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Baseball without Borders

The International Pastime

George Gmelch

Publication Year: 2006

A televised baseball game from Puerto Rico, Japan, or even Cuba might look a lot like the North American game. Beneath the outward similarities, however—the uniforms and equipment and basic rules—there is usually a very different history and culture influencing the nuances of the sport. These differences are what interest the authors of Baseball without Borders, a book about America's national pastime going global and undergoing instructive, entertaining, and sometimes curious changes in the process. The contributors, leading authorities on baseball in the fourteen nations under consideration, look at how the game was imported—how it took hold and developed, how it is organized, played, and followed—and what these local and regional trends and features say about the sport's place in particular cultures.

Organized by region—Asia, the Americas, Europe, and the Pacific—and written by journalists, historians, anthropologists, and English professors, these original essays reflect diverse perspectives and range across a refreshingly wide array of subjects: from high school baseball in Japan and Little League in Taiwan to fan behavior in Cuba and the politics of baseball in China and Korea.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

The idea for this book developed out of conversations with Bill Kirwin, the founder and editor of Nine: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture. I am also grateful to Ted Gilman, Dan Gordon, Bill Kelly, Alan Klein, Marty Kuehnert, Tim Wiles, Franklin Otto, Robert Whiting, and Rob Wilson, ...

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Introduction: Around the Horn

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pp. xiii-xxiv

A televised baseball game from Puerto Rico, Japan, or even Cuba looks much like the North American game. The players use the same gloves and bats, wear similar uniforms, and play by the same basic rules. But beneath the outward similarity there is usually a very different history, and a culture influencing the nuances of the sport. ...

Part 1: Asia

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1. Japan: Changing of the Guard in High School Baseball

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pp. 3-21

In October 2000 Astronaut Koichi Wakata's mission was to operate the space shuttle Discovery's fifty-foot robotic arm, lifting two segments from the orbiter's payload bay and positioning them on the thirteen-story International Space Station. The charismatic thirty-seven-year-old from Omiya, Japan, had become a hero in his own country ...

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2. Japan: The Hanshin Tigers & Japanese Professional Baseball

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pp. 22-42

As Dan Gordon's chapter describes, Koshien Stadium's opening in 1924 as Japan's first full-dimension baseball park was sponsored by the Asahi Newspaper Company as the new venue for the national schoolboy tournament that the newspaper had inaugurated in 1915 and had so rapidly gained popularity. ...

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3. China: Silk Gowns and Gold Gloves

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pp. 43-64

In the spring of 2003, a strange new disease swept through much of Asia. More than 800 people died and nearly 9,000 were infected with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. The fast-spreading sickness caught health experts by surprise. Worried they were on the verge of a worldwide pandemic, ...

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4. Taiwan: Baseball, Colonialism, and Nationalism

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pp. 65-88

On March 25, 2000, Chen Shui-bian chose a special engagement for his first public appearance as Taiwan's president-elect, speaking at the Taiwan Major League's opening game. Before the contest between the Taizhong Robots and the Gaoxiong-Pingdong Thunder Gods began, the capacity crowd heard the president-elect describe baseball ...

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5. Korea: Straw Sandals and Strong Arms

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pp. 89-114

Hee Seop Choi was on his way to the U.S. Major Leagues and knew he had to work on a few things: hitting a curve ball, making the 3-6-3 double play, and learning a new language. So he started practicing his Spanish. Choi realized if he was going to play for the Chicago Cubs, he had to learn English. ...

Part 2: The Americas

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6. Dominican Republic: Forging an International Industry

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pp. 117-135

Professional baseball in the United States is being Latinized. Consider the following: Arturo Moreno became the first Latino owner of a Major League franchise when he bought the Anaheim Angels in 2003. The previous season Omar Minaya became the first Latino general manager of a Major League franchise, ...

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7. Cuba: Behind the Curtain

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pp. 136-146

Between innings at the Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana, as ushers sold sweet coffee to those in the box seats behind home plate, we fell into a candid conversation with a high-ranking Cuban baseball official. Such moments don't happen very often on the island. ...

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8. Cuba: Community, Fans, and Ballplayers

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pp. 147-159

Cuba, as one friend put it, "is the most boring place in the world when there's no baseball." In the summer there's nothing to talk about, but during the season, he opined, everyone comes alive with baseball. Baseball provides a vibrancy that fuels the workers in the factories, energizes the old men, and feeds the dreams of young boys. ...

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9. Puerto Rico: A Major League Steppingstone

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pp. 160-171

Our two families moved to Puerto Rico in the years after World War II, when our fathers accepted positions in international banking and government: Frank's father the banker and Tom's an economist for Operation Bootstrap – the ambitious government program that paved the way for Puerto Rico's postwar industrialization. ...

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10. Nicaragua: In Search of Diamonds

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pp. 172-195

Baseball rules the Nicaraguan airwaves, but soccer balls now ricochet in Managua's poorest barrios. I began to notice the shift in preference only a few hours after returning to Nicaragua for the first time in fifteen years. Before that, descending the plane staircase onto the steamy tarmac at Managua International Airport, ...

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11. Brazil: Baseball Is Popular, and the Players Are Japanese!

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pp. 196-211

For the better part of its first century, Major League Baseball players were predominantly from the United States, with only a handful having learned their skills in a few neighboring countries such as Canada, Mexico, and Cuba.1 Since the 1970s, however, one country after another has made its presence in MLB: Puerto Rico, Venezuela, ...

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12. Canada: Internationalizing America's National Pastime

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pp. 212-226

Although baseball in Canada today is flourishing at the youth, amateur, semiprofessional, and professional levels, most people tend to consider it a marginal extension of American sporting life. Admittedly, the country has a Major League franchise in Toronto and more than a dozen Canadian players, including Larry Walker, Eric Gagne, ...

Part 3: Europe

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13. Italy: No Hotdogs in the Bleachers

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pp. 229-246

Known for Renaissance art, fabulous opera, and unparalleled cuisine, Italy has far less illustriously fielded professional baseball teams for over fifty years. Following the introduction of the game by American servicemen during World War II, small numbers of young Italians began forming teams in various cities up and down the boot. ...

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14. Holland: An American Coaching Honkbal

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pp. 247-262

I remember walking to the mound with a runner on second base and the left-handed hitter coming to the plate. I had every intention of walking the batter with first base open, in a 1-run game, and facing the right-handed hitter following him. However, Jan Hijzelendoorn ...

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15. Great Britain: Baseball's Battle for Respect in the Land of Cricket, Rugby, and Soccer

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pp. 263-288

British baseball. It sounds like an oxymoron. Having grown up in the United States, I asked the obvious question when I heard those two words uttered together for the first time in 1996: "Don't the British just play cricket?" In the intervening years I've learned that not only do a small group of dedicated baseball players compete in Great Britain, ...

Part 4: The Pacific

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16. Australia: Baseball Down Under

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pp. 291-304

Baseball was first played in Australia in the 1850s when newly arrived Americans played with English and Australian cricketers in Melbourne. Meeting on the cricket grounds in the old Carlton Gardens on Saturday afternoons, the first Australian games took place in the shadow of the great Exhibition Hall, a replica of the original in London. ...

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Afterword: Is Baseball Really Global?

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pp. 305-314

If we treat the fourteen baseball-playing nations in this volume as individual case studies and compare them, do any general patterns emerge in the history and development of baseball globally? The answer is yes, although how much we can say is limited by the diverse backgrounds and interests of the authors. ...

The Contributors

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pp. 315-320


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pp. 321-326

E-ISBN-13: 9780803256064
E-ISBN-10: 080325606X

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: Illus.
Publication Year: 2006


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