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.
SubtitleThe Epic Rise and Historic Fall of Baseball's Wilmington Quicksteps
AuthorBy Jon Springer
Published15 May 2018
Dimensions6.00 x 9.00in.
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.