Do You Know the Muffin Man?
“The muffin games offered biting parodies of the increasing tendency of players to take themselves and the game too seriously…”
In fact, the word muffin as a baseball term was so common that Base Ball as Viewed by a Muffin was published in 1867. This is one of the earliest illustrated books about our national pastime and few copies exist today. One of those is held in the archive of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and is considered to be among the treasures of the collection.
The role of the muffins and the muffin matches played a critical part in helping baseball maintain its popularity as the game became more competitive and first nine matches more dominant. As noted by Peter Morris in his seminal work Baseball Fever, “The games also served several important functions. First, they kept the club members who lacked the skill to play on the first nine happy and even conferred on them a special distinction. Second, they reminded spectators and players of the sheer fun of playing ball games. Third, they showed that society no longer frowned on displays of unalloyed pleasure. Fourth, they reminded spectators of the skill level of the best players by demonstrating the difficulty of plays that the best players made routinely. Fifth, they allowed a variety of new groups based on occupation, hobbies and marital status to experience the camaraderie that had been so essential to building baseball’s first clubs. Finally, they provided reporters, who described match games in deadly serious tones, with an opportunity to unleash their creative powers. These factors contributed to reviving the sense that everyone was on the same side.”
As Morris noted later in his book, “The muffin games offered biting parodies of the increasing tendency of players to take themselves and the game too seriously…”