Sunday, October 21, 2007

Pg. 99: Mark Lamster's "Spalding's World Tour"

This weekend's feature at the Page 99 Test: Mark Lamster's Spalding's World Tour: The Epic Adventure that Took Baseball Around the Globe - And Made it America's Game.

About the book, from the publisher:
In October of 1888, Albert Goodwill Spalding — baseball star, sporting-goods magnate, promotional genius, serial fabulist — departed Chicago on a trip that would take him and two baseball teams on a journey clear around the globe. Their mission, closely followed in the American and international press, had two (secret) goals: to fix the game in the American consciousness as the purest expression of the national spirit, and to seed markets for Spalding's products near and far. In the process, these first cultural ambassadors played before kings and queens, visited the Coliseumand the Eiffel Tower, and took pot shots with their baseballs at the great Sphinx in Egypt. This expedition to lands both exotic and familiar is chronicled with dash and wit in Mark Lamster's Spalding's World Tour, a book filled with larger-than-life characters often competing harder for love and money off the baseball diamond than for runs on it. Getting themselves into scrapes and narrowly escaping international incident all around the globe, these innocents abroad gave the world an early peek at the American century just around the corner. For anyone interested in the history of the game — or the history of brand marketing — Spalding's World Tour hits the sweet spot.
Among the praise for Spalding's World Tour:
“In this rollicking account of professional baseball's formative years, Lamster recreates Spalding's six-month barnstorming tour around the world. As Lamster sees it, Spalding, baseball and late-19th-century America were made for one another: all were “surging,” “audacious,” “on the make.” Joining Spalding were several of baseball's founding fathers, including Cap Anson, the White Stockings' combustible team captain, and Ned Hanlon, a future Hall of Famer and one of the most influential managers in the game's history. (The traveling shows also featured a hot-air-balloon acrobat and an African-American mascot.) Lamster's attention to on- and off-the-field details is as rigorous as Spalding's itinerary. [He] incorporates a wonderful cast of supporting characters-Mark Twain toasts the returning players at a celebratory dinner at Delmonico's - and looks at early strife between owners and players. The tour itself was not a financial success; more than anything, it was a promotional event. And as Lamster shows, Spalding and the game of baseball were the beneficiaries.”
New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice

“In 1888 [Albert Spalding] led a group of professional baseball players on a tour around the world.... This wild expedition is the subject of Mark Lamster's wonderful 'Spalding's World Tour: The Epic Adventure That Took Baseball Around the Globe -- and Made It America's Game.... The book is an account of a bizarre journey filled with event, often comic, all fascinating. Lamster presents the story in engaging, witty prose, accompanied by excellent photographs and larded with period press accounts in all their purple glory.”
Boston Globe

"Mark Lamster's Spalding's World Tour does justice to Spalding's complex character and provides a sense of what the world was like when American ballplayers staged a contest to see who could hit the Sphinx in the eye with a baseball and sang their favorite song: 'We are the Howling Wolves / And this is our night to howl / And we howl thus: Wooo!'"
Bill Littlefield, NPR

“Lamster draws on a host of journalistic accounts, published memoirs and diaries to convey the players' impressions of foreign lands, the shipboard banter, their misadventures at ports of call, as well as the logistical roadblocks to planning and promoting a round-the-world tour in the days before the Pacific cable.... Lamster's book reintroduces a fascinating and long-overlooked chapter in baseball history to fans and historians and offers a glimpse at an early chapter in baseball's long march to globalization.”
Washington Post

“Spalding’s jaunt was an early example of the globalization of sports (the Olympics weren’t far behind) .... thorough and detailed.”
The New Yorker

“This engagingly written history of Spalding's 1988 baseball world tour is both evocative and entertaining. I'm not generally drawn in by 19th century history, but this book had me hooked from start to finish.”
Sports Illustrated (

“A riveting story of baseball and the man, Albert Goodwill Spalding, who brought it into the 20th century and made a fortune in the process.”

“A wonderfully entertaining book.”
Rob Neyer, ESPN
Read an excerpt from Spalding's World Tour and an author's note, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Spalding's World Tour.

--Marshal Zeringue