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April 26, 2004

Historic Baseball Guides, 1889-1939, Available Online

Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Goose Goslin, Christy Mathewson Featured

A new online presentation of baseball guides from the game's early days is now available in "Spalding Base Ball Guides, 1889-1939" at memory.loc.gov/ammem/spaldinghtml.

The presentation, part of the American Memory Web site, comprises a historic selection of "Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide" and the "Official Indoor Base Ball Guide." The collection reproduces 35 of the guides, which were published by the Spalding Athletic Co. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

"Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide" was perhaps the premier baseball publication of its day. It featured editorials from baseball writers on the state of the game, statistics, photographs and analyses of the previous season for all the major league teams and for many of the so-called minor leagues across the nation.

The user of "Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide" will find well-known stars of the game, such as Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Goose Goslin, Christy Mathewson and John McGraw, as well as players who never gained the fame these players did. Team photographs are available for almost every team from the turn of the 20th century forward. The 15 "Spalding's Official Base Ball Guides" included in this online collection were published between 1889 and 1939.

The "Official Indoor Base Ball Guide" covers a game that may be unfamiliar to most contemporary baseball fans, but it is actually the origin of the game we now know as softball. These guides, too, offer rules and "how-tos" of the game, information on the game's founding fathers, photographs of teams and players from across the land, and game statistics. The 20 "Official Indoor Base Ball Guides" included in this collection were published between 1903 and 1926.

During his more than 21 years' involvement with baseball's major leagues, A.G. (Albert Goodwill) Spalding (1850-1915) was a baseball player, manager and executive. With his brother, he began the sporting-goods manufacturing and retail business that still bears his name and is known to millions. He also founded a publishing house, the American Sports Publishing Co.

American Sports issued works that can be classified into three general categories. The first were instructional manuals, such as "How to Play Second Base," "How to Bowl" and "How to Play American Hand Ball." The second category was rule books for many sports. The third category, and the one most widely used by researchers and sports historians, comprises the annuals that both narratively and statistically summarized the previous year's history, accomplishments and records for a specific sport. A few of the sports covered are baseball, women's basketball, golf, college football and track and field athletics. Collectively, these are known as Spalding Guides. In addition to the text, all guides included an advertising section for the Spalding sporting-goods empire that provides a fascinating history of the development of sporting goods ranging from baseball gloves, tennis rackets and ice skates to golf clubs and football cleats.

The Library of Congress has more than 1,000 of these guides, believed to be the largest collection held by any institution. A small sample is offered in "Spalding Baseball Guides, 1889-1939."

American Memory is a project of the Library of Congress. Its more than 120 collections, which range from the papers of U.S. presidents, Civil War photographs and early films of Thomas Edison to papers documenting the women's suffrage and civil rights movements, Jazz Age photographs and the first baseball cards, include more than 8.5 million items from the Library of Congress and other major repositories. The monthly Wise Guide www.loc.gov/wiseguide, features some of the online collections on the Library's Web site and demonstrates that "It's Fun to Know History."

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PR 04-091
04/26/04
ISSN 0731-3527

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