Dead Balls and Double Curves: An Anthology of Early Baseball Fiction collects twenty-two classic stories from baseball’s youth, presented in chronological order to capture the development of this most American of sports. Many of these tales have never before been reprinted, adding historical value to the rich literary merits of this anthology.
Editor Trey Strecker’s collection begins with an informal village match in an excerpt from James Fenimore Cooper’s Home as Found (1838), published the year prior to Abner Doubleday’s alleged invention of the game outside Cooperstown, New York, and concludes with the arrival of the superstar slugger that signaled the end of the dead-ball era in Heywood Broun’s The Sun Field (1923). The sampling of fiction from the eighty-five-year interim loads the bases with the humor, realism, and athletic gallantry of the sport’s earliest years. Not all grandstanding and heroism, these stories also explore cultural and class conflicts, racial strife, town rivalries, labor disputes, gambling scandals, and the striking personalities that decorated a simple game’s evolution into a national pastime.
Dead Balls and Double Curves presents a lineup of first-division writers, including Mark Twain, Frank Norris, Christy Mathewson, Edna Ferber, and the game’s poet laureate, Ring Lardner, plus legendary characters such as Baseball Joe, South-Paw Skaggs, Tin Can Tommy, and the sole artiste of the mythic double curve, Frank Merriwell. Throughout the volume, each author’s abiding affection for the game and its characters shines through with diamond-like focus.