Ambassadors in Pinstripes: The Spalding World Baseball Tour and the Birth of the American Empire

Thomas W. Zeiler, Author . Rowman & Littlefield $24.95 (216p) ISBN 978-0-7425-5168-8

Pro ballplayers playing exhibitions in the distant East, the sport beset by labor strife as management uses cutting-edge technologies to sell the game to an international audience. Sounds like last week, right? How about 1888? The common gripe runs that baseball is now too dominated by business priorities—but according to Zeiler, a history professor at the University of Colorado, things weren't any different 118 years ago. The first great evangelist of baseball, equipment manufacturer Albert Spalding sought to spread the largely eastern and midwestern pastime to every corner of the world, planning a westward winter tour of all-star teams, starting Down Under, then moving to Egypt, and ending with a Grand Tour of Europe. Zeiler's sober academic treatment includes discussions of labor strife, racial hierarchies and what might be called proto-globalism. Even if the subtitle overreaches, isolating the roots of internationalism for our "national" pastime isn't as absurd as it sounds: after all, at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, the U.S.A. was outdone by Australia and Italy—both stops on Spalding's tour. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 11/06/2006
Release date: 09/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
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