Once Upon a Team

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

About The Book

In 1884, professional baseball was still in its infancy. The National League was less than a decade old, the National Association (which had been around since 1871) was now defunct, the American Association (which began two years earlier) were nipping at the NL’s heels, and a new league—the Union Association—was in its first year.

With all that going on, a hard-playing, hard-drinking club out of tiny Wilmington, Delaware—the Quicksteps—were so dominating their minor-league opponents that they would receive the opportunity of a lifetime.

At 51–12, the Quicksteps were easily handling the struggling Eastern League, which was still in its inaugural season. 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 curve ball. They clinched the league title with six weeks left in the season, and then did something no other team had ever done before.

The UA’s inaugural season wasn’t going as well as they had hoped. Four teams folded before the season’s conclusion, and the red-hot Quicksteps were slated to be promoted to the professional league—something which, then and now, is unheard of—replacing the defunct Philadelphia Keystones.

Unfortunately, things did not go as well for Wilmington in the UA as it did in the Eastern League. As the first shots are 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. In 18 games, the Quicksteps went 2–16, giving them a .111 winning percentage (compared to their .810 winning percentage in the Eastern League). The UA would fold at seasons’ end—as would the Quicksteps.

Loaded with colorful characters, highlight plays, and behind-the-scenes drama, Jon Springer (Mets by the Numbers) 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 1, 2018)
  • Length: 240 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781683582106
  • Ages: 12 - 99

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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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