LORDS OF THE REALM: The Real History of Baseball by John Helyar

LORDS OF THE REALM: The Real History of Baseball

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Wall Street Journal reporter Helyar (coauthor of Barbarians at the Gate, 1990) colorfully argues that baseball has been run poorly from its humble 19th-century beginnings to its current status as a multibillion-dollar enterprise. A brief passage near the end of Helyar's book has already sparked a controversy. In an almost offhand quote, New York Mets owner Nelson Doubleday allegedly refers to two of his fellow owners as ""Jew-boys."" Doubleday denies the quote, but an equally plausible reaction would be ""Why me?"" Helyar's book is filled with statements from owners past and present that range from the deeply offensive to the just plain stupid. It is impossible to read this book and not marvel that baseball survives despite 125 years of blundering by many of the people who have owned its teams. One also also comes away with an altered perception of the sport's problems. Baseball players have taken the brunt of the blame, but Helyar shifts the onus almost entirely to the owners. Prime examples: the owners' near total absence of self-restraint in bidding up players' salaries and the refusal of large-market clubs to share the riches with their poorer colleagues in a revenue-sharing plan. Helyar takes us inside the most intimate meetings at some of the most crucial moments in baseball history. The book's major fault is that Helyar gives few inklings of his fly-on-the-wall sources, and readers must accept legions of offending and revealing quotes -- like Doubleday's -- on trust. But it is this same gossip-column quality that makes a thick tome on the business of baseball read like a suspense novel. A must-read for baseball fans and for anyone who would like to know how the very wealthy and the very ambitious manage the business of America's national pastime.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0345465245
Page count: 576pp
Publisher: Villard/Random House