28 July 2013

Ruppert Slides Home, Ahe Standing in Left Field

With the induction ceremony taking place this afternoon, is it the right or wrong time to ask "if a baseball Hall of Fame plaque can be newly fashioned for Jacob Ruppert then, based on Edward Achorn's The Summer of Beer and Whiskey, why not Christian Frederick Wilhelm von der Ahe?

Ahe did the entire American dream cycle. He arrived as a German immigrant, shuffled through a few jobs until working his way up to grocery store owner. And then saloon keeper with political connections. Next step: baseball team owner who figured out that if he charged less at the gate and let people have fun they would be more likely to purchase more of his beer and hot dogs (that, maybe, he introduced to the stands). There were various lady friends not his wife, legal troubles, "the bottom," "the comeback," the fancy funeral, and, now, the mostly forgotten guy remembered as someone who rescued American baseball and may be as important as anyone in establishing it as the country's alleged shared pastime.

Will it all be enough to get him his own posthumous plaque on some future Sunday in July? Depends on Achorn, who, having proven himself something of a writing force, inspiring legislative action and citizen action as a Providence Journal political commentator, will for the time being be measured by how far he can carry Ahe, a guy who may not have actually known much about the game, but proved Sunday after Sunday that he knew how to sell it.


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