Rave reviews greet Fifty-nine in ’84

Washington Post: “An astonishing book … a romantic book, equal parts heroic quest, tragic tale and doomed love story.”

Los Angeles Times: “It’s the vibrancy of his story that resonates, the sense of Radbourn and these others not as historical figures but as human beings. The game they played was brutal, with no gloves or protective gear, and no substitutions except in the case of catastrophic injury. … With Fifty-nine in ’84, Achorn returns this remarkable season — and this remarkable pitcher — to something close to life.”

Charles P. Pierce, Boston Globe: “First-class narrative history that can stand with everything Stephen Ambrose wrote. … Achorn’s description of the utter insanity that was barehanded baseball is vivid and alive.”

Bob Ryan, Boston Globe: “Edward Achorn’s Fifty-nine in ’84 left me envious, as in ‘Why didn’t I do that?’ … What makes his book work is that this is not solely a baseball story. It is a sort of social history, giving us a feel for both baseball as it existed 126 years ago and American life in general. … Writing a book is never fun or easy, but I’m going to guess Mr. Achorn enjoyed researching this one.”

Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “Amazing story … Achorn’s work is reminiscent of ‘Seabiscuit’ … Like that great tale, this one is a story not just of the central character, but of the America of the time … richly detailed.”

Denver Post: “Full of passion … A brilliant look at the game’s early days.”

Dallas Morning News: “Achorn’s engaging prose, peppered with copious quotes from 19th-century journalists, reads like an eyewitness account. … The book is more than just the chronicles of one man’s record-breaking feat. It is a captivating look back at a time when baseball, like America, was raw, dangerous and exciting.”

Steve Buckley, Boston Herald: “Baseball fan or not, you will lose yourself in this wonderfully-written book. You will smell the manure on the streets of Providence. Your throat will burn from the booze and the tobacco. And your shoulder will ache.”

Baseball Digest: “Anyone … who loves baseball should pick up a copy of Fifty Nine in ’84, Edward Achorn‘s well-researched and highly readable account of Radbourn‘s historic year … An engrossing trip back to those days, warts and all.”

Providence Journal: “I have never read a baseball book I enjoyed more, and I’ve read a lot of them. … If you’re a baseball fan, you owe it to yourself to read this one.”

Baseball America: “There’s certainly enough conflict, drama, and romance to make a great movie. They won’t even need a Hollywood ending. Radbourn provided it himself.”

Weekly Standard: “Pitch perfect … Compelling read … Edward Achorn has done a marvelous job of bringing together not just a ballplayer and his lover, but a time and a game, a city and its people, and the stories of all the Providence Grays, one of whom wound up recording the ‘greatest season a pitcher ever had.’”

Bill Littlefield, Only a Game (NPR): “Edward Achorn’s Fifty-nine in ’84 goes well beyond [Radbourn’s] preposterous numbers. He has a wonderful time bringing to life Providence, the city where Radbourn was pitching in 1884. He gives us Radbourn’s teammates, at least one of whom hated him. He introduces us to Carrie Stanhope, the woman Old Hoss apparently loved and finally married, just before syphilis killed him.”

David M. Shribman, Bloomberg News: “This season’s most unexpected volume … a portrait of baseball when the grass was green and the players’ palms were red (no gloves in those days) — a magical world of heroes and cranks and a woman known as Mrs. Stanhope, who presided over a boarding house and dominated the dreams of Charles Radbourn.”

Charleston Courier and Post: “Fifty-Nine in ’84 is that rare ore strike, taking remarkably colorful Providence Grays pitcher Charles ‘Old Hoss’ Radbourn and his amazing 59 victories during the 1884 season out of a treasure box in baseball’s attic.”

Cape Cod Today: “Fifty-nine in ’84 is a stirring, enjoyable read that I couldn’t put down. If you like baseball, you’ll love this book.”

Kathleen A. Powers, Boston Globe: “Achorn has dug deep into newspaper files and other archives, including marvelous photographic collections, to give us a raw and rude picture of baseball’s Old Testament era. He also shows us a vanished America … when sports writing was high-flown and fistic. He is generous with oddities of material detail and ways of life, including stories of atrocious sportsmanship on the part of players and perfidy on that of umpires — who justly feared for their lives.”

Milwaukee Journal: “Achorn doesn’t let those stunning stats get in the way of the bigger, and better, story: of a remarkable player and person (Radbourn, among his many accomplishments, also apparently was the first person ever to be photographed giving a one-finger salute), and a remarkable time in the game’s history. Thanks to relentless reporting and a straightforward writing style, both come alive.”

Publishers Weekly: “There’s plenty to devour (and learn) for even the biggest of baseball savants … Achorn wonderfully captures this era.”

Library Journal: “Hugely appealing for baseball die-hards … not just a recitation of bare-handed baseball and old-time brawling, but a story that, with its larger-than-life protagonist, numerous exploits, and a love interest, reads like a novel.”

BusinessWeek online: “Incredibly this reviewer could not put this page-turner down even while watching the Super Bowl on television. Even the goal line stand of the Colts on their one yard line wasn’t as exciting as the drama of Old Hoss Radbourn and his Providence Grays battling it out.”

New York Post: “Required reading … Imagine the kind of money Charles ‘Old Hoss’ Radbourn would be pulling in today … Achorn shows us the brutal, bloody, woolly, no-holds-barred baseball of a different era.”

Twitter legend @oldhossradbourn: “Achorn writes vividly, and a great strength of the book is that one is near transported to the time in question. I felt as if I were once again walking through those dense, crowded streets on the way to the ball park or, in my off time, a house of ill repute. Achorn has clearly studied his subject matter well, and knows the ins and outs of his geography as if he’d strolled these boulevards himself. To his great credit, he equally treats the bad and the good, and his picture is often not pretty: coal-powered cities teem with fetid smog; rivers clogged with sewage wend their way through the landscape; and the questionable morals and illicit activities of the players and citizenry are omnipresent.”