today.

I don't want to give away too much about the book in case not everyone is finished reading yet, so I will leave the recap at this. If you missed the intro in early December, you can check it out here. As I was reading, I wrote down some thoughts for discussion topics. Feel free to discuss the book in the comments!

What sort of similarities and differences did you catch between baseball and the "fanatics" in the 1880s and today?

Did any players remind you of current day players?

What about owners and managers like von der Ahe and Ted Sullivan?

What about beat writers like Reed?

Did you find yourself rooting for the St. Louis Browns to win the pennant? I knew what had happened, but apparently my St. Louis loyalty runs really deep.

Do you agree with how Achorn decided to tell the story with interjections from old newspaper clippings and quotes?

Did anyone else also listen to it on audiobook? I probably listened to about 50% of it that way and I really liked it.

In an era of great nicknames, what was your favorite? I liked Jumpin' Jack, quite a bit, personally.

Did you learn anything new?

What other observations or topics would you like to discuss?

There will be a formal introduction later this week, but, to give ya'll a head start, the book for January is going to be Bang the Drum Slowly by Mark Harris (1956). I think it will be a nice change of pace to read a book written a bit longer ago and I have heard good things.