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The Farmers' Game

Baseball in Rural America

David Vaught

Publication Year: 2012

Anyone who has watched the film Field of Dreams can’t help but be captivated by the lead character’s vision. He gives his struggling farming community a magical place where the smell of roasted peanuts gently wafts over the crowded grandstand on a warm summer evening just as the star pitcher takes the mound. Baseball, America’s game, has a dedicated following and a rich history. Fans obsess over comparative statistics and celebrate men who played for legendary teams during the "golden age" of the game. In The Farmers' Game, David Vaught examines the history and character of baseball through a series of essay-vignettes. He presents the sport as essentially rural, reflecting the nature of farm and small-town life. Vaught does not deny or devalue the lively stickball games played in the streets of Brooklyn, but he sees the history of the game and the rural United States as related and mutually revealing. His subjects include nineteenth-century Cooperstown, the playing fields of Texas and Minnesota, the rural communities of California, the great farmer-pitcher Bob Feller, and the notorious Gaylord Perry. Although—contrary to legend—Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball in a cow pasture in upstate New York, many fans enjoy the game for its nostalgic qualities. Vaught's deeply researched exploration of baseball's rural roots helps explain its enduring popularity.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

My thanks begin with those who made the research possible. I extend my deepest appreciation to the staffs of the A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown; Division of Rare Manuscript Collections, Carl A. Kroch Library, Cornell University; Dixon (California) Public Library; ...

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Introduction: Abner Doubleday and Baseball’s Idol of Origins

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pp. 1-11

Abner Doubleday led an eventful life and achieved considerable fame as a career officer in the United States Army and Union general in the American Civil War. Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who fought in the American Revolutionary War, and his father, a veteran of the War of 1812, he entered West Point in 1838 ...

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Chapter 1. Playing Ball in Cooperstown in the Formative Years of the American Republic

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pp. 12-34

Seth Doubleday led a full life by any measure. Born August 16, 1761, in Lebanon, Connecticut, he was the thirteenth of twenty-five children sired by his father, Elisha (who married three times), seventeen of whom survived into adulthood. His great-grandfather (also named Elisha) had migrated to Massachusetts from Yorkshire in 1676, ...

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Chapter 2. Baseball and the Transformation of Rural California

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pp. 35-49

On a hot Sunday evening in June 1887, the Davisville Oletas and the Dixon Etnas played the fifth of fourteen ballgames between the two rivals that summer. Several hundred fans crowded around the diamond at “the Y,” a triangle-shaped grounds bounded by the three railroad lines that converged at the Davisville depot. ...

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Chapter 3. Multicultural Ball in the Heyday of Texas Cotton Agriculture

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pp. 50-75

Texas Czechs gathered by the hundreds in Fayetteville on Sunday, July 2, 1911, for the fifteenth anniversary of the founding of Slavanská Podporující Jednota Statu Texas (SPJST), the state’s preeminent Slavonic benevolent association. The venue was most appropriate. Fayetteville, long known as the “cradle of Czech settlement in Texas,” ...

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Chapter 4. The Making of Bob Feller and the Modern American Farmer

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pp. 76-103

Without knowing the town of Van Meter, Iowa, it is impossible to understand the miracle of Bob Feller.” So began Kyle Crichton in a feature article for Collier’s, which appeared March 6, 1937. A member of the New York literary set, Crichton had published many an interview with screen, stage, and radio celebrities. ...

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Chapter 5. The Milroy Yankees and the Decline of Southwest Minnesota

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pp. 104-123

Don’t plan on buying a loaf of bread, a sack of flour, or a yard of percale in Milroy Monday afternoon,” warned the Redwood Gazette on September 11, 1947. “The village is closing shop and going to a ball game.” The Gazette reporter meant what he said. Just as they had the previous month for a game against archrival Wanda ...

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Chapter 6. Gaylord Perry, the Spitter, and Farm Life in Eastern North Carolina

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pp. 124-145

Gaylord Perry threw a spitter for the first, but hardly the last, time in his career on the night of May 31, 1964. The circumstances were dire. The Giants and the Mets, in the second game of the longest doubleheader in major league history (nearly ten full hours of playing time), were locked in a 6-to-6 tie in the bottom of the thirteenth inning. ...

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Epilogue: Vintage Ball

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pp. 146-152

On a brisk, sunny fall Saturday afternoon, the Farmers Branch Mustangs, Fort Concho Enterprise, Richmond Giants, Buffalo Gap Chips, and Tusculum Freethinkers, on the invitation of the host team, the Boerne White Sox, gathered from around the state for the Fourth Annual Veterans Cup. ...


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pp. 153-198

Essay on Sources

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pp. 199-204


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pp. 205-214

E-ISBN-13: 9781421408330
E-ISBN-10: 1421408333
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421407555
Print-ISBN-10: 1421407558

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 10 halftones
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 859687176
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Farmers' Game

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Baseball -- United States -- History.
  • Baseball -- United States -- Social aspects.
  • Country life -- United States -- History.
  • Farm life -- United States -- History.
  • United States -- Rural conditions.
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