SABR Digital Library: John Montgomery Ward’s “Base-Ball: How To Become A Player”

Add a classic baseball book from the SABR Digital Library to your collection:

Base-Ball: How to Become a Player
By John Montgomery Ward
ISBN (e-book) 978-1-933599-61-8, $4.99
150 pages

Hall of Famer John Montgomery Ward (1860-1925) tossed the second perfect game in major league history and later became the game’s best shortstop and a great, inventive manager. He led the players into their own league in 1890 and came within a hair’s breadth of changing the structure of baseball forever. Two years before that, however, in 1888, he published the book Base-Ball: How to Become a Player. The book is one of the game’s early classics, and should be in every serious baseball library.

“The author ventures to present this book to the public because he believes there are many points in the game of base-ball which can be told only by a player,” Ward wrote in his preface to the book. “He has given some space to a consideration of the origin and early history of the game, because they are subjects deserving of more attention than is generally accorded them. His principal aim, however, has been to produce a hand-book of the game, a picture of the plays seen by a player.”

Illustrated with woodcuts, the book is divided into chapters for each position on the field as well as chapters on the origin of the game, theory and strategy, training, base-running, and batting.

SABR previously published this book under the title Ward‘s Baseball Book in 1993. This is the first SABR e-book edition.


SABR members, get this e-book for FREE!

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About the SABR Digital Library

For 40 years, SABR and its members have led the way in publishing the best baseball historical and statistical research. Our publications program is shifting to take advantage of new methods of publishing. Not only will we continue to publish new books like CAN HE PLAY? A Look At Baseball Scouts and Their Profession (released in December 2011); OPENING FENWAY PARK IN STYLE: The 1912 World Champion Red Sox (May 2012); Red Sox Baseball in the Days of Ike and Elvis: The Red Sox of the 1950s (September 2012); Detroit Tigers 1984: What A Start! What A Finish! (December 2012); Sweet ’60: The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates (April 2013); and Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (July 2013), which showcase the best efforts of SABR’s members, chapters and committees, but new technology makes it possible for us to bring out-of-print titles like RUN, RABBIT, RUN: The Hilarious and Mostly True Tales of Rabbit Maranville (February 2012), GREAT HITTING PITCHERS (March 2012), NINETEENTH CENTURY STARS (August 2012); Batting (January 2013) and The Fenway Project (September 2013) back again. Books will be available in digital formats as well as paperbacks produced by “print on demand” (POD).

Stay tuned throughout the year for new (and old!) titles that we’ll be adding to the SABR Digital Library. SABR members will get discounted rates for all Digital Library publications. If you’re not a member, click here to join SABR.

To view all books in the SABR Digital Library, visit


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Originally published: February 19, 2014. Last Updated: August 5, 2020.