Thorn: Mark Twain and a female base-ball club

From SABR member John Thorn at Our Game on June 6, 2016:

In 1975, as a youngish book editor at Hart Publishing in New York, I helped to create a line of “Hart Classics”–reissues of once notable volumes that were no longer in print. Among the musty titles I proposed was Mark Twain’s Library of Humor, an anthology of more than 160 stories by such revered if today unread authors as Ambrose Bierce, Josh Billings, Eugene Field, Joel C. Harris, Bret Harte, Oliver W. Holmes, William D. Howells, Bill Nye, and Artemus Ward. Mark Twain contributed twenty of his own stories, while asserting on the book’s flyleaf page that, “Those selections in this book which are from my own works were made by my two assistant compilers, not by me. This is why there are not more.” Because I had not for decades lifted this compendium of jollification from my shelves, I had forgotten that one of the contributors, James M. Bailey (represented with four selections), had contributed a story titled “A Female Base-Ball Club.” It has been forgotten for good reason, perhaps, but it does illustrate how men once viewed the idea of women playing baseball (not to mention other sports), and thus may have some instructive value today. At the very least it is an oddity that scholars will appreciate.

Twain plucked this story from Bailey’s Life in Danbury, published by Shepard & Gill in 1873 and “carefully compiled with a pair of eight-dollar shears, by the compiler” from the pages of the Danbury News. The story thus reflects the state of women’s baseball at some time before the advent of novelty nines later in the decade (Blondes versus Brunettes, and similarly described “pulchritudinous nines”). Now let’s permit Mark Twain to introduce us to the author and his tale.

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Originally published: June 8, 2016. Last Updated: June 8, 2016.