Given my love of history and for the game of baseball, it is not difficult to imagine what a sucker I am for a new Baseball History book. John Thorn (of Total Baseball fame) has written a good one. “Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game” is the title and the story, it turns out, is nearly as complicated as the book’s title.
Mr Thorn is clearly a Baseball scholar. His references are deep and dense. The notes at the end of the book take up nearly fifty pages. He has, however, a confusing way of organizing his information that is not quite chronological and not quite categorical. In the process he seems to do a lot of overlapping and repetition as he goes along. The story might not be easy to stick with if you are not interested in the subject.
If you are interested in the subject, however, there is much to like. He makes a good case for the New York game being a true beginning for the institution of American Baseball while at the same time poking holes in most of the existing mythology that surrounds it. He very nearly labels the Abner Doubleday/Cooperstown myth a conspiracy. I was quite taken by the Theosophist connection, never having before seen the story laid out in such detailed and damning terms. I was fascinated by the early history of the professional leagues, teams and players. I have heard some of these stories before but never in such a complete context. I would easily recommend this book to a committed Baseball fan but I would hesitate to offer it in hopes of producing a new one.