The Boys of Summer

This week we’re focusing on America’s favorite pastime, baseball! While the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies are slugging it out for the title of World Series Champion, you can brush up on your baseball history with these featured titles:
Baseball: An Illustrated History By Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns
(Located on the 4th floor: GV863.A1 W37 1994)
A magnificent, exhaustively researched chronicle in words and pictures of our nation’s pastime, and how it came to be what it is. In their analysis and celebration of baseball’s evolution over 150 years from a game played on vacant city lots in front of a few lookers-on to present-day contests in domed stadia with television audiences approaching one billion, Ward and Burns divide the sport’s history into nine sections (or innings), each with accompanying essays by such notable writers as Gerald Early, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and George Will. Perhaps most noteworthy is this volume’s ability to examine the game while remaining blessedly free from the over analysis and intellectualization that are common to such comprehensive studies. To wit: Babe Ruth is seen not so much as a lens through which a historical era can be studied, but as a great player whose accomplishments helped alter millions of fans’ connection to the game. Also worthy of high praise is the straightforward depiction of black players’ exclusion, stemming from an unwritten agreement among team owners, during the period spanning from the late 1800s until 1947. Burns’ assertion in the preface that baseball is a “powerful metaphor…for all Americans” might be dismissed by some as just a tad ingenuous. However, the true genius of this work is in demonstrating how the baseball diamond does provide a common ground for a nation comprised of disparate elements, overcoming cultural, ethnic, and regional barriers better than nearly any other institution. This companion volume to an upcoming PBS series also stands on its own as a literary achievement.
Clemente : The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero By David Maraniss
(Located on the 4th floor: GV865 .C45 M355 2006)
On New Year’s Eve, 1972, following eighteen magnificent seasons in the major leagues, Roberto Clemente died a hero’s death, killed in a plane crash as he attempted to deliver supplies to Nicaragua after an earthquake. Journalist Maraniss now brings the great baseball player back to life. Anyone who saw Clemente play will never forget him–he was a work of art in a game too often defined by statistics. But Clemente was that rare athlete who rose above sports to become a symbol of larger themes. Born in rural Puerto Rico, at a time when there were no blacks or Puerto Ricans playing organized ball in the United States, Clemente went on to become the greatest Latino player in the major leagues, a ballplayer of determination, grace, and dignity who paved the way and set the highest standard for waves of Latino players who followed in later generations.
Baseball In America & America In Baseball By Donald G. Kyle and Robert B. Fairbanks
(Located on the 4th floor: GV863 .A1 B387 2008)
Presenting views from a variety of sport and history experts, Baseball in America and America in Baseball captures the breadth and unsuspected variety of our national fascination and identification with America’s Game. Chapters cover such well-known figures as Ty Cobb and lesser-known topics like the “invisible” baseball played by Japanese Americans during the 1930s and 1940s. A study of baseball in rural California from the Gold Rush to the turn of the twentieth century provides an interesting glimpse at how the game evolved from its earliest beginnings to something most modern observers would find familiar. Chapters on the Negro League’s Baltimore Black Sox, financial profits of major league teams from 1900 to 1956, and American aspirations to a baseball-led cultural hegemony during the first half of the twentieth century round out this superb collection of sport history scholarship.
Yogi Berra : Eternal Yankee By Allen Barra
(Located on the 4th floor: GV865 .B4 B37 2009)
In the introduction to his latest effort, Barra (The Last Coach: A Life of Paul Bear Bryant) says that one of his goals was to create the first comprehensive work written about Yogi Berra, the greatest ballplayer never to have had a serious biography. The result is not only comprehensive but also incredibly engaging, as Barra narrates the life of one of the most eccentric ballplayers of the 20th century. Starting with his modest Italian upbringing in St. Louis, Mo., Berra quickly took a liking to what his father called a bum’s game. And after a short career in the navy, he parlayed his talents into one of the most decorated athletic careers in history, leading the New York Yankees to 10 World Series championships and winning three MVPs. Each of Berra’s baseball highlights is meticulously described, as are his stints as a manager for both the Yankees and cross-town Mets, his relationships with men like Casey Stengel, Mickey Mantle and George Steinbrenner, and his ability to create some of the most famous catchphrases of our time, Yogiisms, as they’re called. Barra’s love of the catcher with the similar name is evident throughout this deserving biography of Yogi.