From BR Bullpen

Barnstorming refers to a team that takes the road and visits various cities where it plays games either against a local opponent or a designated outside opponent who is also barnstorming. This practice was very common in the early decades of the 20th century. Barnstorming could take place in the off-season (in which case, major league players were sometimes involved) or on off-days during the regular season (this was a common practice in the Negro Leagues), or it could be the normal mode of operation for a team that did not have a home, or rarely played at its home base. The House of David was the most famous of these full-time barnstorming teams, but there were many others.

Barnstorming made it possible to hold one-off games in many towns too small to host a full-time team, or to make additional money by having star players who were gate attractions appear in locations where their regular league schedule would not allow them to play. Teams like the "Satchel Paige All-Stars" are a good example, as Paige was a major gate attraction wherever he appeared. Barnstorming games also often included an important dose of showmanship and other forms of entertainment, as spectators could not be enticed simply by a game counting towards a championship of some sort.

While barnstorming has largely disappeared in professional baseball, the Harlem Globetrotters continue on as a successful barnstorming team in basketball. In their case, the entertainment factor is amped up to its maximum, while the competitive side is downplayed, as they hardly ever lose a game.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Scott Simkus: Outsider Baseball: The Weird World of Hardball on the Fringe, 1876–1950, Chicago Review Press, Chicago, IL, 2014. ISBN 978-1613748169