April 19, 2011
Finding Baseball in Project Gutenberg
The internet is perfect for a lot of things, but there's nothing that the web is more ideal for than as repositories of information. Baseball-Reference, Wikipedia, Memory-Alpha... this is what the internet is all about. Another fantastic resource that most people don't seem to know about is Project Gutenberg.
Project Gutenberg is an organization much like Wikipedia, whose goal is to create free, electronic copies of any and all books they are legally allowed to (technically, the project looks to "digitize, archive, and distribute cultural works", which, in practice, tends to mean public-domain books). For twenty years, volunteers have read through books like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or A Tale of Two Cities or the Encyclopedia of Needlework and turned them into easy-to-download text files for all to read and save. It really is a fantastic idea, and the project now boasts over 33,000 books that can be downloaded in many different formats (and over 100,000 books through its partners).
Looking through some of the baseball-related books currently at Project Gutenberg, I came across this gem. It's available from the Library of Congress and so isn't too hard to find on the web, but I never would have known about it if it wasn't for PG.
The book is called "Baseball ABC" and is a children's book from 1885. It is filled with wonderful illustrations to go along with the alphabet rhyme. I've reproduced the text of the book below. You can find the full book, including all illustrations (as well as different downloadable formats, including Kindle) here. Reading this book just made my day. From Edward "marking the bound" to "G" standing for "Go!" and not, you know, "Glove", it gives you a great glimpse into what baseball was like 125 years ago. The illustrations are terrific, too, from Muff at third to William and Zeno standing around. I think you'll enjoy looking going through it all.
A stands for ARTHUR, a boy fond of fun,
B stands for BALL, for BAT, and for BASE.
T stands for THIRD-BASE, looked after by James.
And if "Baseball ABC" isn't your thing, you can also use the different search features to find some interesting excerpts you may have never seen before. For example, did you know the word "baseball" appears only once in Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary (hint: it's in the entry for "Monday")? Or how about this famous passage from Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court?
...Their practice in the field was the most fantastic thing I ever saw. Being ball-proof, they never skipped out of the way, but stood still and took the result; when a Bessemer was at the bat and a ball hit him, it would bound a hundred and fifty yards sometimes. And when a man was running, and threw himself on his stomach to slide to his base, it was like an iron-clad coming into port. At first I appointed men of no rank to act as umpires, but I had to discontinue that. These people were no easier to please than other nines.
If you enjoy books of any kind, I think you'll enjoy looking through Project Gutenberg. The baseball selection is fair (there's only so many turn-of-the-century Zane Grey books you can read), but it's a terrific resource for much more than that. And if you're looking to search the full text of the books for a hidden gem, you may want to try something like this.