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Spectator Sports


In the first half of the twentieth century, baseball really was the “national pastime.”  Radio broadcasts were followed by millions.  Hall of Fame players Christy Mathewson and Johnny Evers wrote popular books about their experiences in the Major Leagues.

Elbert Chance, 1926.

The Blue Rocks:Past and Present: Wilmington's Baseball Team, 1940-1999.  Wilmington, Del.: Cedar Tree Books, c2000.

Albert Goodwill Spalding, 1850-1915.

America's National Game;Historic Facts Concerning the Beginning, Evolution, Development and Popularity of Base Ball. New York:American Sports Publishing Company, 1911.

Draper-Maynard Co.

Spring & Summer Catalog 1913:D & M Athletic Goods. Plymouth, N.H.: The Company, 1913.

Christy Mathewson, 1880-1925.

Pitching in a Pinch or Baseball from the Inside.  New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1912.

John J. Evers, 1883-1947.

Baseball in the Big Leagues.  Chicago: Reilly & Britton Co., [1910].

Baseball Fiction

Baseball has inspired more great novels than all other sports put together. Great baseball stories include the important themes of American life—race, masculinity, competition, greed, lost innocence, success and failure.  They also highlight the elegance of the game well-played.

Raymond Souster, 1921-

Take Me Out to the Ballgame.  Ottawa, Ont.: Oberon, 2002.

Raymond Souster was a Canadian poet and the founder of Contact Press, an important Canadian poetry journal.

Bernard Malamud, 1914-1986.

The Natural.  New York: Harcourt, Brace, [1952].

Bernard Malamud’s first novel is a fable about a baseball hero who is gifted with miraculous powers.  More than just a great baseball book, it is among the most important works of fiction of its era.

Ted Berrigan, 1934-1983.

Yo-yo's with Money. Henniker, N.H.: United Artists, [1979].

The poet Ted Berrigan was a central figure in the second generation of the New York School of Poets.

Ring Lardner,1885-1933.

You know me Al: a Busher's Letters. New York: Westvaco Corporation, 1994.

Considered to be the first great baseball fiction, You Know Me Al is a collection of letters from one Jack Keefe, a minor league player, to his longtime friend, Al.  The voice of Jack Keefe perfectly echoes the vernacular of the baseball players Lardner had covered for years as a newspaper reporter following the exploits of Chicago's Cubs and White Sox. The stories were originally published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1914.

Christy Mathewson, 1880-1925.

Second Base Sloan.  NY: Dodd Mead & Co., 1917.

In 1936, Christy Mathewson was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of the famous "First Five" inductees along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and Honus Wagner.  He was the only one of the five who didn't live to see his induction.  At the end of his baseball career, he began a second career as a children’s book author, writing six books on baseball.

Paul C. Metcalf, 1917-1999.

Willie's Throw.  San Francisco, Calif.: Five Trees Press, [1979].

This is Paul Metcalf’s poetic tribute to Willie Mays and one of the greatest plays in baseball history, an over-the-shoulder catch deep in center field known ever after as “The Catch.”

Tom Clark, 1941-

Baseball.  Berkeley, Calif.: The Figures: distributed by Serendipity Books, [1976].

Tom Clark has been a poet, biographer, novelist, dramatist, reviewer and sportswriter.  He explained the intersection of poetry and baseball by saying that, "I think they have a natural relationship. The best poems and the best baseball games share a dramatic tension you can't find in very many other places."

Arnold Hano, 1922-

A Day in the Bleachers; illustrations, Mark Ulriksen. San Francisco: Arion Press, 2006.

A Day in the Bleachers tells, from a fan’s perspective, story of the first game of the 1954 World Series between the New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians, in which Willie Mays made his legendary over-the-shoulder catch deep in center field, known ever after as “The Catch.”

Mark Harris

Novelist and journalist Mark Harris is best known for a quartet of novels about baseball players: The Southpaw (1953), Bang the Drum Slowly (1956), A Ticket for a Seamstitch (1957), and It Looked like For Ever (1979).  Written in the vernacular, the books are the account of Henry "Author" Wiggen, a pitcher for the fictional New York Mammoths. 

Special Collections is the repository for the Mark Harris papers, a comprehensive archive which documents virtually every facet of the life and career of this American author.

Film cards for the movie version of Bang the Drum Slowly.

The verso lists the cast and technical credits.

Bang the Drum Slowly by Henry W. Wiggen; Certain of his Enthusiasms Restrained by Mark Harris.  New York: A.A. Knopf, 1956.

A Ticket for a Seamstitch. New York: Knopf, 1957.

It Looked Like Forever.  NY: McGraw-Hill, 1979.

The Southpaw by Henry W. Wiggen; Punctuation Freely Inserted and Spelling Greatly Improved by Mark Harris. Indianapolis;New York: Bobbs-Merrill, [1953].

Corrected typescript for Bang the Drum Slowly.

The David M. Nelson Collection

David M. Nelson was the head football coach at the University of Delaware from 1951–1965 and athletic director from 1951–1984.  He gained fame as the developer of the Wing T offensive formation.  As a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Football Rules Committee for more than 30 years, Coach Nelson edited the official college football rulebook and provided interpretations on how these playing rules were to be applied to game situations.

The University of Delaware Library is the repository for the David M. Nelson papers.

The Blue Hen Gridder: Official Program of the University of Delaware Football. 1939 and 1949.

Delaware Today, September, 1973.

Football Notes 1953.

Offensive playbook for a University of Delaware game with Bucknell in 1957.

Two undated photographs of Nelson on the sidelines during a University of Delaware football game.

David M. Nelson, 1920-1991.

Illustrated Football Rules. Garden City, N.Y.: Dolphin Books, 1976.

David M. Nelson, 1920-1991.

The Modern Winged-T Playbook; illustrations by Harold R. Raymond. Dubuque, Iowa: W.M. Brown Co., 1961.


Lacrosse helmet and 1948 team picture.

Delaware Senate President Pro Tempore Thurman Adams, Jr. (1928–2009) earned a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural education from the University of Delaware in 1950. As a student he was a member of the University’s first lacrosse team. He kept this helmet and team photograph throughout his life. Special Collections received these items as part of the recently-acquired Thurman Adams Papers.

University of Delaware lacrosse team members, circa 1970.

Horse Racing

Aintree;Grand Nationals--Past and Present.  New York: The Derrydale Press, 1930.

Aintree, England is the location of the National Hunt horse race, an event founded in 1836.

Racing Colors of the World. Richmond, Va.: Allen & Ginter, 1875.

Allen and Ginter was a Richmond, Virginia, tobacco manufacturing firm formed in 1875 that created and marketed the first cigarette cards for collecting and trading. These pamphlets contain images from the card sets.

The Sporting Calendar. London: W. Tuting and T. Fawcowner, 1772.

The Sporting Calendar lists the races for the year.

The New-York Sporting Magazine, and Annals of the American and English Turf. New York: Printed for the editor and proprietor, C.R. Colden, 1833.

The expensively produced magazine was aimed at the wealthy sportsman.  In its pages gentlemen could follow horse racing, steeplechase riding and cock-fighting and view portraits of well-known race horses.

Walter Spencer Vosburgh.

Racing in America, 1866-1921.  New York: Privately printed for the Jockey Club, [1922].

Walter Spencer Vosburgh, a racing historian, was the official handicapper for The Jockey Club and various other racing associations from 1894 to 1934.  This rare racing history documents many early races.


While fist fights as a spectator sport date back to the Greeks and Romans, fighting under established rules began in the middle of the eighteenth century.  The most revolutionary change in the sport came in 1865 when John Sholto Douglass, the Eighth Marquess of Queensbury, drew up new rules of boxing which transformed the sport into what it is today.

Edward Anthony James Lytton, Viscount Knebworth, 1903-1933.

Boxing: a Guide to Modern Methods.  London: Seeley, Service & Co., 1931.

Edmund E. Price.

The Science of Self Defence. New York: Dick & Fitzgerald, 1867.

Edward Van Every.

Muldoon, the Solid man of Sport. With a foreword by Jack Dempsey. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1929.

Girolamo Mercuriale, 1530-1606.

Hieronymi Mercurialis Foroliviensis De arte gymnastica libri sex.  Amstelodami: sumptibus Andreae Frisii, 1672.

Girolamo Mercuriale, an Italian physician, wrote this study of exercise among the Romans.  He focused on diet, exercise and hygiene and the use of natural methods for the cure of disease.  He described the illustrations of boxers and boxing gloves, by the artist Pirro Ligorio (ca. 1510-1583), as being based on reliefs on tombs or from ancient artworks.

Boys' Books

These sports stories were part of a genre of boys’ books published in great number in the early twentieth century.  Series of books like the Rover Boys, the Motorcycle Chums, and the Frank Armstrong stories were popular, inexpensive reading.  The boys in the stories all had “physical courage, heart, pluck and guts” and were role models for young Americans.  Special Collections holds a large collection of boys’ books.

Harold Morrow Sherman.

Under the Basket, and Other Basket Ball Stories. Chicago: Goldsmith, [1932].

Herbert Hayens.

Play up, Royals!; illustrated by Gordon Browne, R. I. London: Collins' Clear-type press, 1919.

Walter Leon Sawyer, 1862-1915.

Jack Lorimer's Substitute: or, The Acting Captain of the Team.  New York: A. L. Burt co., [1909].

Frank Armstrong, Drop Kicker by Matthew M. Colton. New York: Hurst, 1912.

H. Irving Hancock, 1868-1922.

The High School Captain of the Team. Philadelphia: H. Altemus, 1910.

J. R. Wright, Ph. D.

On the Forty Yard Line. Cleveland: World Syndicate Publishing Company, 1932.

Ralph Delahaye Paine, 1871-1925.

First Down, Kentucky! New York:Grosset & Dunlap, 1921.

Morgan Scott.

Rival Pitchers of Oakdale.  New York: A. L. Burt Co., [1911].

Cortland Fitzsimmons, 1893-1949.

Death on the Diamond: a Baseball Mystery Story. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1934.

John R. Cooper.

The Mystery at the Ball Park.  New York: Cupples & Leon Company, 1947.

Harold Morrow.

Bases Full!: Ernie Challenges the World. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1928.

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