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A People's History of Baseball

Mitchell Nathanson

Publication Year: 2012

Baseball is much more than the national pastime. It has become an emblem of America itself. Stories abound that illustrate baseball's significance in eradicating racial barriers, bringing neighborhoods together, and building civic pride._x000B__x000B_In A People's History of Baseball, Mitchell Nathanson probes the less well-known but no less meaningful other side of baseball: episodes not involving equality, patriotism, heroism, and virtuous capitalism, but power--how it is obtained, and how it perpetuates itself. Exploring the founding of the National League, Nathanson focuses on the newer Americans who sought club ownership to promote their own social status in the increasingly closed caste of late nineteenth-century America. His perspective on the rise and public rebuke of the Players Association shows that these events reflect both the collective spirit of working and middle-class America in the mid-twentieth century as well as the countervailing forces that sought to beat back this emerging movement that threatened the status quo. Even his take on baseball's racial integration that began with Branch Rickeys "Great Experiment" reveals the debilitating effects of the harsh double standard that resulted, requiring a black player to have unimpeachable character merely to take the field in a Major League game, a standard no white player was required to meet._x000B__x000B_Told with passion and occasional outrage, A People's History of Baseball challenges the perspective of the well-known, deeply entrenched, hyper-patriotic stories of baseball and offers an incisive alternative history of America's much-loved national pastime.

Published by: University of Illinois Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Page

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pp. 5-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-11

Many thanks to everybody at the University of Illinois Press who shepherded A People’s History of Baseball to daylight: my editor Bill Regier, senior editor Tad Ringo, and everyone else who went above and beyond to make my book the best it could be. I would also like to thank the two...

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pp. xi-xiv

What is baseball? At first blush this appears to be a straightforward question. And in many ways it is. Baseball is a game. Nevertheless, the question persists: what is it, really? Football is a game, but it is not baseball. Neither are basketball and hockey. Putting aside the differences among balls,...

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1 A Game of Their Own

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pp. 1-27

Practically from the inception of the game, baseball and America have been, in a symbolic sense, virtually synonymous. On December 5, 1856, the New York Mercury became the first newspaper to declare the fledgling sport to be our “national pastime;”1 four years later nationally renowned lithographers...

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2 The Sovereign Nation of Baseball

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pp. 28-66

Having achieved the status they so longed for, the baseball “magnates” relished every opportunity afforded them to demonstrate the superiority of their game and, as a natural extension, themselves. As they were to discover, once they finally kicked the door down and established their game...

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3 Rickey, Race, and "All Deliberate Speed"

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pp. 67-107

By the middle of the twentieth century, club owners were quite comfortable with their exalted status within American society. Presiding over America’s game, they had become accustomed to being treated like royalty wherever they went: they were the well-regarded protectors of what had...

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4 Tearing Down the Walls

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pp. 108-145

The civil rights movement on the left provided perhaps the most obvious, but by no means only, test of the owners’ status and independence. On the right, the owners were increasingly pressured as well, as, in the midst of the post–World War II boom, challengers from all over the political spectrum...

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5 "Wait 'Til Next Year" and the Denial of History

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pp. 146-179

The collective ethos represented by groups such as the Players Association, among others, may have been gaining popular support by the mid to late 1960s but it was threatened from the outset by another American ethos, one that had more deeply entrenched roots dating back well into the...

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6 The Storytellers

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pp. 180-219

The stories of baseball would, of course, not amount to much if not for the storytellers. Through them, the baseball creed, the elevated national status of baseball, the tale of Branch Rickey and the desegregation of the game, the power and benevolence of the owners, and the uniquely American...


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pp. 221-259


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pp. 261-269


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pp. 271-275

back cover

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p. 298-298

E-ISBN-13: 9780252093920
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036804

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2012