How would you summarize the book Playing for Keeps by Warren Goldstein?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Playing for Keeps: A History of Early Baseball was published by Cornell University Press in 1989. An expanded twentieth anniversary edition includes additional material uncovered in the intervening twenty years. The book is especially notable for its extensive use of archival sources. Its author, Warren Goldstein, PhD is (as of 2016) Professor of History and Chair of the History Department at the University of Hartford. He is a prolific author of popular books and magazine articles on topics pertaining to life in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States as well as articles on sports, especially baseball.

The book is organized into a prologue, eight major chapters, and an epilogue. It traces the history of baseball from its development into an organized sport in 1857, with the founding of the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP), through its increasing professionalization in 1870, marked by the formation of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players. He sees baseball in the 1850s as being based in amateur clubs that were part of the male social fabric of local communities; by the 1870s, baseball was a business for both athletes and managers. 

In many ways, this is a cultural history, showing how fandom worked in tandem with economic opportunism to professionalize what had been a club sport played by amateurs who were often skilled workers. In this initial phase, the fraternal clubs sponsored baseball as one of several different wholesome recreational activities. The combination of fan enthusiasm and commercialization of ticket sales shifted the emphasis from recreation and players enjoying themselves to winning in order to please audiences and thereby increase ticket sales and profits. This in turn led to increased professionalization of players. 

The book's approach is distinguished by an emphasis on the sociological and economic underpinnings of the sport rather than simply focusing on player biographies.

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Playing for Keeps

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