love talking about it," says Brian Turner. "Just keep
asking the questions and Iíll come back with the answers."
is the history of baseball in Northampton and more specifically
a new book titled - "The Hurrah Game" - Turner has written
with Northampton author John Bowman.
of the book by Historic Northampton coincides with an elaborate
and fascinating exhibit now on view at the museum on Bridge Street
of photographs, paraphernalia and personal reminiscences of the
rich history of the role baseball played in the life of this community.
who moved here in 1976 after a peripatetic wandering of the world
trying to find himself, has dug deep into the roots of Northampton
to come up with this detailed and somewhat ignored piece of Northampton
and museum exhibit are the result of Turnerís indefatigable tolerance
for research, which for most of us can be lonely, tiresome work.
Not for Turner, who I would see huddled over a microfilm reader
virtually every time I visited Forbes Library in the last few
pretty meticulous about everything I do," says Turner, when
asked about his baseball research or his skills as a cartoonist
and comic book artist or teacher in the writing program at Smith
To do justice
to the depth of the material gathered about baseball and Northampton,
it is necessary to go the book, now on sale at various venues,
and to visit Historic Northampton where "The Hurrah Game"
exhibit runs through Aug. 16.
are many antecedents leading up to Turnerís utter and complete
obsession with details about Northamptonís connection with baseball
and the gameís ties to Northampton.
have been when he was younger reading the works of Harold Seymour,
who Turner describes as the dean of baseball researchers who broke
new ground with volumes such as "Baseball, the Early Years,"
"Baseball, the Golden Years," and "Baseball, the
Peopleís Game." "They got me thinking about women and
baseball, blacks and baseball," he says.
was the unpublished novel that Turner wrote tentatively titled
"Ball Field in a Box."
the most important local antecedent was when Turner came to know
Jim Ryan whose house on Corticelli Street in Florence Turner bought
in 1989. Ryan, a retired Northampton firefighter, moved next door
to live with his sister and Turner and Ryan, as neighbors, eventually
found they had a mutual interest - old-time baseball.
years, Turner and Ryan would get together intermittently to plumb
Ryanís recollections of Northampton baseball in the early years
of the 20th Century.
developed into a kind of oral history project, with Turner going
to the microfilm files of newspaper accounts and then sitting
down with Ryan to dislodge personal memories that Ryan had stored
up about players and games from that era. "His whole family
and Jim loved to talk baseball," says Turner.
several hours of the conversations with Ryan and it began to become
clear that elements of the many anecdotes - the 1912 championship
Northampton Meadowlarks and Frank Wickware, the most feared black
pitcher of that era - could be shaped into discrete stories.
at that point he got more fired up and plunged more deeply into
his research, eventually he published a couple of his pieces in
the local alternative monthly - VMag, which has since folded.
time, Turner became acquainted with Bowman, local author and editor
of books by local authors, including a book on the Red Sox by
the late Gazette sports editor, Milton Cole, and Jim Kaplan, former
Sports Illustrated writer who was researching a book on Lefty
Grove, the legendary pitcher.
already published a piece about the Florence Eagles, a team reaching
back to 1865 and which had 100 members and was active until 1867.
to tell the story of baseball in Northampton in its full historical
perspective, Bowman and Turner figured they had to date the beginnings
of the game here, which they were able to do by finding a reference
to baseball being played at the Round Hill School as far back
as 1823. Turnerís research later unearthed in the Gazette &
Courier the first account of an actual ballgame on Aug. 11, 1858
between the Atwaters of Westfield and the Nonotucks of Northampton.
He also tracked down the first published box score for that same
game in the Westfield Newsletter.
of the "The Hurrah Game" comes to an end in 1953 - which
coincides with the beginning of Little League baseball, the passing
into history of semi-pro ball and the debut the previous year
of local lad, Stu Miller, as a major League pitcher for the St.
Turner are both members of the Society for American Baseball Research
whose publication, National Pastime, will publish Turnerís article
about Luther Askins, who played first base for the Florence Eagles
in 1865-66, which is now regarded as the earliest racially integrated
to Turner, he and Bowman shared the writing of "The Hurrah
Game." "It was a collaborative effort.,í; he says. "John
is a professional. He livened up the writing. Sometimes I speak
to myself more than to other people."
for his part, defers to Turner. "Brian, did far more in the
end." Bowman said his own interest in the history of baseball
relates to the sociology of the game, while Turnerís special skill
in weaving together the delicate threads of local history.
record, Brian Turner was born in Springfield in 1949, went to
American International College and traveled the world for three
years before enrolling at the UMass Master of Fine Arts program
in English. In 1979 he founded Scat, a monthly cartoon magazine
in Northampton which at one point had a circulation of 30,000.
By 1981, Scat had turned into Graphics Guild, a design studio,
which was later spun off into William Mullerís Guild Arts Centre
and Graphics Guild which Turnerís brother bought and moved to
Turner began working at Smith as a writing counselor where he
has been since, also teaching a fall semester class in essay writing.
With a reputation
of being something a cynic, Turner is pleasantly surprised that
his dogged efforts in presenting the story of baseball in Northampton
have received favorable feedback. "Most people are amazed
that anyone would bother to put it all together."
there will be revised versions of the soft-cover book later as
additional details and clarifications are provided by those with
personal information about the subject.
In his low-key
manner, Turner also extols for their support those connected with
the Florence Association and its president Paul Gaffney and Steve
Strimer, a relentless researcher of Florence history and a principal
of Collective Copies who designed and printed the book. The initial
printing was 500 copies with additional copies being available
if demand warrants them.
hurrah, says Turner, is due Historic Northampton and its director
Kerry Buckley, and his staff, including Alena Shumway and Marie
Panik, who constructed the physical exhibit for the museum.
is not about baseball, we all know that," says Buckley. "Baseball
grew up in small-town America and Brian had an instinct for understanding