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About Edward Achorn
Achorn's "must read" weekly columns sometimes touch on baseball history, but usually center on the weird and contentious politics of Rhode Island. He inspired revolutionary change in the state's Constitution, championing an amendment that balanced power and put an end to a 340-year legacy of inordinate control by the legislature. Pulitzer judges cited his "clear, tenacious call to action against government corruption in Rhode Island," while Common Cause Rhode Island declared: "Ed Achorn's clear trumpet turned the tide in this historic battle."
A diehard Red Sox fan descended from generations of baseball cranks, Achorn grew up in Westborough, Mass. He attended the 1967 World Series, witnessed Carl Yastrzemski's 3,000th hit and saw all four games of the legdenday 1975 World Series at Fenway Park, including Game Six, when Carlton Fisk "waved" his home run fair. His grandfather and grandmother, both Boston Braves fanatics, attended the 1914 World Series (also at Fenway).
As a child in Westborough, Ed was astonished to discover that the nearby city of Worcester once had a major-league baseball team. Thus began a lifelong quest to learn more about 19th century baseball--to put flesh on the strange names and statistics found in the Baseball Encyclopedia, none more incredible than Radbourn's 59 wins in one season.
He quickly found there was much more to the story than has yet appeared in books. His intensive search took him to the Library of Congress, the Baseball Hall of Fame Library, the Chicago Historical Society, the Rhode Island Historical Society, and numerous other institutions where he pored over primary sources and thousands of daily accounts of baseball in period newspapers. He also spent many nights hunched over a microfilm reading machine in the newspaper's library and at the Rhode Island Historical Society. (An original painting of the Hoss hangs in his fourth-floor office.)
He has worked closely with the members of the Providence Grays Vintage Baseball Club, a modern team that plays under 1884 rules and with 1884 equipment (or lack thereof), to better understand the experience of baseball in those times.
He lectures about the major-league Providence Grays and Rhode Island corruption as a featured speaker for the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities. He is a member of SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research.
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Von der Ahe picked up the team for one reason -- to sell more beer. Then he helped gather a group of ragtag professional clubs together to create a maverick new league that would fight the haughty National League, reinventing big-league baseball to attract Americans of all classes. Sneered at as "The Beer and Whiskey Circuit" because it was backed by brewers, distillers, and saloon owners, their American Association brought Americans back to enjoying baseball by offering Sunday games, beer at the ballpark, and a dirt-cheap ticket price of 25 cents.
The womanizing, egocentric, wildly generous Von der Ahe and his fellow owners filled their teams' rosters with drunks and renegades, and drew huge crowds of rowdy spectators who screamed at umpires and cheered like mad as the Philadelphia Athletics and St. Louis Browns fought to the bitter end for the 1883 pennant.
In The Summer of Beer and Whiskey, Edward Achorn re-creates this wondrous and hilarious world of cunning, competition, and boozing, set amidst a rapidly transforming America. It is a classic American story of people with big dreams, no shortage of chutzpah, and love for a brilliant game that they refused to let die.
A brilliantly conceived and vividly drawn story—Washington, D.C. on the eve of Abraham Lincoln’s historic second inaugural address as the lens through which to understand all the complexities of the Civil War
By March 4, 1865, the Civil War had slaughtered more than 700,000 Americans and left intractable wounds on the nation. After a morning of rain-drenched fury, tens of thousands crowded Washington’s Capitol grounds that day to see Abraham Lincoln take the oath for a second term. As the sun emerged, Lincoln rose to give perhaps the greatest inaugural address in American history, stunning the nation by arguing, in a brief 701 words, that both sides had been wrong, and that the war’s unimaginable horrors—every drop of blood spilled—might well have been God’s just verdict on the national sin of slavery.
Edward Achorn reveals the nation’s capital on that momentous day—with its mud, sewage, and saloons, its prostitutes, spies, reporters, social-climbing spouses and power-hungry politicians—as a microcosm of all the opposing forces that had driven the country apart. A host of characters, unknown and famous, had converged on Washington—from grievously wounded Union colonel Selden Connor in a Washington hospital and the embarrassingly drunk new vice president, Andrew Johnson, to poet-journalist Walt Whitman; from soldiers’ advocate Clara Barton and African American leader and Lincoln critic-turned-admirer Frederick Douglass (who called the speech “a sacred effort”) to conflicted actor John Wilkes Booth—all swirling around the complex figure of Lincoln.
In indelible scenes, Achorn vividly captures the frenzy in the nation’s capital at this crucial moment in America’s history and the tension-filled hope and despair afflicting the country as a whole, soon to be heightened by Lincoln's assassination. His story offers new understanding of our great national crisis, and echoes down the decades to resonate in our own time.
“All fans of baseball, all fans of a good story, will love this book."
— Professor Gordon Wood, Pulitzer and Bancroft Prize winner
“This is a beautifully written, meticulously researched story about a bygone baseball era that even die-hard fans will find foreign, and about a pitcher who might have been the greatest of all time.” — Joseph J. Ellis, Pulitzer prize-winning historian
Following in the tradition of the sleeper bestseller Crazy ‘08, Fifty-Nine in '84 is the story of Charles Radbourn, a brilliant major league baseball pitcher who, in the 1884 season, won an astonishing 59 games, a record that has never been broken. Set against the backdrop of 19th century baseball, Fifty-Nine in '84 gives readers a glimpse of the dangerous and violent game that preceded the sport we enjoy today.