The Summer of Beer and Whiskey
How Brewers, Barkeeps, Rowdies, Immigrants, and a Wild Pennant Fight Made Baseball America's Game
Christopher Von der Ahe knew next to nothing about baseball when he bought the bankrupt St Louis Browns in 1882. Von der Ahe picked up the team for one simple reason—to sell more beer. Then, convinced that the preeminent National League was missing an opportunity, he and a band of saloonkeepers, brewers and distillers created the American Association from a collection of ragtag clubs and failing professional franchises. At a moment when baseball might have gone the way of a passing fad, they transformed the sport into America’s national pastime.
The raw, booming cities of the Midwest, suddenly filled with immigrants and adventurers, were more than receptive. Dismissed by the National League as “the Beer and Whiskey Circuit,” the American Association fed a craving for baseball that the older league shunned. They kept the price of admission at 25¢ and featured modern delights like beer at the ballpark and Sunday games. Huge crowds of rowdy spectators packed the stands, screamed at the umpires and ballplayers, and cheered like mad.
The Summer of Beer and Whiskey is the story of the wildest circuit in the history of major-league baseball. It’s a classic baseball story, of people who thought big, inspired by the love of a game they’d just discovered.
Praise for The Summer of Beer and Whiskey
That summer of 1883 was the breakthrough, the time when a new league could come out of nowhere and not just challenge the status quo but break it. Looking at this history from the right angle, you can almost argue that the book is Moneyball from 130 years ago.
—The Wall Street Journal
[A] fine history … Like a pitcher seamlessly targeting his pitches around the plate, Achorn weaves a story rife with facts and anecdotes.
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
When it comes to baseball history, Edward Achorn has carved out his own territory, re-animating the 19th century game.
— Los Angeles Times
Achorn’s gift for storytelling shines in the climactic games of the season. Vivid scenes put the reader in the stands as pitchers pelt batters, fielders crash through fences and the forces of nature whip up a blinding ninth-inning dust “hurricane.
Edward Achorn … favors us with a realistic and colorful look at early professional baseball.
— Providence Journal
Combining the narrative skills of a sportswriter with a historian’s depth of knowledge and stockpile of detail, Achorn has produced a book that is both entertaining and informative.
— The Sporting Scene blog, The New Yorker
A thoroughly enjoyable re-creation of the gusto, guts, glory and grime of the game’s early days.
— Kirkus Reviews