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Ballpark

Overview

If you love baseball, chances are you love one particular ballpark. Boston fans wax poetic about Fenway Park. Cubs fans are adamant that Wrigley Field is the classic ballfield. Busch Stadium is a hit with folks from Missouri, and Yankee fans are passionate about the House That Ruth Built....

Besides passionate fans, there's one other thing all ballparks — from the Union Grounds in Brooklyn built in 1862 to the Baltimore Oriole's Camden Yards ...

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Overview

If you love baseball, chances are you love one particular ballpark. Boston fans wax poetic about Fenway Park. Cubs fans are adamant that Wrigley Field is the classic ballfield. Busch Stadium is a hit with folks from Missouri, and Yankee fans are passionate about the House That Ruth Built....

Besides passionate fans, there's one other thing all ballparks — from the Union Grounds in Brooklyn built in 1862 to the Baltimore Oriole's Camden Yards built in 1992 — have in common: Each has its own vibrant and unique history.

In Ballpark, Sibert Honor Award winner Lynn Curlee explores both the histories and the cultural significances of America's most famous ballparks. Grand in scope and illustrations, and filled with nifty anecdotes about these "green cathedrals," Ballpark also explores the changing social climate that accompanied baseball's rise from a minor sport to the national pastime. This is a baseball book like no other.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-In this succinct and thoughtful overview, Curlee traces developments in the game from the mid-1800s to the construction of landmark arenas. The early 1900s saw the building of intimate playing fields such as Boston's Fenway Park and Chicago's Wrigley Field. Yankee Stadium, "the House that Ruth built," opened in 1923 and immediately became one of the country's best-loved ballparks. In the era of expansion teams, Houston's Astrodome opened in 1965-a huge but characterless stadium typical of the era. Baltimore's Camden Yards in 1992 saw a return of nostalgia-inspired fields. Stylized, full-page acrylic paintings add to the nostalgic tone of the book: players appear dramatically frozen in time as flags flap crisply against pastel-tinted skies. Lack of an index limits this title's usefulness for report writers, but both fans and those new to the sport will find that it succeeds admirably at showing the venues, famous and not-so-famous, that have featured so highly in baseball history.-Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Adding to an impressive and growing body of work about important places, Curlee here celebrates America's "green cathedrals," offering a fine survey of American history through the story of baseball. From early American bat-and-ball games to the present, every era has its story, from the Black Sox scandal after WWI, Babe Ruth and the Roaring Twenties, the Negro Leagues and the Great Depression, and on into the modern era of ballparks shaped like "concrete doughnuts" and the reaction to them in retro ballparks such as Baltimore's Camden Yards. The text is dense but full of fascinating history, and the glorious colors of the acrylic paintings effectively celebrate the ballparks and the players, stiff and formal as the stately cathedrals they inhabit. Double-page spreads featuring Ty Cobb and Jackie Robinson, majestic paintings of Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field, and a diagram of Fenway Park add to the work's tremendous visual appeal. The volume arrives with the new season, and readers who need encouragement to get out to the ballpark will surely find it here. (bibliography) (Picture book/nonfiction. All ages)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781606860342
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/2008
  • Pages: 41
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.90 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Lynn Curlee, who received a Robert F. Sibert Informational Honor Book Award for Brooklyn Bridge, comes from a family of intense sports fans. His other books include Liberty, Ships of the Air, Into the Ice: The Story of Arctic Exploration, Rushmore, The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Capital, and, most recently, Parthenon. He lives on the North Fork of Long Island, New York.

Lynn Curlee, who received a Robert F. Sibert Informational Honor Book Award for Brooklyn Bridge, comes from a family of intense sports fans. His other books include Liberty, Ships of the Air, Into the Ice: The Story of Arctic Exploration, Rushmore, The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Capital, and, most recently, Parthenon. He lives on the North Fork of Long Island, New York.

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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Lynn Curlee

How long have you been writing and illustrating children's books?

LC: Before I began to make books, I did paintings which were exhibited in galleries. In 1991 I was invited to illustrate a storybook, Horses with Wings, by Dennis Haseley. After that, I began to write and illustrate my own nonfiction books. Now I am working on my eleventh book. I still show my paintings in galleries.

Why did you pick the topic of ballparks?

Many of my books have been about important places in America. As the national pastime, baseball holds a unique place in our culture, and the great ballparks are certainly important places. As a baseball fan, I also knew that it would be great fun to paint pictures of some of the most famous baseball stars of the past in action.

How do you research your books?

As a graduate student of art history, I learned how to do serious research in libraries, and I usually start there when researching a project. Of course, today we also have the Internet as a valuable place to find information. For books about important structures, I always try to visit the actual location if possible.

How did you research Ballpark?

I have attended games in several of the greatest ballparks, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Dodger Stadium. In addition to my usual research, I spent several months just thinking about the project by reading books, collecting photographs and going online to find information.

What takes longer, writing the story or painting the pictures?

After my research is done, I sit down to write the manuscript. When I really get going, I can write about one page per day. Of course, then I spend more days going back over the words to make changes that improve the text. So a book with twenty pages of text takes more than a month to write. At the same time I am writing, I am starting to plan the pictures. After the writing is done, I start painting. Each illustration usually takes between one and two weeks. Sometimes a very complex picture will take longer. The paintings for a big book might take eight or nine months.

What was the most interesting fact you learned about baseball?

I was particularly fascinated by the early history of the game in the nineteenth century. When I started research, I knew almost nothing about baseball in that period.

Do you have a favorite baseball team?

When I was about ten years old in the late 1950s the rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers was at its peak, and we watched it all on TV in black and white. I was always rooting for the underdog, so the Dodgers of the 1950s are my all-time favorite baseball team. Today I like to cheer for whoever plays the best baseball.

What is your favorite ballpark to visit?

This is a tough question, because each ballpark has its own aura and charm. Wrigley Field and Fenway Park have the wonderful old-time flavor, and Yankee Stadium has a steely grandeur. I have been there the most because I lived in New York City for years. But my favorite ballpark is probably Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, where I have also lived. On a beautiful game day in sunny southern California it can't be beat.

Does the construction of ballparks differ from other structures?

The first real ballparks were simply wooden horseracing grandstands built around an infield. Skyscrapers and bridges were the first structures to be made of steel and concrete, and this technology soon spread to all kinds of architecture including ballparks. Today ballparks and stadiums, with features such as retracting roofs, are often on the cutting edge of architectural design.

If you could be any player from baseball's history, who would you choose?

Another tough question! I would choose Cal Ripkin, Jr. He was a great player with immense personal dignity whose amazing career was full of genuine integrity in an era of big money sports and drug scandals -- a truly admirable role model who shattered one of the most famous records in all of sports. He seemed to bring a kind of joy to the game.

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