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Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville
     

Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville

3.5 2
by Stephen Jay. Gould, David Halberstam (Foreword by)
 

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Science meets sport in this vibrant collection of baseball essays by the late evolutionary biologist.

Among Stephen Jay Gould's many gifts was his ability to write eloquently about baseball, his great passion. Through the years, the renowned paleontologist published numerous essays on the sport; these have now been collected in a volume alive with the candor and

Overview

Science meets sport in this vibrant collection of baseball essays by the late evolutionary biologist.

Among Stephen Jay Gould's many gifts was his ability to write eloquently about baseball, his great passion. Through the years, the renowned paleontologist published numerous essays on the sport; these have now been collected in a volume alive with the candor and insight that characterized all of Gould's writing. Here are his thoughts on the complexities of childhood streetball and the joys of opening day; tributes to Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, and lesser-knowns such as deaf-mute centerfielder "Dummy" Hoy; and a frank admission of the contradictions inherent in being a lifelong Yankees fan with Red Sox season tickets. Gould also deftly applies the tools of evolutionary theory to the demise of the .400 hitter, the Abner Doubleday creation myth, and the improbability of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak.

This book is a delight, an essential addition to Gould's remarkable legacy, and a fitting tribute to his love for the game. 20 b/w illustrations.

Author Biography: Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) wrote more than twenty books and received the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and a MacArthur Fellowship. He taught at Harvard University for more than thirty years.

Editorial Reviews

Stephen Jay Gould (1941–2002) was a world-class scientist and a world-class lover of baseball. In essays about diamond topics ranging from tributes to Mickey Mantle to reflections on the demise of the .400 hitter, the evolutionary paleontologist shared his lifelong affection for the summer game. This collection of Gould's baseball pieces captures the vibrancy and visions of the late, great National Book Award winner.
The New York Times
[Gould's] writing may not be as lyrical or evocative as Roger Angell's baseball essays or as doggedly detailed as Roger Kahn's, but he demonstrates the same gifts in this volume that his many books on natural history have evinced: an ability to discuss the scientific aspects of his subject in easily accessible terms while illuminating its larger social implications. — Michiku Kakutani
The Washington Post
Gould, a scientist by trade, was, predictably, something of a stathead, but it is the more lyrical, less analytical pieces in this collection that resonate most powerfully. There's a marvelous essay on William Ellsworth "Dummy" Hoy, a deaf outfielder and lifetime .288 hitter who, Gould argues convincingly and compassionately, belongs in the Hall of Fame. Just as compelling is a piece on Dusty Rhodes, a utility outfielder whom New York Giants fans will remember as the pinch-hitting hero, three times over, of the 1954 World Series. — Jonathan Mahler
Chris Barsanti
The pieces gathered in Gould's posthumously published volume on baseball—the great scientist's only book about the sport he loved—range from the short squib to the lengthy essay. Topics include the rules and conventions of stickball and the controversy surrounding the 1919 World Series. Gould began work on the book at the suggestion of friend Stephen King, who encouraged him to publish his ruminations. Collecting insights and statistics, flowcharts and photographs, this witty book is a testament to Gould's passion and a baseball fanatic's dream.
Publishers Weekly
This collection by the famed paleontologist and evolutionary biologist (who died in 2002) of what he modestly called his "baseball scribblings" displays the skill that made Gould a renowned explicator and a beloved popularizer of science. Gould's central claim, "although I may be an academic by trade, I write primarily as a fan," is given biographical background in a wonderful introductory essay on the set of "accidents" in his personal life that led to his lifelong affection for baseball, as well as how "a dedication to a distinctively American sport" provided "the major tactic for assimilation" in the 1940s and 1950s for young Jewish men like Gould. The other essays are grouped into four areas. "Reflections and Experience" includes another great new essay on the glory of New York stickball, and a few looks at the ignominious inability of the Boston Red Sox to win the World Series. "Heroes Large, Small, and Fallen" features long profiles of Mickey Mantle and the obscure but legendary William "Dummy" Hoy, a skillful and savvy early ball player who was also deaf. "Nature, History, and Statistic as Meaning" showcases Gould's amazing and detailed proof that New York Yankees slugger Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in 1941 "was, statistically, the most unusual and unexpected great event in the history of baseball." His chapter "Criticism" focuses on books that reveal to Gould the sport's "joys and lamentations." Overall, this is a glorious testament to Gould's remarkable insights and passionate writing. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Late paleontologist Gould (The Mismeasure of Man) collects his occasional pieces on his other area of passionate study-baseball. Encouraged by his friend, the writer Stephen King, Gould gathered together his wide-ranging and intelligent essays on the sport he had grown up with in New York City. Gould relates the joy he experienced watching during his formative years, 1947-57, as at least one New York team, and usually two, played in the World Series every season save one. Later, when he taught at Harvard, he incongruously remained a Yankee diehard while attending every game he could at Fenway Park. Here, Gould tells tales of his youth, speaks of his reverence for the men in pinstripes, and discusses the Red Sox "curse." [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/02.]
Kirkus Reviews
In this sparkling collection, the late paleontologist and popular science essayist (The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister’s Pox, see above) gathers random writings on one of his many passions: baseball. All right-thinking people worship the game, of course, and as Gould remarks in his wind-up to these pieces (originally published in venues such as the New York Review of Books, American Heritage, and the Wall Street Journal), intellectuals have taken to it more than to any other sport except, perhaps, boxing--though, he notes, "I don’t for a minute attribute such favoritism to any inherent property of the game itself." Gould’s own addiction to baseball began in the late 1940s and early ’50s, a glorious era during which all New York kids were baseball nuts, "barring mental deficiency or incomprehensible idiosyncrasy." After all, he notes, in that more innocent New York, the separate boroughs, city-states of a kind, fielded their own major and minor teams, and a kid didn’t have to look too far to find a hero. (Gould notes that ethnic groups tended to favor their own: among his relatives’ Jewish heroes were Moe Berg, "a mediocre player, but absolutely outstanding character," Hank Greenberg, and Sandy Koufax.) And in all events "between 1949 and 1964 a New York team played in the World Series in all years but 1959," with the Yankees alone winning nine pennants. Still, ever the statistician and contrarian, the author names not a New York team for his choice as the greatest squad in modern baseball, but the 1954 Cleveland Indians, who had "an incredible winning percentage of .721" and slaughtered just about every team they met that year. Gould’s assessments of baseball players and teams, booksabout the game, and the sport itself are smart, well-written, and eminently entertaining, even though devoted fans may find themselves arguing with some of his pronouncements, just as Darwinists were forever taking issue with Gould’s stands on evolution. Just the thing for spring training, and a lovely farewell gift from a clear-headed and passionate thinker.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393057553
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
03/03/2003
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.16(w) x 9.72(h) x 1.15(d)

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