BIG LEAGUES by Stephen Fox


Professional Baseball, Football, and Basketball in National Memory
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 Fox seems to have formed this disjointed work by taking a worthy collection of anecdotes from the professional worlds of baseball, football, and basketball and throwing them against the wall to see what would stick. With little analysis, historian Fox (Blood and Power, 1989, etc.) allows his extensive research to dominate--and the reported words and deeds of the players, coaches, and owners do hold the reader. Early hoop star Johnny Cooper, one of the first practitioners of the jump shot, could not convince his college coach of the shot's worth until he buried one in a key game and received silent consent. Pudge Heffelfinger, the immortal 19th- century Yale football star, underscored the toughness of that era's game and its players by admitting the fear that he and the rest of the Yale squad had for teammate Frank Hinkey. Baseball legend Wee Willie Keeler found the reality of drawing a baseball salary ridiculous, as he would have paid his own way into the ballpark to play (a sentiment that seems equally ridiculous in light of the current conflict between baseball's owners and players). These and other reflections are meant to enlighten a host of subjects, ranging from the evolution of these games into hugely popular diversions to athletes' penchant for alcohol, sex, drugs, and gambling. But Fox's diagnosis of the excessive search for post-game pleasure is simply that athletes are overgrown boys. This is typical of the flat analysis here. Fox doesn't help himself by relying on old, even dated subject matter. He clouds his argument with nostalgia by referring constantly to the glory days that existed long before anyone currently alive can remember. There is little mention of television and its impact on sports, and corporate sponsorship is completely ignored. Interesting stories in search of a collective purpose. (32 b&w photos) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1994
ISBN: 0-688-09300-0
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1994


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