BASEBALL GAMES-HOME VERSIONS OF THE NATIONAL PASTIME 1860s to 1960s
Written by Mark Cooper with Douglas Congdon-Martin (1995)
I imagine in all of us who play simulation baseball games there is a hidden desire to compare our favorite game with other games of this sort. Who amongst us wouldnít want to see, or own for that matter, a baseball game from over 100 years ago? Well, this book is the next best thing. At over 140 pages long, this coffee table style book is luscious and rich in the photography of countless baseball games through the years, starting at just about the same time as the game itself did. Each color photograph has a written paragraph accompanying it that states the date, company, and a brief how-to instruction on playing the game. Most of the photos included the game box cover and the playing components laid out in front of you.
The book is divided into sections with the first part being about the beginnings and rise of baseball in the 19th century. There are numerous pictures of memorabilia from that era, the best being perhaps a picture of the 1869 Cincinnati Reds that was used for a cover of a sheet music tune book called oddly enough, "The Red Stockings" with a dedication to "The Ladies of Cincinnati". The book then turns to the different licensed and unlicensed games of the 19th century, and shows illustrations of games played with spinners, playing cards, dice, dominoes, and even bowling pins. The most beautiful of the lot had to be Zimmerís Base Ball Game of 1895, which was played with a marble being shot from a pitcherís slot down the pipes to the opposing player, who had a bat connected with springs to his lever. The most beautiful aspect of this game were the pictures of 18 prominent players of that day being displayed on various spots on the playing field.
The book then moves onto the 20th century, and displays games that were endorsed by players over the years...from Ned Hanlon, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jackie Robinson to Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, and George Brett. One of the more interesting "games" that was endorsed by a major leaguer was The Yogi Berra Pitch Kit. It included a 36-inch blow up doll that was supposed to resemble Yogi, and four plastic balls that could be used to throw into the indent in his glove area. It ainít over til itís over!
There is also a special section devoted to Cadacoís All Star Baseball Game, which was designed by former ballplayer Ethan Allen. Utilizing individual spinners for each major league ballplayer, it would become one of the most popular games ever. The next part shows unendorsed games throughout the 20th century, with many of them being card games, and arcade style games that looked absolutely wonderful. Ahh, to have one of those in your living room.
The biggest drawback to this book is the lack of mention about the modern day card-based games like Replay, APBA, Strat-O-Matic, Pursue The Pennant, etc. There is no mention of them anywhere, and I think including photos of some old card backs from the 1960s would be a must for this book.
This book was originally meant to be a price guide (with prices located in the back of the book), but its 1995 publication date probably makes the prices moot at this point anyways. Nonetheless, just sit back and enjoy a book that would rival any Christmas catalogue in the minds of tabletop baseball players everywhere. One can only drool and wish that any one of these items (and the book itself for that matter), would end up under their tree. --Al Arthurs