Anyone interested in nineteenth century baseball will be glad to learn of a new book that comes out tomorrow. ‘Fifty-nine in ’84’ by Edward Achorn tells the tale of Hall of Fame pitcher Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn. Quite incredibly, Old Hoss won 59 games in 1884. He started 73 games and completed them all, pitching more than 678 innings in the process, and he then went out and won all three games of what is considered to be baseball’s first World Series, although pre-1903 Fall Classics are now seen as ‘exhibitions’ in many record books.
The book, published by HarperCollins, promises to reveal much about that incredible season as well as Radbourn’s career and the life of a ballplayer during the late nineteenth century. It isn’t just Old Hoss’s pitching exploits that make him a compelling subject for a biography either:
“Radbourn was the first man to be photographed flipping the bird. He was prickly, hungry for money, and jealous of his reputation. A relative said he drank a quart of whiskey a day. But he may have been the most dogged competitor in baseball history. The book is also about his affair with a married woman who ran a dubious boarding house in downtown Providence, and was said to personally know every man in the National League. Radbourn died of syphilis at 43”.
Sounds like an interesting character, to say the least. And what’s more, there’s a British link to the story as Old Hoss was the son of a butcher from England. His father Charles Radbourn and mother Caroline lived in Bath, Somerset, and Old Hoss’s grandfather was the gardener at Prior Park overlooking the city. Charles and Caroline left after their first child was born, with the ball-playing Radbourn being the first of their children born in America.
For more details, check out Edward Achorn’s website: http://www.edwardachorn.com/