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Publisher's Summary

Every time you watch baseball, you’re watching more than just a game - you’re participating in the latest chapter of a compelling story. What began as the earliest bat-and-ball games became the favorite American pastime of the first 19th-century baseball games. Knowing how baseball came to be what it is today will add levels of enjoyment, respect, and appreciation to any game you watch.  

In collaboration with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, The Great Courses brings you 24 lectures that paint a portrait of baseball’s remarkable past. Taking you from the decades before the Civil War to the pivotal year of 1920, Play Ball! The Rise of Baseball as America’s Pastime offers a well-rounded, historically rich look at this most distinctive slice of Americana.   

Written by noted baseball historian Peter Morris and presented by Bruce Markusen of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, these lectures guide you through decades of experimentation, change, controversy, and triumph. You’ll encounter early baseball giants, including Albert G. Spalding, Harry Wright, and Harry M. Stevens. You’ll learn the origins of everything from catcher’s masks to batting averages. You’ll consider the true stories of how women, African Americans, and others overcame adversity on and off the diamond. And all of this with the help of remarkable artifacts, images, and footage from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s vast holdings.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2019 The Great Courses

Featured Article: The Best Baseball Audiobooks of All Time


Ask any baseball fan and they'll tell you: some of their favorite sounds can only be heard at the ballpark—the smooth, satisfying pop of a catcher’s glove as a pitch hits its mark; the crack of a bat as it tears into a fastball, explosive and hopeful, drawing the crowd to their feet. Our list, a roundup of outstanding baseball audiobooks, offers a glimmer of that same ballpark magic with just a few of the greatest stories from our national pastime.

What listeners say about Play Ball! The Rise of Baseball as America’s Pastime

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Baseball HIstory at its finest

Critically acclaimed baseball author Bruce Markusen, with his lecture series “Play Ball! The Rise of Baseball as America’s Pastime,” has woven the history of baseball into a very entertaining and informative story that the hardcore to casual baseball fan, to lover of history will thoroughly enjoy. Mr. Markusen blends historical fact with an occasional addition of humorous anecdotes to create a fast paced “don’t want to put it down,” listen. Full disclosure, I spent many hours sharing coffee and swapping baseball stories over the counter while working in Cooperstown several years ago with Bruce. You would have to search long and hard to find a more knowledgeable baseball enthusiast.

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Beyond just players, games, and stats

If you think sports history exists in a vacuum, unaffected by the outside world, this might not be your lecture series. Bruce goes beyond the game of baseball itself and introduces elements of industrial, social and political history to full illustrate the early days of baseball. Cannot recommend highly enough to anyone with a semi deep interest in the game or post civil war American culture.

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Not what I expected

I love baseball and find that it is still the thing, after 50 years, that brings my brothers and I together since my dad passed. Raised in Chicago area with the battle between the Cubs and Sox ... I was hoping this book would be about the PLAYERS in basedball and not the PEOPLE of baseball. I was hoping to relive some of my memories of great games, great series', great pitchers and great hitters ... but no, nothing of the kind.

It is an excellent history of baseball, that is it. I found it hard to get into because I wanted something different.

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Lives up to what the title suggests

This audiobook is more a history book. It gives clear, vivid depiction on how the game of baseball evolved along with the American society and culture. Once in a while, Bruce would drop an anecdote, such as how the nickname of trolley dodgers called by the media stayed and became the official name of a team. Bruce is also a great narrator. Overall, it’s a very enjoyable audiobook, and I will highly recommend it to every baseball fan.

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You really have to like baseball to enjoy these.

This was a very good and in depth analysis of the very early days of baseball. However, if you are just a casual fan looking for some fun old baseball stories this probably isn't the book for you. It is broken up in very manageable sections to listen to casually

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Early baseball is more interesting then expected

Not a big baseball history buff, but wow! The first 70 years were nuts, with rival leagues, and rule changes, and owner shenanigans. Want to know about black leagues? There's a lecture for that. Early attempts by women to play baseball? There's a lecture for that. Gambling? Politics? Traditions? Lectures for all of those.

This is a fascinating look at "America's Game" that even a casual fan can appreciate.

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Unexpectedly great!

I was expecting to listen to tales of early baseball but was instead treated to lessons on how baseball came about. Things I’ve taken for granted as a lifelong baseball fan we’re shown to me how they came about. If you truly want to know how the game we watch today came to be, listen to this selection. I encourage everyone who calls them self a true baseball fan to learn how our game came to be. The speaker is knowledgeable and easy to listen to.

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Fascinating

This was a great, great look at the evolution of baseball against the backdrop of changing American culture. A fascinating look at both history and the sport. Bruce Markusen is a natural storyteller.

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Great history of days of baseball (1850s-1920s)

Detailed history of early origin of baseball, how it was played, and how it evolved over the first 70+ years of its existence. Sometimes some many facts and unrecognizable names that impossible to remember it all. A good book that deserves additional read in the future

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Absolutely Fantastic!!!! I really enjoyed it

This was an incredible experience. Every lecture was solid from it's performance, historical facts and length. I highly recommend enjoying this incredible package.

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  • Zilla
  • 05-05-22

Brilliant

I love baseball history, especially pre 80’s. I’ve read a lot of books on this subject but these lectures go into such depth from the earliest beginnings of the game to the 1920’s that there was so much to learn. All for free. I loved them. Excellently delivered too.