“Football is force and fanatics, basketball is beauty and bounce. Baseball is everything: action, grace, the seasons of our lives. George Vecsey’s book proves it, without wasting a word.”—Lee Eisenberg, author of The Number
In Baseball, one of the great bards of America’s Grand Old Game gives a rousing account of the sport, from its pre-Republic roots to the present day. George Vecsey casts a fresh eye on the game, illuminates its foibles and triumphs, and performs a marvelous feat: making a classic story seem refreshingly new.
Baseball is a narrative of America’s can-do spirit, in which stalwart immigrants such as Henry Chadwick could transplant cricket and rounders into the fertile American culture and in which die-hard unionist baseballers such as Charles Comiskey and Connie Mack could eventually become the tightfisted avatars of the game’s big-money establishment. It’s a celebration of such underdogs as a rag-armed catcher turned owner named Branch Rickey and a sure-handed fielder named Curt Flood, both of whom flourished as true great men of history. But most of all, Baseball is a testament to the unbreakable bond between our nation’s pastime and the fans, who’ve remained loyal through the fifty-year-long interdict on black athletes, the Black Sox scandal, franchise relocation, and the use of performance-enhancing drugs by some major stars.
Reverent, playful, and filled with Vecsey’s charm, Baseball begs to be read in the span of a rain-delayed doubleheader, and so enjoyable that, like a favorite team’s championship run, one hopes it never ends.
“Vecsey possesses a journalist’s eye for detail and a historian’s feel for the sweep of action. His research is scrupulous and his writing crisp. This book is an instant classic—a highly readable guide to America’s great enduring pastime.”—The Louisville Courier Journal
New York Times sports columnist Vecsey (Year in the Sun) devotes himself to this sprightly history of the national pastime. His survey unfolds much like a highlights tape, with a breezy background narrative of the game from its pre Civil War roots to its current drug scandals, structured around set pieces spotlighting the outsized deeds of luminaries like Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey and George Steinbrenner. He finds plenty of time for color commentary, like an appreciation of radio announcers' whimsical homerun catch-phrases (" 'Get up Aunt Minnie and raise the window!' " Pirates voice Rosey Roswell was wont to yell), cantankerous opinionating ("Trying to be fair and neutral about it, I can only say that the designated hitter rule is a travesty and ought to be tossed out") and ruminations on the ultimate metaphysical question of "why the Yankees exist." Throughout, the author stresses the game's continuities: modern-day anxieties about free agentry, labor strife and the bereavement of cities abandoned by their teams for greener pastures have plagued baseball from the beginning. Vivid, affectionate and clear-eyed, Vecsey's account makes for an engaging sports history.
This book is not bad, but its not all that good either. I am required to read this book for a class. As an avid baseball fan I am enjoying learning about the history of the game, but this book is kind of all over the place. The author sort of jumps from topic to topic within the chapters with no real flow. I probably wouldn't finish this book if I didn't have to.