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TheStreet Open House

Gambling On Baseball? The Game Grew Up On It, Says Texas A&M Historian In New Book

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, April 8, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In the early days of baseball more than 125 years ago, fun at the ballyard was a sure bet – quite literally.  Players, fans and perhaps even umpires gambled on every aspect of the game and that's usually how most players made any money, says a Texas A&M University professor who has written a book about the relationship between baseball and American culture.

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David Vaught, head of the history department at Texas A&M and a baseball historian, has authored  The Farmer's Game: Baseball In Rural America ( Johns Hopkins University Press) and the just-published book reveals how baseball's origins, despite current-day thinking, were that of a game played in small country towns, not large metropolitan areas.  Rivalries quickly developed between neighboring teams, and most games – almost always played on Sundays because that was the only day the farmers were free from their chores – featured heavy gambling on both sides.

"It was very often a winner-take-all event where players would bet on their team to win, and the fans would bet on just about anything they could," Vaught says of his research.

"Fans would bet on how many hits or runs a team might score, how many pitches might be thrown, how many innings the game might last, and on and on.   Since the players were not really paid a regular salary, the only way they could make any money was by betting, and every game featured plenty of it. There was rarely a game played that did not involve some type of gambling," he notes, unlike today when gambling on baseball can get a player or manager barred from the game for life.

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