cover image BALLPARK: The Story of America's Baseball Fields

BALLPARK: The Story of America's Baseball Fields

Lynn Curlee, . . S&S/Atheneum, $17.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-689-86742-2

Curlee (Brooklyn Bridge ) takes readers out to the ballparks in this high-spirited paean to the nation's legendary "green cathedrals." Along the way, he offers a concise yet conversational chronicle of modern baseball's origins, milestones, rituals and the feats of its superstars ("The history of the sport reflects the story of our country," he posits, "and even something of our national character"). The construction of ballparks began after the Civil War, when soldiers took the sport back home across the country, and the destruction by fire of many late-19th-century wooden "baseball palaces" paved the way for steel and concrete structures, beginning with Philadelphia's Shibe Park in 1909. The text also includes brief biographies, such as Babe Ruth, whose record crowds spurred the building of Yankee Stadium, as well as Jackie Robinson, his courageous entry into the segregated Major Leagues and its affects on the Negro Leagues. Curlee's paintings capture some bittersweet moments: when he mentions the late 1950s move of the Dodgers and the Giants to California, he depicts a brass band playing "Auld Lang Syne" next to the wrecking ball—painted to resemble a baseball—that would raze both Ebbets Field and, four years later, the Polo Grounds. The advent of expansion teams precipitated the "superstadiums," criticized by many as bland and impersonal. As a result, more character and retro features were incorporated into the 1992 design of Baltimore's Camden Yards and subsequent parks, which offered state-of-the-art amenities, while also "serving up a nostalgic baseball experience." That is, in fact, exactly what Curlee does so gracefully here, in words as well as spare, sparkling acrylic paintings. Fans of America's favorite pastime will happily pass time with this handsome book. All ages. (Mar.)