Synopses & Reviews
The crack of the bat on the radio is ingrained in the American mind as baseball takes center stage each summer. Radio has brought the sounds of baseball into homes for almost one hundred years, helping baseball emerge from the 1919 Black Sox scandal into the glorious World Series of the 1920s. The medium gave fans around the country aural access to the first All-Star Game, Lou Gehrigand#8217;s farewell speech, and Bobby Thomsonand#8217;s and#8220;Shot Heard and#8217;Round the World.and#8221; Red Barber, Vin Scully, Harry Caray, Ernie Harwell, Bob Uecker, and dozens of other beloved announcers helped cement the love affair between radio and the national pastime.
and#160;Crack of the Bat takes readers from the 1920s to the present, examining the role of baseball in the development of the radio industry and the complex coevolution of their relationship. James R. Walker provides a balanced, nuanced, and carefully documented look at radio and baseball over the past century, focusing on the interaction between team owners, local and national media, and government and business interests, with extensive coverage of the television and Internet ages, when baseball on the radio had to make critical adjustments to stay viable.
and#160;Despite cable televisionand#8217;s ubiquity, live video streaming, and social media, radio remains an important medium through which fans engage with their teams. The evolving relationship between baseball and radio intersects with topics as varied as the twenty-year battle among owners to control radio, the development of sports as a valuable media product, and the impact of competing technologies on the broadcast medium. Amid these changes, the familiar sounds of the ball hitting the glove and the satisfying crack of the bat stay the same.
Chicago in the Roaring Twenties was a city of immigrants, mobsters, and flappers with one shared passion: the Chicago Cubs. It all began when the chewing-gum tycoon William Wrigley decided to build the worldand#8217;s greatest ball club in the nationand#8217;s Second City. In this Jazz Age center, the maverick Wrigley exploited the revolutionary technology of broadcasting to attract eager throngs of women to his renovated ballpark.
Mr. Wrigleyand#8217;s Ball Club transports us to this heady era of baseball history and introduces the team at its crazy heartand#8212;an amalgam of rakes, pranksters, schemers, and choirboys who take center stage in memorable successes, equally memorable disasters, and shadowy intrigue. Readers take front-row seats to meet Grover Cleveland Alexander, Rogers Hornsby, Joe McCarthy, Lewis and#8220;Hackand#8221; Wilson, Gabby Hartnett. The cast of characters also includes their colorful if less-extolled teammates and the Cubsand#8217; nemesis, Babe Ruth, who terminates the ambitions of Mr. Wrigleyand#8217;s ball club with one emphatic swing.
Berra, Rizzuto, Lasorda, Torre, Conigliaro, Santo, Piazza. Casual baseball fansand#8212;in fact, even many nonfansand#8212;know these names, not as Italian Americans, but as some of the most colorful figures in Major League Baseball. Ever since future Hall of Famer Tony Lazzeri became a key part of the Yankeesand#8217; Murderersand#8217; Row lineup of 1926, Italian Americans have been among the most prominent and intriguing players in the game. The first comprehensive study of the topic, Beyond DiMaggio
is also a social history of baseball, tracing the evolution of American perceptions toward those of Italian descent as it chronicles the baseball exploits that influenced those perceptions.
and#160;Lawrence Baldassaro tells the stories of Italian Americansand#8217; contributions to the game, from Joe DiMaggio, who transcended his ethnic identity to become an American icon, to A. Bartlett Giamatti, who served as commissioner of baseball, to Mike Piazza, considered the greatest hitting catcher ever. Baldassaro conducted more than fifty interviews with players, coaches, managers, and executivesand#8212;some with careers dating back to the thirtiesand#8212;in order to put all these figures and their stories into the historical context of baseball, Italian Americans, and, finally, the culture of American sports.
In The Grand Old Man of Baseball
, Norman L. Macht chronicles Connie Mackandrsquo;s tumultuous final two decades in baseball. After Mack had built one of baseballandrsquo;s greatest teams, the 1929andndash;31 Philadelphia Athletics, the Depression that followed the stock market crash fundamentally reshaped Mackandrsquo;s legacy as his team struggled on the field and at the gate. Among the challenges Mack faced: a sharp drop in attendance that forced him to sell his star players; the rise of the farm system, which he was slow to adopt; the opposition of other owners to night games, which he favored; the postwar integration of baseball, which he initially opposed; a split between the teamandrsquo;s heirs (Mackandrsquo;s sons Roy and Earle on one side, their half brother Connie Jr. on the other) that tore apart the family and forced Mack to chooseandmdash;unwiselyandmdash;between them; and, finally, the disastrous 1951andndash;54 seasons in which Roy and Earle ran the club to the brink of bankruptcy.
and#160;By now aged and mentally infirm, Mack watched in bewilderment as the business he had built fell apart. Broke and in debt, Roy and Earle feuded over the sale of the team. In a never-before-revealed series of maneuvers, Roy double-crossed his father and brother and the team was sold and moved to Kansas City in 1954.and#160;In Machtandrsquo;s third volume of his trilogy on Mack, he describes the physical, mental, and financial decline of Mackandrsquo;s final years, which unfortunately became a classic American tragedy.
In 1965 George Gmelch signed a contract to play professional baseball with the Detroit Tigers organization. Growing up sheltered in an all-white, affluent San Francisco suburb, he knew little of the world outside. Over the next four seasons, he came of age in baseballandrsquo;s Minor Leagues through experiences ranging from learning the craft of the professional game to becoming conscious of race and class for the first time.
Playing with Tigers is not a typical baseball memoir. Now a well-known anthropologist, Gmelch recounts a baseball education unlike any other as he got to know small-town life across the United States against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, civil rights protests, and the emergence of the counterculture. The social and political turmoil of the times spilled into baseball, and Gmelch experienced the consequences firsthand as he played out his career in the Jim Crow South. Playing with Tigers captures the gritty, insular, and humorous life and culture of Minor League baseball during a period when both the author and the country were undergoing profound changes.
Drawing from journals he kept as a player, letters, and recent interviews with thirty former teammates, coaches, club officials, and even former girlfriends, Gmelch immerses the reader in the life of the Minor Leagues, capturingandmdash;in a manner his unique position makes possibleandmdash;the universal struggle of young athletes trying to make their way.
About the Author
George Gmelch is a professor of anthropology at the University of San Francisco and at Union College in Schenectady, New York. He is the author of a dozenand#160;books, including In the Ballpark: The Working Lives of Baseball People, with J. J. Weiner (Bison Books, 2006), and Inside Pitch: Life in Professional Baseball (Bison Books, 2006) and is the editor of Baseball without Borders: The International Pastime (Nebraska, 2006). His work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Psychology Today, Society, and Natural History.