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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.
Minnesota’s Boxing Legend Scott LeDoux
Scott LeDoux’s face read like a roadmap of boxing’s last golden era—eye thumbed by Larry Holmes, brow gashed by Mike Tyson, ears stung by none other than Muhammad Ali. “George Foreman hit me so hard,” LeDoux said, “my ancestors in France felt it.” The only man to step into the ring with eleven heavyweight champions, LeDoux also fought through two of boxing’s greatest scandals, recurring illness, and childhood trauma that haunted him for decades. This is his story, the life and times of a Minnesota Rocky making the most of the hard knocks that bruise the American Dream, told in full for the first time by award-winning journalist Paul Levy.
He was never a world champion, but Scott LeDoux was always the people’s champ. Doing his best to turn a small-town miner’s son into boxing’s next great white hope, Don King said of Scott LeDoux: “He eats rusty nails for breakfast, punches holes in concrete with either hand, bobs and weaves like a giant Rocky Marciano.” He was a big, good-natured kid, with a ready wit and the will to take all comers along on a ride he himself found hard to believe. From the mining community of Crosby, Minnesota, to the dingy, mildew-scented dressing rooms in minor-league towns like Sioux Falls and Billings, to the stage of Madison Square Garden, Levy gives us a real sense of what it was like to spar with fighters such as Tyson and Ali. The buried secrets of childhood abuse and the harrowing sadness of death and disease in his family make LeDoux’s triumphs and defeats all the more poignant and, in Levy’s irresistible narrative, unforgettable.
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.
Sports, Media, and the Color Line
The campaign for racial equality in sports has both reflected and affected the campaign for racial equality in the United States. Some of the most significant and publicized stories in this campaign in the twentieth century have happened in sports, including, of course, Jackie Robinson in baseball; Jesse Owens, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos in track; Arthur Ashe in tennis; and Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, and Muhammad Ali in boxing. Long after the full integration of college and professional athletics, race continues to play a major role in sports. Not long ago, sportswriters and sportscasters ignored racial issues. They now contribute to the public’s evolving racial attitudes on issues both on and off the field, ranging from integration to self-determination to masculinity.
From Jack Johnson to LeBron James examines the intersection of sports, race, and the media in the twentieth century and beyond. The essays are linked by a number of questions, including: How did the black and white media differ in content and context in their reporting of these stories? How did the media acknowledge race in their stories? Did the media recognize these stories as historically significant? Considering how media coverage has evolved over the years, the essays begin with the racially charged reporting of Jack Johnson’s reign as heavyweight champion and carry up to the present, covering the media narratives surrounding the Michael Vick dogfighting case in a supposedly post-racial era and the media’s handling of LeBron James’s announcement to leave Cleveland for Miami.
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 ABL Champion Cleveland Pipers
In an eleventh floor corner office in downtown Cleveland during the spring of 1961, 30yearold George Steinbrenner sketched with his hands the future as he dreamed it. He grabbed the young basketball player who was sitting near him by the shoulder with one hand and jabbed the air with invisible designs with the other. A glittering 12,000seat basketball palace, Steinbrenner said to Larry Siegfried, the just graduated captain of the Ohio State basketball team, would soon spring from the weedy empty lots along the Lake Erie shoreline. It would be an arena fit for the basketball royalty Steinbrenner was assembling for the Cleveland Pipers of the new American Basketball League. Before the Pipers’ tumultuous story was over, Steinbrenner would win Siegfried’s services and the ABL championship.
In George Steinbrenner’s Pipe Dream, Bill Livingston brings to life the remarkable story of the one season wonder Pipers and their unlikely national championship. Drawing on personal interviews and extensive research, he introduces readers to the personalities that surrounded the organization, including John McLendon, the first African American head coach in any professional sport; Jerry Lucas, one of college basketball’s greatest players; Dick Barnett, the best player on the team and the driving force for their ABL champion ship; the extravagantly talented prodigy Connie Hawkins; and Jack Adams, the Pipers’ captain, who was traded in midseason in a fit of pique on Steinbrenner’s part.
Bill Livingston takes readers along for the Pipers’ short but wild ride, providing a compelling and entertaining story about a fascinating chapter in sports history.
The Rise, Fall, and Near Misses of the St. Louis Cardinals, 1969-1975