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Author Event- Robert D. Sampson

Ballists, Dead Beats, and Muffins: Inside Early Baseball in Illinois


November 18, 2023
1:00pm - 4:00pm




Local Author and Historian, Robert D. Sampson will discuss his book,

Ballists, Dead Beats, and Muffins: Inside Early Baseball in Illinois,

on Saturday, November 18th at 1:00pm, in the Madden Auditorium at the Decatur Public Library.

Book description:

Baseball’s spread across Illinois paralleled the sport’s explosive growth in other parts of the country. Robert D. Sampson taps a wealth of archival research to transport readers to an era when an epidemic of “base ball on the brain” raged from Alton to Yorkville. Focusing on the years 1865 to 1869, Sampson offers a vivid portrait of a game where local teams and civic ambition went hand in hand and teams of paid professionals displaced gentlemen’s clubs devoted to sporting fair play. This preoccupation with competition sparked rules disputes and controversies over imported players while the game itself mirrored society by excluding Black Americans and women. The new era nonetheless brought out paying crowds to watch the Rock Island Lively Turtles, Fairfield Snails, and other teams take the field up and down the state.

A first-ever history of early baseball in Illinois, Ballists, Dead Beats, and Muffins adds the Prairie State game’s unique shadings and colorful stories to the history of the national pastime.

Bob Sampson is a former newspaper reporter who lived in Decatur for nearly 50 years. He earned his Ph.D. in history at the University of Illinois and taught at Millikin University for 20 years. His first book,John L. O’Sullivan and His Times was published in 2003 and his latest book earlier this year. Sampson served as a member and, for two years as chairman of the Macon County Board.