BASEBALL: The People's Game by Harold Seymour

BASEBALL: The People's Game

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Third book (at 600+ pp.) in Seymour's monumental four-volume history of the sport (The Early Years, 1960; The Golden Age, 1971). Here, the author examines organized baseball outside the major leagues, from Little League to the old Negro Leagues to games played by prison inmates. Seymour begins in the sandlots, with a loving description of a pick-up game: ""At last they arrived, a few shouldering a bat with glove looped casually over it, others with a glove fastened by its strap and button to their belts, and two already having a running catch as the squad straggled along."" He gives the general feeling that once baseball moved beyond this vision of purity, it became ""over-organized"" by adults. The early sections here trace the growth of the sport as national pastime through baseball fiction (such as the Frank Merriwell stories), and its organization through schools and groups like the YMCA and the American Legion. In a remarkably well-researched section, Seymour connects the game's history with the progressive reform movement of the turn of the century. The ""playground movement"" was viewed as a cure for social ills, as exemplified by the formation of the Boys' Clubs and the first adult-sanctioned interscholastic games around 1903. Later, in 1939, the games became organized for even the youngest when the Little League was founded in Williamsport, Penn., as a way to provide scheduled on-field time for the often bullied little kids. With sports generally accepted as wholesome for both mind and body, it was inevitable that baseball would then be organized in the most unlikely of settings: prisons, Indian reservations, military installations from Ft. Dix to Guam. A scholarly, but very accessible, in-depth treasure-trove of baseball information and lore.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1990
ISBN: 0195069072
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press