CREATING THE NATIONAL PASTIME

BASEBALL TRANSFORMS ITSELF 1903-1953

An astute examination of how baseball emerged as the national pastime by fostering a pastoral mythology that remained unchallenged until the early 1950s. White (Law and History/Univ.. of Virginia; Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1993) argues that ``baseball's past history was far more complex, and far less heroic, than romanticized treatments of the game might suggest.'' Hardly news, but as he so meticulously demonstrates, while baseball promoted its ``anachronistic dimensions'' as a rural, fresh-air sport played by apple-cheeked youths, it was able to do so, in part, by violating anti-trust laws, by implementing such unfair labor practices as the reserve clause, and by restricting its talent pool according to race. The struggle to maintain the myth began to fail in the postwar era. Owners followed the demographic shift westward, thus dashing nostalgic hometown ties for fans of teams like the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. At about the same time, the weakening of the reserve clause, the ``new labor relations atmosphere,'' and the integration of the game forced baseball to surrender the ``special qualities'' that had allowed it to appear untouched by time. The author's delineation of the business aspects of the game are a bit dry and too involved, but things liven up when he looks at the gambling and cheating that were a part of the game early in the century, and when he examines the growth and economic importance of night baseball and of radio and TV broadcasts. He also surveys the great baseball writers, such as Paul Gallico and Damon Runyan, and the famed announcers, including Bob Prince and Jimmy Dudley. He has some fresh insights into the game's tentative acceptance of ethnic ballplayers such as Joe DiMaggio and Hank Greenberg. Baseball cognoscenti will find plenty to chew on here. (24 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-691-03488-5

Page Count: 364

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1996

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

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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