Why did I choose 1897? It is a question I have been asked several times in the course of my research. There were a few reasons. I have always been interested in the pre-1920 "Deadball" era of baseball. This era was characterized by dominant pitching, strategic batting and base-running, and few home runs. The players of this era were often boisterous and entertaining figures - rough and tumble types, drinkers, and gamblers. This time in baseball is filled with some really interesting stories. Also, the nicknames were great, the ballparks were shaped funny, and the equipment was primitive. I find it a fascinating time in baseball history.
I have never known much about U.S. history from the end of the Civil War to 1900. I always intended to learn more about this era, and studying Fargo, baseball, and culture at the end of the 19th century was intriguing.
I thought it would be a challenge. Very little has been written or documented about Fargo's early baseball teams. I wanted to uncover things that were truly new to the known historical record. I considered looking at the Fargo-Moorhead Twins for a time, but new my heart wouldn't be in it - even if the resources would be more plentiful.
The Red River Valley League in 1897 was an officially organized league recognized by the National League (the only major league at the time). In 1896, teams in Fargo, Grand Forks, Moorhead, and other area towns played games, but not within the structure of a league and not with the same frequency as 1897. And 1898 was a relatively quiet year for baseball in the area. I felt that the RRVL provided a real link to the "national game".
But, ultimately, I love baseball and I love history. If the 1897 season had not proved so captivating, I would probably be hunting down information on the Fargo teams from 1902-1917. From the little I have seen, this was an equally interesting era.