"One of the party who is out ... tosses the ball toward one of the in-party, who strikes the ball, if possible, with his bat." This simplistic description of America's national pastime is found in a diminutive pamphlet published in 1838 called "Boy's and Girl's Book of Sports" -- thought to be the first printed account of baseball. The pamphlet is among the items on view in a new exhibit at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
The display includes some 30 books and drawings selected from the Betsy Beinecke Shirley Collection of American Children's Literature, which was donated to the library by Mr. and Mrs. Carl Shirley. The show will run through the end of August.
Another highlight of the exhibit is "Our Base Ball Club and How It Won the Championship," which is the first novel devoted entirely to baseball. Written by Noah Brooks and published in 1884, it includes an introduction by A.G. Spalding, founder of the sporting goods company. Among the other books for young readers that are a prominent feature of the exhibition is William Everett's "Changing Base, or What Edward Rice Learnt at School" 1869 .
Other items on display include:
-- Baseball stories written for children in the early decades of the 20th century that were published by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, the fiction mill that released such classics as the Rover Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, Tom Swift and the Nancy Drew mystery stories. The Stratemeyer baseball books, published under the pseudonyms Lester Chadwick and Elmer A. Dawson, included such popular works as "Baseball Joe at Yale" 1913 , "Baseball Joe, Home Run King" 1922 , "The Pick-Up Nine" 1930 and "Buck's Winning Hit" 1930 , which are all on view.
-- The first book edition of Ernest Lawrence Thayer's "Casey at the Bat," a poem published in 1901, and later editions of the work illustrated by A. B. Chapin, Dan Sayer Groesbeck, Edgar Keller, Wallace Tripp and Barry Moser. Also on display are Martin Gardner's "Annotated Casey" and an edition containing DeWolf Hopper's recorded rendition of the poem.
-- Books for children that were written by players themselves, such as a 1913 edition of "Baseball in the Big Leagues. A Book for Boys," which was written by second baseman and Cubs manager Johnny Evers and includes photographs of baseball greats Ty Cobb, Napoleon Lajoie, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson and Frank Chance, among others.
-- A copy of Daniel M. Daniel's "Babe Ruth: The Idol of the American Boy" 1930 , which includes an introduction by Babe Ruth. The volume on view at the Beinecke Library is inscribed by the "Babe" but was most likely signed by his wife.
"Books should be fun. Otherwise, kids won't read them," says Betsy Shirley, who over the last 25 years has brought together what is considered one of the finest collections of American children's literature. The items on display from her collection were selected as fun and interesting examples of how the world of rare books intersects with the national pastime, according to Vincent Giroud, curator of modern books and manuscripts at the Beinecke, who organized the exhibit.
The Beinecke Library, located at 121 Wall St., is open for exhibition viewing Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., and on Saturdays in June and July 10 am.-5 p.m. The library is closed July 4 and Labor Day. For more information, call 432-2977.