PHONE: (313) 593-5518
DATE: April 21, 2004
UM-Dearborn prof pens history of U-M baseball
DEARBORN---Richard Adler planned to call his book University of Michigan
Baseball: The Other Sport, in recognition of the dominance of football
and, sometimes, basketball, among Michigan fans.
"As is true at many universities, football and basketball seem to
reign supreme today in both popularity and funding," Adler said.
"Yet baseball has been a sanctioned sport at Michigan for more than
130 years, clearly preceding the other major activities as the most important
sport in the mind of students," he said. "At the beginning of
the 20th century, baseball had evolved into the most popular spring leisure
event at the university in which students participated," according
Crowds of more than 500 were not unusual at a time when enrollment in
the university was approximately 2,500 students, and each class and college
in the university fielded a team.
Adler, associate professor of microbiology at the University of Michigan-Dearborn,
is an avid baseball fan and scholar. He is a member of the Society
for American Baseball Research and has written several articles on
historical issues in baseball.
His new book, Baseball at the University of Michigan, is being
published this spring by Arcadia,
which specializes in publishing works of regional and local history.
In the book, Adler discusses the growth of U-M baseball from a club activity
in the 1860s and 1870s, to a varsity sport by the turn of the century.
The book highlights baseball's development under Ray Fisher, who coached
the team for 38 years, as well as the team's national championships in
the 1950s and 1960s, followed by scandal in the late 1980s. "It was
only by the late 1990s that the quality of the team began to reflect its
earlier glory," Adler said.
Baseball pioneer Branch Rickey, who led the major leagues in many innovations
as a coach, manager and owner, also figures in the book. Rickey coached
the Michigan baseball team from 1910 to 1913, starting while he was a
law student at the university. His teams included George Sisler, one of
the greatest players in both Michigan and major league baseball history,
and one of the first to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of
Detroit Tigers fan favorite Bill Freehan played only one season at Ann
Arbor, "but what a season it was," Adler said. In 1961, he led
the Big Ten with a .585 batting average, a record that still stands. Freehan
received his bachelor's degree from UM-Dearborn in 1966, when he was already
a regular with the Tigers. After his playing career was over, Freehan
coached the Michigan team from 1990 to 1995, helping the team recover
from sanctions imposed for NCAA rule violations under coach Bud Middaugh.
Adler's book also covers the Michigan careers of future major-league All Stars Jim Abbott, Barry Larkin and Chris Sabo.