BASEBALL AND BILLIONS

A PROBING LOOK INSIDE THE BIG BUSINESS OF OUR NATIONAL PASTIME

During the baseball strike of 1990, Zimbalist's disillusioned 11-year-old son suggested that his dad write a book on the economics of baseball. The happy result is this grand-slam study of America's only ``self-governing, unregulated monopoly,'' standing head-and-shoulders above Neil J. Sullivan's similar The Diamond Revolution (p. 661). Although baseball is booming (revenues doubled to $1.4 billion from 1985 to 1990), Zimbalist believes that danger looms, the result of a shrinking TV audience, ballooning salaries, and other woes brought on by ``commercialism, greed, and poor management.'' He points a well-aimed finger at team owners as the major culprits; while George Steinbrenner ``stands out in his zaniness and mismanagement,'' few owners escape Zimbalist's acid remarks. The sport's commissioners also take their lumps: Zimbalist doubts current boss Fay Vincent's claim that many teams are losing money, and he notes that franchise values are skyrocketing. The author explores hidden sources of revenue (like luxury boxes, some with marble-and-gold bathrooms) and the inflated salaries of superstars as clues to baseball's hidden economy, and he slams the treatment of minor leaguers, subject to pitiful pay and no job protection, as ``scandalous.'' Leapfrogging of teams from city to city also draws fire. As to how to heal our national pastime, Zimbalist offers no panaceas, although he returns time and again to the idea of expansion to 35 or 40 teams, a move that will relieve a number of problems, including an underused labor pool. A ``minimalist'' fix- up might also include guaranteed free access to special games like the World Series, revenue sharing among teams, and a baseball labor act. A ``maximalist'' cure would mean government regulation through the creation of a federal commission. A near-miracle—a nimble, exciting unknotting of a horribly tangled business—that's also a public service, as Zimbalist presents workable proposals that put the fan's interests first.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 1992

ISBN: 0-465-00614-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1992

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

WHY WE SWIM

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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In these insightfully droll essays, Gierach shows us how fishing offers plenty of time to think things over.

DUMB LUCK AND THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

The latest collection of interrelated essays by the veteran fishing writer.

As in his previous books—from The View From Rat Lake through All Fishermen Are Liars—Gierach hones in on the ups and downs of fishing, and those looking for how-to tips will find plenty here on rods, flies, guides, streams, and pretty much everything else that informs the fishing life. It is the everything else that has earned Gierach the following of fellow writers and legions of readers who may not even fish but are drawn to his musings on community, culture, the natural world, and the seasons of life. In one representatively poetic passage, he writes, “it was a chilly fall afternoon with the leaves changing, the current whispering, and a pale moon in a daytime sky. The river seemed inscrutable, but alive with possibility.” Gierach writes about both patience and process, and he describes the long spells between catches as the fisherman’s equivalent of writer’s block. Even when catching fish is the point, it almost seems beside the point (anglers will understand that sentiment): At the end of one essay, he writes, “I was cold, bored, hungry, and fishless, but there was still nowhere else I’d have rather been—something anyone who fishes will understand.” Most readers will be profoundly moved by the meditation on mortality within the blandly titled “Up in Michigan,” a character study of a man dying of cancer. Though the author had known and been fishing with him for three decades, his reticence kept anyone from knowing him too well. Still, writes Gierach, “I came to think of [his] glancing pronouncements as Michigan haiku: brief, no more than obliquely revealing, and oddly beautiful.” Ultimately, the man was focused on settling accounts, getting in one last fishing trip, and then planning to “sit in the sun and think things over until it’s time for hospice.”

In these insightfully droll essays, Gierach shows us how fishing offers plenty of time to think things over.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6858-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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