THE EASTERN STARS by Mark Kurlansky

THE EASTERN STARS

How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macorís

KIRKUS REVIEW

The bittersweet tale of San Pedro de Macorís, the struggling Dominican town that has sent 79 players to the Major Leagues since the early 1960s.

Prolific nonfiction author Kurlansky (The Food of a Younger Land, 2009, etc.) sails smoothly into the bay of baseball, despite a few anchor drops into superfluity (e.g., explanations of a sacrifice bunt and a switch-hitter). Nonetheless, the author tells a compelling, multifaceted story. He sketches the history of the island that the Dominican Republic shares with Haiti, examines little-known cultural contributions of the Dominicans and explores the various economic forces that have driven, and sunk, San Pedro over the years, including fishing, sugar cane, tourism and, throughout much of the last century, baseball. He even finds time for some local recipes, inserting them here and there as he did in his bestselling book Cod (1997). Kurlansky examines the careers of some of the region’s most notable stars, including Julio Franco, Juan Marichal, George Bell and Sammy Sosa, who was tarnished by the steroid scandal. The author notes how returning MLB players remain life-long celebrities in a town where many struggle to eke out a subsistence-level living from seasonal work in sugar cane harvesting or in even less remunerative occupations. The author also looks at the sprawling baseball culture in the town, which features three-dozen fields, scouts, training schools and academies and numerous local teams, including the eponymous and perennial also-ran Eastern Stars. Alert to the cultural and racial problems in the United States, Kurlansky razes the nasty edifice of the “hot-blooded Latin” stereotype and notes that Dominican players continue to suffer from a plethora of prejudices. Of course, he effectively addresses the principal question—why San Pedro? The answer seems both simple and heartbreaking: Baseball is hope.

Though somewhat elementary in places, a sensitive work that celebrates even as it demythologizes.

Pub Date: April 15th, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-59448-750-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Riverhead
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2010




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