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Fame to Infamy

Race, Sport, and the Fall from Grace

Fame to Infamy: Race, Sport, and the Fall from Grace follows the paths of sports figures who were embraced by the general populace but who, through a variety of circumstances, real or imagined, found themselves falling out of favor with the public. The contributors focus on the roles played by athletes, the media, and fans in describing how once-esteemed popular figures find themselves scorned by the same public that at one time viewed them as heroic, laudable, or otherwise respectable.The book examines a wide range of sports and eras, and includes essays on Barry Bonds, Kirby Puckett, Mike Tyson, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, Branch Rickey, Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Jim Brown, as well as an afterword by noted scholar Jack Lule and an introduction by the editors. Fame to Infamy is an interdisciplinary volume encompassing numerous approaches in tracing the evolution of each subject's reputation and shifting public image.

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The Farmers' Game

Baseball in Rural America

David Vaught

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.

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Fight for Old DC

George Preston Marshall, the Integration of the Washington Redskins, and the Rise of a New NFL

Andrew O'Toole

In 1932 laundry-store tycoon George Preston Marshall became part owner of the Boston Braves franchise in the National Football League.

To separate his franchise from the baseball team, he renamed it the Redskins in 1933 and then in 1937 moved his team to Washington DC, where the team won two NFL championships over the next decade. But it was off the field that Marshall made his lasting impact. An innovator, he achieved many “firsts” in professional football. His team was the first to telecast all its games, have its own fight song and a halftime show, and assemble its own marching band and cheerleading squad. He viewed football as an entertainment business and accordingly made changes to increase scoring and improve the fan experience.


But along with innovation, there was controversy. Marshall was a proud son of the South, and as the fifties came to a close, his team remained the only franchise in the three major league sports to not have a single black player. Marshall came under pressure from Congress and the NFL and its president, Pete Rozelle, as league expansion and new television contract possibilities forced the issue on the reluctant owner. Outside forces finally pushed Marshall to trade for Bobby Mitchell, the team’s first black player, in 1962. With the story of Marshall’s holdout as the backdrop, Fight for Old DC chronicles these pivotal years when the NFL began its ascent to the top of the nation’s sporting interest.

 

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The Fighting Frenchman

Minnesota’s Boxing Legend Scott LeDoux

Paul Levy

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.


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The Final Season

The Perseverance of Pat Summitt

by Maria Cornelius

With 1,098 wins and eight national championships, Lady Vol Coach Pat Summitt has left a remarkable legacy of perseverance, leadership, and passion for the game—but her victories on the court aren’t the only legacy she has left in her wake.

Since the beginning of her career as Lady Vol head coach at twenty-two years old, Pat Head Summitt effectively established the University of Tennessee Lady Vols as the top women’s athletics program in the nation. The winningest coach in the history of NCAA basketball, Summitt overcame one obstacle after another on the road to every victory, but it is the lives she has impacted along the way that tell the story of her true legacy. Forever a role model for young women, expecting nothing but the best from her players and from those around her, her legacy has never faltered—not even during her final season as head coach, when she faced her fiercest adversary yet: the diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

In The Final Season: The Perseverance of Pat Summitt, Maria M. Cornelius tells the story of her final coaching season through the eyes of those who know her best, from players to support staff to Summitt’s closest friends and advisors. Beginning with the diagnosis that shook the Tennessee community in the summer of 2011 and continuing through to the final game of the 2011–12 season, The Final Season presents readers with a behind-the-scenes look at the conclusion of Summitt’s coaching career, detailing from the perspective of a sports writer how her diagnosis impacted her players and her staff as well as her fans.

With forewords by former Lady Vol Candace Parker and Swish Appeal editor Mike Robinson, The Final Season reveals how Summitt’s remarkable story of perseverance not only united a team of young women but also brought an entire sports following together, revealing an incredible support system that spanned far beyond Summitt’s Tennessee community. The coach’s determined spirit, selfless love, and sense of humor shine through the pages of Cornelius’s book, painting for readers the picture of a beloved leader and detailing the personal moments of defeat and triumph that make Summitt a true champion.
 

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Founding 49ers

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

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Friday Night Fighter

Gaspar "Indio" Ortega and the Golden Age of Television Boxing

Troy Rondinone

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.

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From Jack Johnson to LeBron James

Sports, Media, and the Color Line

Chris Lamb

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.

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Game Faces

Five Early American Champions and the Sports They Changed

Thomas H. Pauly

This compelling blend of biography and cultural history depicts five important yet nearly forgotten athletes from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who had a transformative effect on their sports and on the evolution of sports in general. Tom Stevens was the first man to ride a bicycle, “a high wheeler,” around the world (1884-87). Fanny Bullock Workman completed seven expeditions into the Himalayas between 1898 and 1912. Bill Reid, a Harvard football coach and one of the game’s first professionals, played a key role in saving the sport from a national movement to abolish it in 1905. May Sutton became the National Champion of women’s tennis at the age of sixteen and was the first American woman to triumph at Wimbledon (1905). Barney Oldfield was an early champion of motor car racing (1902) whose aggressive pursuit of crowd appeal and “outlaw” style rankled his competitors but won him many races.

Although they participated in different sports, these five athletes were central to the evolution of sports from casual leisure recreations into serious, commercialized competitions and recognizable approximations of our sports today. Game Faces tracks the powerful influence of money, rules, and mediating organizations on this transformation and examines pitched battles between these champions and their archrivals. The outcomes determined not only the winners but also the future of their sports.

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Game, Set, Match

Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women’s Sports

Susan Ware

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.

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