West Virginia sprang into existence as a state in the midst of the Civil War, and ""base ball,"" as it was called then, was close on the heels of statehood. A game in 1866 hosted by the Hunkidori Base Ball Club in Wheeling, then the state capital, is considered the first ""match game of Base Ball."" Some historians contend the game spread via the movement of soldiers who were from urban areas. The real roots of baseball are not the romantic image of rural boys in sandlots or lazy father-son afternoons (just as West Virginia is not the backward, poverty-stricken state that stereotypes paint, the author notes). It was born and came of age as an urban sport, a social pursuit of well-heeled young men that in the early days often involved banquets and shows following each game. In this book the author traces the history of minor league and independent league baseball in West Virginia. Baseball below the minor leagues has a rich and comparatively unexplored history, this author asserts, and West Virginia has made substantial contributions to this legacy. Chapters examine the chronological history of baseball and the larger economic and cultural changes that have influenced it since end of the Civil War. Eras include baseball as a social game (through 1873); the emergence of professional baseball (through 1895); its second boom (through 1905); the deadball era (through 1920); the Martinsburg dynasty (1914 to 1934); as a miners' sport (1920 to 1941); the Middle Atlantic League (1925-1942); the Mountain State League (1937-1942); the post-war years (1945-1955); the nadir (1955-1985) and finally, a chapter titled ""A Minor Miracle"" (1985-2000) that heralds a comeback in the popularity of professional baseball.
William E. Akin is professor emeritus of history from Ursinus College. His articles have appeared in The Historian, American Quarterly and American Historical Review. He lives in Collegeville, Pennsylvania.