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Baseball in Rural America
Anyone who has watched the film Field of Dreams can’t help but be captivated by the lead character’s vision. He gives his struggling farming community a magical place where the smell of roasted peanuts gently wafts over the crowded grandstand on a warm summer evening just as the star pitcher takes the mound. Baseball, America’s game, has a dedicated following and a rich history. Fans obsess over comparative statistics and celebrate men who played for legendary teams during the "golden age" of the game. In The Farmers' Game, David Vaught examines the history and character of baseball through a series of essay-vignettes. He presents the sport as essentially rural, reflecting the nature of farm and small-town life. Vaught does not deny or devalue the lively stickball games played in the streets of Brooklyn, but he sees the history of the game and the rural United States as related and mutually revealing. His subjects include nineteenth-century Cooperstown, the playing fields of Texas and Minnesota, the rural communities of California, the great farmer-pitcher Bob Feller, and the notorious Gaylord Perry. Although—contrary to legend—Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball in a cow pasture in upstate New York, many fans enjoy the game for its nostalgic qualities. Vaught's deeply researched exploration of baseball's rural roots helps explain its enduring popularity.
The Dark Days before the Dynasty
The San Francisco 49ers are among the most dynamic franchises, not only in the National Football League but in all of professional sports. They have won five Super Bowl titles and have produced some of football’s most dynamic players in Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Ronnie Lott, all of whom were coached by Bill Walsh, one of the game’s most innovative thinkers. The 49ers’ greatness came 35 years after the franchise began in 1946. During those years, they achieved no conference or league titles, even though they produced eight Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees, including the celebrated “Million Dollar Backfield.” Offering a detailed look at the 49ers’ prolonged growing pains, from the 1940s through the mid1970s, Founding 49ers focuses on that mostly unfulfilled time before the DeBartolo family rescued the franchise.
Author Dave Newhouse provides a fascinating look at the 49ers’ early years through the eyes of the players who gave the franchise its foundation. Ex49ers from the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s share their tales within these pages, including two members of the original 1946 team; Lou Spadia, the last surviving member of the 49ers’ original front office; former 49ers coach George Seifert; and Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts, son of an early 49ers broadcaster.
These mostly forgotten 49ers didn’t win like their successors, but they were highly entertaining, they broke down racial barriers, and they turned San Francisco into a majorleague city. Founding 49ers captures the history of those preWalsh 49ers like no book before it.</p
Gaspar "Indio" Ortega and the Golden Age of Television Boxing
Friday Night Fighter relives a lost moment in American postwar history, when boxing ruled as one of the nation's most widely televised sports. During the 1950s and 1960s, viewers tuned in weekly, sometimes even daily, to watch widely-recognized fighters engage in primordial battle, with the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports Friday Night Fights being the most popular fight show. Troy Rondinone follows the dual narratives of the Friday Night Fights show and the individual story of Gaspar "Indio" Ortega, a boxer who appeared on primetime network television more than almost any other boxer in history. From humble beginnings growing up poor in Tijuana, Mexico, Ortega personified the phenomenon of postwar boxing at its greatest, appearing before audiences of millions to battle the biggest names of the time, such as Carmen Basilio, Tony DeMarco, Chico Vejar, Benny "Kid" Paret, Emile Griffith, Kid Gavilan, Florentino Fernandez, and Luis Manuel Rodriguez. Rondinone explores the factors contributing to the success of televised boxing, including the rise of television entertainment, the role of a "reality" blood sport, Cold War masculinity, changing attitudes toward race in America, and the influence of organized crime. At times evoking the drama and spectacle of the Friday Night Fights themselves, this volume is a lively examination of a time in history when Americans crowded around their sets to watch the main event.
Five Early American Champions and the Sports They Changed
Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women’s Sports
While King did not single-handedly cause the revolution in women's sports, she quickly became one of its most enduring symbols, as did Title IX, a federal law that was initially passed in 1972 to attack sex discrimination in educational institutions but had its greatest impact by opening opportunities for women in sports. King's place in tennis history is secure, and now, with ###Game, Set, Match#, she can take her rightful place as a key player in the history of feminism as well. By linking the stories of King and Title IX, Ware explains why women's sports took off in the 1970s and demonstrates how giving women a sporting chance has permanently changed American life on and off the playing field.
Sports and the Presidency
The Games Presidents Play provides a new way to view the American presidency. Looking at the athletic strengths, feats, and shortcomings of our presidents, John Sayle Watterson explores not only their health, physical attributes, personalities, and sports IQs, but also the increasing trend of Americans in the past century to equate sporting achievements with courage, manliness, and political competence. The author of College Football begins with George Washington, whose athleticism contributed to his success on the battlefield and may well have contributed to the birth of the republic. He moves seamlessly into the nineteenth century when, for presidents like Jackson, Lincoln, and Cleveland, frontier sports were part of their formative years. With the twentieth-century presidents—most notably the hyperactive and headline-grabbing Theodore Roosevelt—Watterson shows how the growth of mass media and the improved means of transportation transformed presidential sports into both a form of recreation and a means of establishing a positive self-image. Modern presidents have used sports with varying degrees of success. Herbert Hoover fled Washington on weekends to the trout pools of Camp Rapidan in the Blue Ridge to escape relentless pressures and public criticism during the Great Depression. Franklin Roosevelt demonstrated remarkable physical endurance in his campaign to restore his ravaged body from polio. An obsessive love affair with golf became an issue for Dwight Eisenhower in his campaign for reelection in 1956. Richard Nixon, a former third-string college football lineman, placed calls to Coach George Allen of the Washington Redskins, once suggesting a trick play in a big game. From the opening pitch of the baseball season to presenting awards to Olympic champions, our sports culture asks the president to play an increasingly active role. Sports, Watterson argues, open a window into the presidency, shedding new light on presidential behavior and offering new perspectives on the office and the sporting men—and women—who have and will occupy it.
The Rise, Fall, and Near Misses of the St. Louis Cardinals, 1969-1975
African American Athletes and Cold War Politics
Throughout the Cold War, the Soviet Union deplored the treatment of African Americans by the U.S. government as proof of hypocrisy in the American promises of freedom and equality. This probing history examines government attempts to manipulate international perceptions of U.S. race relations during the Cold War by sending African American athletes abroad on goodwill tours and in international competitions as cultural ambassadors and visible symbols of American values._x000B__x000B_Damion L. Thomas follows the State Department's efforts from 1945 to 1968 to showcase prosperous African American athletes including Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, and the Harlem Globetrotters as the preeminent citizens of the African Diaspora rather than as victims of racial oppression. With athletes in baseball, track and field, and basketball, the government relied on figures whose fame carried the desired message to countries where English was little understood. However, eventually African American athletes began to provide counter-narratives to State Department claims of American exceptionalism, most notably with Tommie Smith and John Carlos's famous black power salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics._x000B_
In the three decades between 1920 and 1950, the Detroit Tigers won four American League pennants, the first world championship in team history in 1935, and a second world crown ten years later. Star players of this era—including Ty Cobb, Harry Heilmann, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Mickey Cochrane, George Kell, and Hal Newhouser—represent the majority of Tigers players inducted into the Hall of Fame. Sports writers followed the team feverishly, and fans packed Navin Field (later Briggs Stadium) to cheer on the high-flying Tigers, with the first record season attendance of one million recorded in 1924 and surpassed eight more times before 1950. In The Glory Years of the Detroit Tigers: 1920–1950, author William M. Anderson combines historical narrative and photographs of these years to argue that these years were the greatest in the history of the franchise. Anderson presents over 350 unique and lively images, mostly culled from the remarkable Detroit News archive, that showcase players’ personalities as well as their exploits on the field. For their meticulous coverage and colorful style, Anderson consults Tigers reporting from the three daily Detroit newspapers of the era (the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, and Detroit Times) and the Sporting News, which was known then as the “Baseball Bible.” Some especially compelling columns are reproduced intact to give readers a feel for the exciting and careful reporting of these years. Anderson combines historical text with photos in six topical chapters: “Spring Training: When Dreams are Entertained,” “Franchise Stars,” “The Supporting Cast,” “Moments of Glory and Notable Games,” “The War Years,” and “The Old Ballpark: Where Legends and Memories Were Made.” Anderson presents sketches of many fine players who have been overlooked in other histories and visits characters who often acted in strange ways: Dizzy Trout, Gee Walker, Elwood “Boots” “The Baron” Poffenbeger, and Louis “Bobo” “Buck” Newsom. Tigers fans and anyone interested in local sports culture will enjoy this comprehensive and compelling look into the glory years of Tigers history.
The Irish Olympic Journey, 1896-1924
The book focuses on the Irish and Irish diasporal involvement in the Olympic Games. It discusses in detail the sporting involvement but, even more so, the political and national battles which accompanied the Irish Olympic journey prior to independence. It challenges our traditional perceptions of sporting nationalism and places the Irish story in a quite unique international context, showing how decisions made in London, Lausanne and New York had a profound impact on the Irish sporting, and national, destiny.