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.