A Game of Brawl


A Game of Brawl

The Orioles, the Beaneaters, and the Battle for the 1897 Pennant

Bill Felber
Foreword by Senator Edward M. Kennedy

320 pages
16 photographs, 5 illustrations


March 2014


$24.95 Add to Cart

September 2007


$34.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2014


$24.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Not only was it probably the most cutthroat pennant race in baseball history, it was also a struggle to define how baseball would be played. A Game of Brawl re-creates the rowdy, season-long 1897 battle between the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Beaneaters. The Orioles had acquired a reputation as the dirtiest team in baseball. Future Hall of Famers John McGraw, Wee Willie Keeler, and “Foxy” Ned Hanlon were proven winners—but their nasty tactics met with widespread disapproval among fans. So it was that their pennant race with the comparatively saintly Beaneaters took on a decidedly moralistic air.


Bill Felber brings to life the most intensely watched team sporting event in the country’s history to that time. His book captures the drama of the final week, as the race came down to a three-game series. And finally, it conveys the madness of the third and decisive game, when thirty thousand fans literally knocked down the gates and walls of a facility designed to hold ten thousand to watch the Beaneaters grind out a win and bring down baseball’s first and most notorious evil empire.

Author Bio

Bill Felber recently retired as the executive editor of the Manhattan Mercury. He is the author of The Book on the Book: An Inquiry into Which Strategies in the Modern Game Actually Work.


“Felber . . . excels at demonstrating the dissimilarities between these two evenly matched opponents. . . . [He] gives a spirited retelling of the season, giving life to greedy owners, rabid fans, drunken ballplayers and terrorized umpires, all the while bringing to life an era of baseball when home runs were a rarity, players fielded with no gloves and starting pitchers threw almost 400 innings a season.”—Publishers Weekly

“Bill Felber has woven a picturesque tale of how baseball was played more than 100 years ago in the rowdy days of the 1890s. The story, although concentrating on the 1897 pennant race between Baltimore and Boston, vividly describes the atmosphere of the game on and off the field, and in doing so creates a rollicking good tale to boot.”—Pete Palmer, coeditor of ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, 4th edition

“This book is a hoot from start to the cliff-hanging conclusion.”—John Linsenmeyer, Greenwich Time (CT)

“A fine source of stories about the days when . . . Boston fans celebrated victories by tossing into the air beans that they had carried to the games in their pockets for that purpose, and when an umpire could be arrested twice in one season without losing his job.”—Bill Littlefield, WBUR-FM Radio, NPR’s “Only a Game”

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Foreword by Senator Edward M. Kennedy
Sources and Acknowledgments
1. Baseball's Original Evil Empire
2. The Royal Rooters
3. Spring Thunderbolts
4. Parade of Champions
5. Suspected Criminals
6. Streaks of June
7. Sunday Misdemeanors
8. The Rise and Fall of Louis Sockalexis
9. Day Job for Garroters
10. Don't They Keep Warm?
11. Fall in Baltimore


2007 Sporting News-SABR Baseball Research Award Winner

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