Praise for The Summer of Beer and Whiskey
Von der Ahe picked up the team for one reason—to sell more beer. Then he helped gather a group of ragtag clubs into a maverick new league that would fight the haughty National League. Sneered at as “The Beer and Whiskey Circuit,” their American Association ended up revitalizing the sport, bringing Americans of all classes back to the ballpark. Their recipe: Sunday games, booze, 25-cent-tickets, with teams comprised of exciting, renegade, and often drunk, players.
Edward Achorn re-creates this wondrous and hilarious world and illuminates a long-forgotten turning point in American baseball history.
In 1883, the year Achorn recounts, non-top drama accompanied a pennant race. St. Louis Browns owner Chris von der Ahe and manager Ted Sullivan butted heads like George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin. The Browns’ competitor, the desperate Philadelphia Athletics, signed a pitcher who literally jumped as he threw. Achorn examines the wear and tear of baseball’s early days while mixing in profiles of the rascals and renegades whose roles range from the historic (Fleet Walker, who in 1884 became the first African American to play professionally) to the colorful (slugger Pete Browning, who upon hearing that President Garfield had died asked, “What position did he play?”). Overall, this is a comprehensive and entertaining history of baseball’s overlooked early years.
Achorn (Providence Journal; Fifty-Nine in ’84) takes us back to when base ball was expressed in two words and one league—until the American Association was founded in 1882…. Von der Ahe made his fortune in St. Louis catering to other German immigrants with his saloon and beer garden. To increase his beer profits, he purchased the St. Louis Brown Stockings in 1882 and revolutionized the presentation of professional baseball: Sunday games; beer sold at the stadium….. Achorn proposes Von der Ahe as the precursor to baseball entrepreneurs Charlie Finley and Bill Veeck, but Von der Ahe died broke, back in a saloon, tending bar. An enjoyable book that reinforces how baseball has evolved thanks to America’s immigrants.