Baseball in the Garden of Eden, A Book Review
- Updated: April 8, 2011
If you are someone who still whole heartedly believes Abner Doubleday is the soul person responsible for creating America’s Pastime, author John Thorn has some major news for you. In his new work Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game, Thorn examines many “myths” of the game so many love to try to find the facts about baseball’s true origin.
In this nearly 300 page work, Thorn tackles many ideas about baseball, some which could, and maybe have, lead to bar room brawls. Many people today are very comfortable about their knowledge regarding sports, specifically baseball which is the sport where history is treasured more than any other, and changing their mind could be difficult. Even so, Thorn gives it his best shot in his new work.
As far as Thorn can tell, there isn’t any real evidence that points to Doubleday as the inventor of Baseball, actually what he found is far from it (For those who don’t know, Doubleday is also credited with firing the first shot of the Civil War). The next logical step in guessing where baseball might have come from would be to assume someone took the game of cricket and altered it slightly to appease time limits. That doesn’t seem to be the case either, argues Thorn, who not only looked at the game’s origin within our country, but outside of it as well.
In one of his revelations, Thorn points to the Nile Valley in 1460 BCE from which time he has discovered a picture carved on the wall of a temple at a place called Deir-el-Bahri. In this picture a pharaoh named Tutmosis III is featured with a ball and bat. This, Thorn suggests, may be the world’s first evidence of baseball.
Despite this revelation, Thorn still spends most of the book chronicling the history of baseball in the United States. Included in the book’s extremely detailed and well documented descriptions, are also 16 pages of pictures depicting the founders of the game as well as other key points in early baseball history.
Among the descriptions of Doubleday’s false-anointment as the founder of baseball, is the tale of a man named Albert Spalding who it is believed to have spun the story and convinced the public of Doubleday’s importance. Spalding’s name has since become known in households since then, mainly because it can be seen plastered on sports equipment. In his time, Spalding was a marketing wizard and when he heard one of his customers telling the story of the “invention” of baseball, Spalding ran with it. The reader finds out the customer with this story, wasn’t exactly the most reliable source in the world. Not only was he a direct descendent of Doubleday, but he also had a very sketchy reputation. Nonetheless, Spalding saw a story that might make him money, or at least give him some attention, so he ran with it.
Never before, or since, has a story backed with so little evidence become so prevalent and well regarded and taken so long to be uncovered. Of all of the books that have been written over the past decade about the history of baseball and its origin, this is one of few that is worth its asking price.
Thorn establishes his place, once again, as perhaps the premiere baseball historian in the world as he no doubt attempted to leave no stone uncovered in his research. The editor of Total Baseball has created a work all fans who consider themselves baseball historians should read. Even if fans plan to hold true to their pre-conceived notions about the history of the game, the perspective Thorn gives is certainly worth consideration.
Total Rating: 4/5