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Baseball as America: Seeing Ourselves Through Our National Game explores these questions through a broad spectrum of essays, photographs of artifacts, and illustrations. Drawn from the unparalleled collections at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, Baseball as America provides a wide-ranging look at the sport that has been called our "national pastime" since the 1850s.
Not simply a chronology, Baseball as America -- written to accompany the Hall of Fame's first-ever, ten-city traveling exhibition tour -- illustrates how this 19th-century game has reflected our national spirit and our concepts about ideals and injustice. It shows how baseball as an industry embodies the capitalist character of the country and how it has incorporated the changes that come from American ingenuity. All throughout, Baseball as America recognizes the deep, personal connection that fans have with the game -- both inside and outside the ballpark: the rituals and customs we share; the movies, books, and music we enjoy; the clothing we wear; and the legends and myths we have woven into our culture.
During the weeks following the tragic events of September 11th, baseball helped bring Americans together, as fans assembled in ballparks like they used to gather on town squares. In Baseball as America, New York firefighter Vin Mavaro shares his thoughts about a baseball he found buried deep in the rubble at the World Trade Center, and commissioner Bud Selig recounts how he determined when, or if, the season should resume. This was not the first time that baseball played a role in unifying Americans in the wake of a national tragedy. On January 15, 1942, a month after Pearl Harbor, in a letter displayed on the tour and reproduced here, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote, "It would be best for the country to keep baseball going."
The essays and literature in Baseball as America combine with cherished treasures and extraordinary photography to suggest how baseball has developed such a hold on our culture. John Grisham, who in his spare time is a local Little League commissioner, tells about growing up with the game. Tom Brokaw examines the role of baseball on the front lines and the backyards during wartime. Penny Marshall recounts the making of A League of Their Own, George Plimpton discusses the home run, and Jackie Robinson gives his assessment of baseball's racial progress 25 years after he broke the color barrier. Other contributors include humorist Dave Barry, food writer Molly O'Neill, Nobel Prizewinning economist Gary Becker, architect David Rockwell, and songwriter Paul Simon.
The exhibition Baseball as America was years in the making, and selecting the commentaries, artifacts, and photographs to accompany it were challenging. The many treasures featured include the Doubleday Ball, harkening back to the sport's mythic first game in Cooperstown, and a legendary Honus Wagner T206 baseball card, the collector's Holy Grail. The original manuscript for baseball's theme song, "Take Me out to the Ball Game," is here, as are the record-setting home run bats wielded by Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa.
More than an exhibition catalogue, Baseball as America: Seeing Ourselves Through Our National Game stands on its own while developing the themes of the exhibition. It provides fans with an extraordinary reference to many of Cooperstown's most cherished icons and an insight into the resonance of baseball imbedded into our culture. (John Odell)
John Odell is curator of history and research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Posted March 31, 2005
I am a huge baseball fan and I found that this is an excellant book about the history of american baseball! It is one of my favorites and I have not only enjoyed it but I have used it in my research paper. It is packed with all sorts of great commentary, facts, and pictures that I enjoy every time I pick it up to reread!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.