Past Time: Baseball as History

Jules Tygiel, Author
Jules Tygiel, Author Oxford University Press, USA $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-19-508958-5
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-19-514604-2
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""Baseball, with its long, rich, well-documented history remains a powerful vehicle for exploring the American past."" In this goal Tygiel fails, but readers will likely stick around beyond the seventh-inning stretch nevertheless. In this collection of nine essays, he's gathered energetic and cogent discussions of the game. ""The National Game"" shows how the earlier version of baseball played in New York became the basis for the modern game, not because of ""its inherent attributes"" but because of the ability of its originators to incorporate emerging social attributes into the evolving game. ""Adjusting to the New Order"" fascinates with a portrait of Henry Chadwick, the inventor of the stat, a man who saw box scores as ""a series of mini-morality plays."" Perhaps the finest, ""The Homes of the Braves"" explores how the movement of teams in the 1950s and 1960s, starting with the Braves' move from Boston to Milwaukee in 1953, reflected America's changing demographics. In each essay, Tygiel demonstrates how baseball has reacted to the real world, but his tone often grows stiff, academic or curmudgeonly as he makes his points. When he turns back to the game, however--whether to illustrate the bitter feud between Branch Rickey and Larry McPhail or to relate the origins and madness of Rotisserie Baseball--his prose gets more casual and lively. In these moments, he's not a professor but a fan--and the shift itself is a reward, for it mirrors that moment when each of us reaches his or her seat and the world of work dissolves in the realization, ""I'm at the game."" 32 halftones. (Apr.)
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