A HOUSE OF CARDS by John Bloom


Baseball Card Collecting and Popular Culture
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 A study of baseball-card collecting in the upper Midwest becomes ``an ethnographic account of a local fan culture'' by dint of Bloom's wearisome academese. Bloom (American Studies/Dickinson Coll.) latches onto the perhaps obvious premise that ``white middle class men were the primary constituency that comprised the core of the baseball card collecting hobby'' and never lets go. His study covers the late 1980s into the 1990s, after the hobby had been thoroughly commercialized by home-shopping shows on cable television. A hobby with its origins in ``the nostalgia for innocence located in symbols of white middle-class boyhood'' became a big business back in the mid-1970s, when the number of serious collectors grew from 4,000 to 250,000. The Fleer Corporation's successful antitrust suit against Topps opened the door for other companies to produce cards. That, Bloom argues, set off the direct-marketing boom of the late 1980s; baseball cards became the product rather than the incentive to buy a product, such as cereal or gum or cupcakes. Bloom goes on to examine the dynamics of sports memorabilia shows, finding a class structure among the dealers and collectors in their baseball caps and beer-commercial T-shirts. Those he studied ``attempted to make a mass-media form meaningful within their collecting subculture.'' Numbing statements unfortunately blot out astute, ironic observations, such as Bloom's noting the annoyance show dealers have with children: What was once a boy's hobby now has little patience for childish enthusiasms. Not a collector himself, Bloom refers to his interviewees by first names only (``I first learned of Dave when I was interviewing Bob . . .''), thus giving their statements a confessional edge, like testimony at an AA meeting. Bloom's occasional cogent observations would be better served by levity and clarity.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1997
ISBN: 0-8166-2870-X
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1997


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