cover image TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY IN MUDVILLE: My Lifelong Passion for Baseball

TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY IN MUDVILLE: My Lifelong Passion for Baseball

Stephen Jay Gould, , intro. by David Halberstam. . Norton, $24.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-393-05755-3

This collection by the famed paleontologist and evolutionary biologist (who died in 2002) of what he modestly called his "baseball scribblings" displays the skill that made Gould a renowned explicator and a beloved popularizer of science. Gould's central claim, "although I may be an academic by trade, I write primarily as a fan," is given biographical background in a wonderful introductory essay on the set of "accidents" in his personal life that led to his lifelong affection for baseball, as well as how "a dedication to a distinctively American sport" provided "the major tactic for assimilation" in the 1940s and 1950s for young Jewish men like Gould. The other essays are grouped into four areas. "Reflections and Experience" includes another great new essay on the glory of New York stickball, and a few looks at the ignominious inability of the Boston Red Sox to win the World Series. "Heroes Large, Small, and Fallen" features long profiles of Mickey Mantle and the obscure but legendary William "Dummy" Hoy, a skillful and savvy early ball player who was also deaf. "Nature, History, and Statistic as Meaning" showcases Gould's amazing and detailed proof that New York Yankees slugger Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in 1941 "was, statistically, the most unusual and unexpected great event in the history of baseball." His chapter "Criticism" focuses on books that reveal to Gould the sport's "joys and lamentations." Overall, this is a glorious testament to Gould's remarkable insights and passionate writing. (Mar.)