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A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY OF BASEBALL, 1945-1972

Though a bit specialized for general readers, a goldmine for students and fans of baseball history, as well as readers with...

A compilation of box scores, news clippings, legal briefs, and legislation that traces the social undercurrents of baseball’s postwar history through 1972.

Sullivan (Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 18251908, not reviewed) has assembled a third collection of important historical documents for hardcore baseball fans and interested historians. Soon after team-owners elected Senator Albert “Happy” Chandler to replace the late Kenesaw Landis as Commissioner of Major League Baseball, memoranda from Branch Rickey and a report from the House Judiciary Committee meeting on organized baseball show, Chandler dashed the owners’ desire to keep the sport racially segregated by publicly accepting the Dodgers’ decision to sign Jackie Robinson as the first African-American to play major-league baseball. This decision, Sullivan argues, eventually changed baseball from a provincial sport into a national passion. Broadcast technology fueled this transformation by extending rooting interests across state lines. A series of news clippings from baseball’s “golden age” traces a dramatic spike in individual performance as black players like Willie Mays and Henry Aaron pushed white stars like Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris to new heights. Sullivan also excerpts congressional documents and news articles that show how a renewed nationwide interest in the sport pulled many teams from their longtime East Coast homes into the American West. He ends by suggesting that Curt Flood’s legal challenge to the reserve clause shifted baseball’s attention from ending segregation on the diamond to addressing tensions between justice for individual players and the owners’ financial well-being. Throughout, he prefers to let the collected sources tell baseball’s history for him—an effective strategy for a sport that inspired much of the century’s best journalism.

Though a bit specialized for general readers, a goldmine for students and fans of baseball history, as well as readers with interests in mid–20th-century race and labor issues.

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8032-9285-6

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2002

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WHY WE SWIM

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

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. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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CONCUSSION

Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading...

A maddening, well-constructed tale of medical discovery and corporate coverup, set in morgues, laboratories, courtrooms, and football fields.

Nigeria-born Bennet Omalu is perhaps an unlikely hero, a medical doctor board-certified in four areas of pathology, “anatomic, clinical, forensic, and neuropathology,” and a well-rounded specialist in death. When his boss, celebrity examiner Cyril Wecht (“in the autopsy business, Wecht was a rock star”), got into trouble for various specimens of publicity-hound overreach, Omalu was there to offer patient, stoical support. The student did not surpass the teacher in flashiness, but Omalu was a rock star all his own in studying the brain to determine a cause of death. Laskas’ (Creative Writing/Univ. of Pittsburgh; Hidden America, 2012, etc.) main topic is the horrific injuries wrought to the brains and bodies of football players on the field. Omalu’s study of the unfortunate brain of Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, who died in 2002 at 50 of a supposed heart attack, brought new attention to the trauma of concussion. Laskas trades in sportwriter-ese, all staccato delivery full of tough guyisms and sports clichés: “He had played for fifteen seasons, a warrior’s warrior; he played in more games—two hundred twenty—than any other player in Steelers history. Undersized, tough, a big, burly white guy—a Pittsburgh kind of guy—the heart of the best team in history.” A little of that goes a long way, but Laskas, a Pittsburgher who first wrote of Omalu and his studies in a story in GQ, does sturdy work in keeping up with a grim story that the NFL most definitely did not want to see aired—not in Omalu’s professional publications in medical journals, nor, reportedly, on the big screen in the Will Smith vehicle based on this book.

Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading it.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8757-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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