Don't judge a book by its cover. I picked up The First World Series and the Baseball Fanatics of 1903 by Roger I. Abrams hoping to get a light, entertaining account of the fabled beginnings of the fall classic. I got much more than I expected.
It takes a bit of reading before actually getting to the profiles of the players and accounts of the eight games in Abrams book. The author's real focus is the world of the World Series, which in this case was specifically Boston and Pittsburgh and by extension all of America and any country from which an immigrant might have come. The "Fanatics" is not just tacked on to the end of the title. Abrams looks deeply into who attended the games and supported the sport. Before and between the game stories are sections about the rise of the Brahmin class in Boston and how it differed from Yankee culture, the Irish working class, the industrialization of Pittsburgh, migrations from southern and eastern Europe, the pogroms of Czarist Russia, and other assorted topics.
Highlighted in the story is the group of devoted fans led by Nuf Ced McGreevy, owner of the Third Base Saloon. McGreevy and his friends traveled from Boston to Pittsburgh to root for the Boston Americans. While in the steel city, they hired bands to march around downtown to boisterously proclaim their allegiance and to accompany the team from its hotel to the field before games. At the end of the book, in accounting for what became of the major personalities after the series, Abrams reveals that McGreevy donated his baseball memorabilia collection from his saloon to the Boston Public Library, and the saloon itself was turned into a library branch.
The First World Series and the Baseball Fanatics of 1903 will appeal more to readers who like history than average sports fans. For those willing to dip into the past, it is an interesting approach to learning about an era.
Abrams, Roger I. The First World Series and the Baseball Fanatics of 1903. Northeastern University Press, 2003. ISBN 1555535615