The National Game: Baseball and American Culture

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9781566632874: The National Game: Baseball and American Culture

John Rossi offers not only an expert overview of baseball over the past 175 years; he shows how the game has reflected and contributed to changes in American society over time. The National Game chronicles baseball's popular successes and financial failures; its interleague wars and continuing struggles between owners and players; and its accommodations to radio and television?without neglecting the colorful players and managers who have won the hearts of fans. A succinct, knowledgeable synopsis...recommended. ?Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

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Review:

Baseball may be just a game on the field, but off the field, its hold on the American heart, its place in American history, and its impact on American society are as powerful as a squad of clean-up hitters. For a pastime, this is serious stuff demanding serious reflection, and historian John P. Rossi steps up to provide it. Approaching his subject with the rigorous gravitas of an academician, the number-love of a statistician, the awe of a fan, and the inalienable right of all ticket-holders to offer analysis when the impulse strikes, his result mirrors a typical afternoon at the yard: The National Game sprinkles its share of action, intriguing fact, and observations that merit more amplification over a predictable and familiar narrative.

He tries to cover the bases, and he does. His examination of baseball's transition from a country game to a city game, and with it the enormously symbiotic role it played in introducing--and synthesizing--each new wave of immigrants into American culture, is splendid. He makes the game's often Byzantine business practices--going back to the 1870s--at least understandable, and he takes some good cuts at the implications of the Black Sox scandal, the legacy of Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson's crossing of the color line, the tangled web of the reserve clause and free agency, the game's flight to the suburbs, and its return to downtown. For a concise introduction--"concise" and "introduction" must be stressed here--to baseball history, The National Game does its job; it's the literary equivalent of a solid utility infielder. Ironically, by trying to touch as many bases as he does, Rossi also spreads himself thin. That, in a nutshell, is the upside and downside of trying to compress a couple of centuries' worth of names, dates, events, trends, facts, fables, myths, and interpretation into just a couple of hundred pages. --Jeff Silverman

About the Author:

John Rossi teaches American history at La Salle University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has also written No Golden Age: Baseball from the End of World War II to the First Expansion, 1960.

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