War Fever: Boston, Baseball, and America in the Shadow of the Great War

Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith. Basic, $30 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5416-7266-6
Roberts and Smith, history professors at Purdue University and Georgia Tech respectively, portray the lives of three German-American men from Boston during WWI in this well-researched if flimsily connected sports history. The fever of the title refers to the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which killed millions worldwide, as well as to America’s frenzy to find German sympathizers and the country’s passion for baseball. At the center of this perfect storm of disease, war, politics, and sports are Karl Muck, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s German-speaking immigrant conductor; Harvard-educated lawyer Charles Whittlesey; and Red Sox player Babe Ruth. Muck, who refused to play the National Anthem before a concert, was later accused of siding with Germany and interned in a Georgia prison camp. Whittlesey enlisted in the Army and became a hero for saving his “lost battalion.” Despite Ruth’s hardscrabble upbringing and German roots, he escaped anti-German sentiment and was on his way to becoming an American baseball legend by 1919. The authors combine detailed research and solid storytelling to illustrate the ways in which these three German-Americans, however tangentially connected, were defined—as “war hero, war villain, and war athlete.” Despite the tenuous connections between the main characters, this is a solid story of early-20th-century immigrant life. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 12/12/2019
Release date: 03/24/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-1-5416-7268-0
Compact Disc - 978-1-5491-5746-2
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