Once Upon a Team

The Epic Rise and Historic Fall of Baseball's Wilmington Quicksteps

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About The Book

Professional baseball was barely into its adolescence in 1884 when a hard-playing, hard-drinking minor league club out of tiny Wilmington, Delaware—the Quicksteps—got the opportunity of a lifetime.

Led by archetypal stars Tommy “Oyster” Burns and Edward “The Only” Nolan, the Quicksteps attacked opponents with a spike-sharpened, rough-and-tumble approach to the game that was only then coming into style, including Nolan’s revolutionary delivery, the curveball. Managed by a wise cricket veteran and bankrolled by a cigar-chewing sporting goods dealer who ran illicit gambling rings by night, the Quicksteps were the talk of the town, playing to an .800 winning percentage in the minors and holding their own in exhibitions with big league clubs.

The National League was less than a decade old then, and the American Association, which had been established two years earlier, was nipping at its heels. But when a maverick millionaire named Henry V. Lucas established a third major league that year—the Union Association—the pro game erupted into chaos.

When the ensuing battle for players and fans claimed the life of the Union Association’s Philadelphia Keystones, the Quicksteps, in an extraordinary remedy, were abruptly promoted to the league to take their place—team, stadium, and city in a single fell swoop. But their arrival in the majors was anything but a dream come true.

As the first shots were fired in a near century-long battle for player rights, mass defections and a comedy of on-field error and misfortune resigned the Quicksteps to a virtually unassailable record for baseball futility.

Loaded with colorful characters, highlight plays and behind-the-scenes drama, Once Upon a Team tells the forgotten true story of a tumultuous and remarkable summer; a team driven and summarily destroyed by its own dream of success.

About The Author

Jon Springer is the founder and operator of the acclaimed Mets by the Numbers website, mbtn.net. He is the co-author of Mets by the Numbers and resides in Brooklyn, New York.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Sports Publishing (May 15, 2018)
  • Length: 240 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781683582090

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Raves and Reviews

"Once Upon a Team is a marvelous book by Jon Springer that explores the primordial ooze from which our current game of baseball emerged. What really came through in this book though were the personalities and antics of the players. The behind-the-scenes events that would shape the season and provide great context to the primordial ooze from which our current game emerged."
—Jon Shepherd, Camden Depot

"So little is known about nineteenth century baseball that virtually all sources say the true history of the game began in 1901, with the advent of the American League. But say it ain't so, Joe: this well-researched history reveals that teams and leagues fought for fans, recognition, and revenue in a rough-and-tumble era of rowdy players and changing rules. Beyond their quixotic name, the Wilmington Quicksteps represent the flavor of early baseball, brought to life brilliantly by author Jon Springer."
—Dan Schlossberg, author of The New Baseball Bible

“[A] fascinating glimpse of a little-known part of baseball history. . . . Once Upon a Team paints a vivid picture of baseball in America a century before free agency, giant ballparks, first-class hotels and travel, giant salaries, and guaranteed contracts.”
—Douglas B. Lyons, author of New York Yankees Home Run Almanac

"In Once Upon a Team, Springer so aptly humanizes the hardscrabble cast of characters of the 1884 Wilmington Quicksteps that one can't help mourn the team's tragic journey from Eastern League powerhouse to Union Association doormat. The book beatifully weaves solid baseball history research into compelling yarns of cutthroat business decisions, excessive drinking, and shifting loyalties."
—Dirk Lammers, author of Baseball's No-Hit Wonders

"Jon Springer has brought to life the sepia-toned baseball era of the late 1800s in full living color in this entertaining history of the Wilmington Quicksteps. Baseball fans will find much to ponder and discuss, and even non-baseball fans will enjoy this lively history of Delaware at a time when immigrants and the sons of immigrants made baseball their great American passion."
—David Healey, author of Great Storms of the Chesapeake

"Once Upon a Team is a marvelous book by Jon Springer that explores the primordial ooze from which our current game of baseball emerged. What really came through in this book though were the personalities and antics of the players. The behind-the-scenes events that would shape the season and provide great context to the primordial ooze from which our current game emerged."
—Jon Shepherd, Camden Depot

"So little is known about nineteenth century baseball that virtually all sources say the true history of the game began in 1901, with the advent of the American League. But say it ain't so, Joe: this well-researched history reveals that teams and leagues fought for fans, recognition, and revenue in a rough-and-tumble era of rowdy players and changing rules. Beyond their quixotic name, the Wilmington Quicksteps represent the flavor of early baseball, brought to life brilliantly by author Jon Springer."
—Dan Schlossberg, author of The New Baseball Bible

“[A] fascinating glimpse of a little-known part of baseball history. . . . Once Upon a Team paints a vivid picture of baseball in America a century before free agency, giant ballparks, first-class hotels and travel, giant salaries, and guaranteed contracts.”
—Douglas B. Lyons, author of New York Yankees Home Run Almanac

"In Once Upon a Team, Springer so aptly humanizes the hardscrabble cast of characters of the 1884 Wilmington Quicksteps that one can't help mourn the team's tragic journey from Eastern League powerhouse to Union Association doormat. The book beatifully weaves solid baseball history research into compelling yarns of cutthroat business decisions, excessive drinking, and shifting loyalties."
—Dirk Lammers, author of Baseball's No-Hit Wonders

"Jon Springer has brought to life the sepia-toned baseball era of the late 1800s in full living color in this entertaining history of the Wilmington Quicksteps. Baseball fans will find much to ponder and discuss, and even non-baseball fans will enjoy this lively history of Delaware at a time when immigrants and the sons of immigrants made baseball their great American passion."
—David Healey, author of Great Storms of the Chesapeake

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