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On Any Given Sunday: A Life of Bert Bell Cover

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On Any Given Sunday: A Life of Bert Bell

Bert Bell, a native of Philadelphia, has been called the most powerful executive figure in the history of professional football. He was responsible for helping to transform the game from a circus sideshow into what has become the most popular spectator sport in America. In On Any Given Sunday, the first biography of this important sports figure, historian Robert Lyons recounts the remarkable story of how de Benneville “Bert” Bell rejected the gentility of a high society lifestyle in favor of the tougher gridiron, and rose to become the founder of the Philadelphia Eagles and Commissioner of the National Football League.

Bell, who arguably saved the league from bankruptcy by conceiving the idea for the annual player draft, later made the historic decision to introduce “sudden death” overtime—a move that propelled professional football into the national consciousness. He coined the phrase “on any given sunday” and negotiated the league’s first national TV contract. Lyons also describes in fascinating detail Bell’s relationships with leading figures ranging from such Philadelphia icons as Walter Annenberg and John B. Kelly to national celebrities and U.S. Presidents. He also provides insight into Bell’s colorful personal life—including his hell-raising early years and his secret marriage to Frances Upton, a golden name in show business.

On Any Given Sunday is being published on the 50th anniversary of Bell’s death.

Pay for Play Cover

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Pay for Play

A History of Big-Time College Athletic Reform

Ronald A. Smith

In an era when college football coaches frequently command higher salaries than university presidents, many call for reform to restore the balance between amateur athletics and the educational mission of schools. This book traces attempts at college athletics reform from 1855 through the early twenty-first century while analyzing the different roles played by students, faculty, conferences, university presidents, the NCAA, legislatures, and the Supreme Court. _x000B__x000B_Pay for Play: A History of Big-Time College Athletic Reform also tackles critically important questions about eligibility, compensation, recruiting, sponsorship, and rules enforcement. Discussing reasons for reform--to combat corruption, to level the playing field, and to make sports more accessible to minorities and women--Ronald A. Smith candidly explains why attempts at change have often failed. Of interest to historians, athletic reformers, college administrators, NCAA officials, and sports journalists, this thoughtful book considers the difficulty in balancing the principles of amateurism with the need to draw income from sporting events.

A People's History of Baseball Cover

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A People's History of Baseball

Mitchell Nathanson

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.

Playing for Their Nation Cover

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Playing for Their Nation

Baseball and the American Military during World War II

Steven R. Bullock

Just two months after the magical baseball season of 1941, the United States entered World War II, and baseball, like other American institutions, was called upon to sacrifice and serve in the war effort. Utilizing personal accounts, military documents, and newspaper sources, Playing for Their Nation provides the first in-depth analysis of the development of military baseball during the Second World War.

Steven R. Bullock describes how virtually every significant American military installation around the world boasted formal baseball teams and leagues designed to soothe the anxieties of combatants and prepare them physically for battle. Officials also sponsored hundreds of exhibition contests involving military and civilian teams and tours by major league stars to entertain servicemen and elevate their spirits.

Fund-raising by the Major Leagues proved remarkably successful in the encouragement of war bond sales and in donations of equipment for military teams. By the end of the war, more than ninety percent of the players on prewar Major League rosters served in the armed forces, and Bullock relates the wartime experiences of the players, such as Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. Also provided is the statistical analysis of the negative impact of the war on the careers of Major League players in terms of their reduced productivity and shortened careers.

Proving itself to be much more than a game, baseball offered comfort and pride to a military, and a nation, gripped by war.

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The Postwar Yankees

Baseball's Golden Age Revisited

David George Surdam

The Yankees and New York baseball entered a golden age between 1949 and 1964, a period during which the city was represented in all but one World Series. While the Yankees dominated, however, the years were not so golden for the rest of baseball.

In The Postwar Yankees: Baseball’s Golden Age Revisited, David G. Surdam deconstructs this idyllic period to show that while the Yankees piled on pennants and World Series titles through the 1950s, Major League Baseball attendance consistently declined and gate-revenue disparity widened through the mid-1950s. Contrary to popular belief, the era was already experiencing many problems that fans of today’s game bemoan, including a competitive imbalance and callous owners who ran the league like a cartel. Fans also found aging, decrepit stadiums ill-equipped for the burgeoning automobile culture, while television and new forms of leisure competed for their attention.

Through an economist’s lens, Surdam brings together historical documents and off-the-field numbers to reconstruct the period and analyze the roots of the age’s enduring mythology, examining why the Yankees and other New York teams were consistently among baseball’s elite and how economic and social forces set in motion during this golden age shaped the sport into its modern incarnation.

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The Prince of Jockeys

The Life of Isaac Burns Murphy

Pellom McDaniels III

Isaac Burns Murphy (1861--1896) was one of the most dynamic jockeys of his era. Still considered one of the finest riders of all time, Murphy was the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby three times, and his 44 percent win record remains unmatched. Despite his success, Murphy was pushed out of Thoroughbred racing when African American jockeys were forced off the track, and he died in obscurity.

In The Prince of Jockeys: The Life of Isaac Burns Murphy, author Pellom McDaniels III offers the first definitive biography of this celebrated athlete, whose life spanned the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the adoption of Jim Crow legislation. Despite the obstacles he faced, Murphy became an important figure -- not just in sports, but in the social, political, and cultural consciousness of African Americans. Drawing from legal documents, census data, and newspapers, this comprehensive profile explores how Murphy epitomized the rise of the black middle class and contributed to the construction of popular notions about African American identity, community, and citizenship during his lifetime.

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"If You Were Only White"

The Life of Leroy "Satchel" Paige

Donald Spivey

       
               “If You Were Only White” explores the legacy of one of the most exceptional athletes ever—an entertainer extraordinaire, a daring showman and crowd-pleaser, a wizard with a baseball whose artistry and antics on the mound brought fans out in the thousands to ballparks across the country. Leroy “Satchel” Paige was arguably one of the world’s greatest pitchers and a premier star of Negro Leagues Baseball. But in this biography Donald Spivey reveals Paige to have been much more than just a blazing fastball pitcher.

 

            Spivey follows Paige from his birth in Alabama in 1906 to his death in Kansas City in 1982, detailing the challenges Paige faced battling the color line in America and recounting his tests and triumphs in baseball. He also opens up Paige’s private life during and after his playing days, introducing readers to the man who extended his social, cultural, and political reach beyond the limitations associated with his humble background and upbringing. This other Paige was a gifted public speaker, a talented musician and singer, an excellent cook, and a passionate outdoorsman, among other things.  

 

            Paige’s life intertwined with many of the most important issues of the times in U.S. and AfricanAmerican history, including the continuation of the New Negro Movement and the struggle for civil rights. Spivey incorporates interviews with former teammates conducted over twelve years, as well as exclusive interviews with Paige’s son Robert, daughter Pamela, Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe, and John “Buck” O’Neil to tell the story of a pioneer who helped transform America through the nation’s favorite pastime.  

 

            Maintaining an image somewhere between Joe Louis’s public humility and the flamboyant aggression of Jack Johnson, Paige pushed the boundaries of segregation and bridged the racial divide with stellar pitching packaged with slapstick humor. He entertained as he played to win and saw no contradiction in doing so. Game after game, his performance refuted the lie that black baseball was inferior to white baseball. His was a contribution to civil rights of a different kind—his speeches and demonstrations expressed through his performance on the mound.

Reconstructing Fame Cover

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Reconstructing Fame

Sport, Race, and Evolving Reputations

With contributions by Prosper Godonoo, Urla Hill, C. Richard King, David J. Leonard, Jack Lule, Murry Nelson, David C. Ogden, Robert W. Reising, and Joel Nathan Rosen Reconstructing Fame: Sport, Race, and Evolving Reputations includes essays on Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Curt Flood, Paul Robeson, Jim Thorpe, Bill Russell, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos. The essayists in this volume write about twentieth-century athletes whose careers were affected by racism and whose post-career reputations have improved as society's understanding of race changed. Contributors attempt to clarify the stories of these sports stars and their places as twentieth-century icons by analyzing the various myths that surround them. When media, fans, sports leagues, and the athletes themselves commemorate sports legends, shifts in popular perceptions often serve to obscure an athlete's role in history. Such revisions can lack coherence and trivialize the efforts of some legendary competitors and those associated with them. Adding racial tensions to this process further complicates the task of preserving the valuable achievements of key players.

The Rise of American High School Sports and the Search for Control,1880-1930 Cover

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The Rise of American High School Sports and the Search for Control,1880-1930

1880-1930

by Robert Pruter

Nearly half of all American high school students participate on sports teams. With a total of 7.6 million participants, this makes the high school sports program in America the largest organized sports program in the world. Robert Pruter’s work traces the history of high school sports in America from the student-led athletic clubs of the 1880’s through to the government takeover of athletic associations in the 1930s. In doing so, he provides an exploration of the ways in which the ideals Americans hoped to instill in future generations-hard work, fair play, team building-were challenged by questions of gender, race, and religion. Pruter explains the struggle to control high school sports, first by schools and local government and eventually on the national level. “Interscholastic sports have become so important that they have become a touchstone of conflict over … virtually every social division (in) our society,” Pruter writes. “The values and ethics in our society as a whole are reflected in our schools, and most publicly on the athletic fields and courts.”

The Rise of the National Basketball Association Cover

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The Rise of the National Basketball Association

Today's National Basketball Association commands millions of spectators worldwide, and its many franchises are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But the league wasn't always so successful or glamorous: in the 1940s and 1950s, the NBA and its predecessor, the Basketball Association of America, were scrambling to attract fans. Teams frequently played in dingy gymnasiums, players traveled as best they could, and their paychecks could bounce higher than a basketball. How did the NBA evolve from an obscure organization facing financial losses to a successful fledgling sports enterprise by 1960? _x000B__x000B_Drawing on information from numerous archives, newspaper and periodical articles, and Congressional hearings, The Rise of the National Basketball Association chronicles the league's growing pains from 1946 to 1961. David George Surdam describes how a handful of ambitious ice hockey arena owners created the league as a way to increase the use of their facilities, growing the organization by fits and starts. Rigorously analyzing financial data and league records, Surdam points to the innovations that helped the NBA thrive: regular experiments with rules changes to make the game more attractive to fans, and the emergence of televised sports coverage as a way of capturing a larger audience. Notably, the NBA integrated in 1950, opening the game to players who would dominate the game by the end of the decade: Bill Russell, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, and Oscar Robertson. Long a game that players loved to play, basketball became a professional sport well supported by community leaders, business vendors, and an ever-growing number of fans._x000B_

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