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No Minor Accomplishment Cover

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No Minor Accomplishment

The Revival of New Jersey Professional Baseball

Bob Golon

America's pastime has roots in New Jersey dating back to 1846 when the first baseball game using modern rules was played on Elysian Fields in Hoboken. The sport thrived throughout the state until the 1950s when fans began to turn away from local competition, preferring to watch games broadcast on television, to take a trip to see a major league team in New York, or to frequent newly air-conditioned movie theaters or bowling alleys. By the early 1990s, however, a growing disenchantment with the high ticket prices and corporate atmosphere of Major League Baseball led to the revival of a purer form of the sport in the Garden State.
    In No Minor Accomplishment, sports historian and New Jersey native Bob Golon tells the story of the state's baseball scene since the Trenton Thunder arrived in 1994. Drawing on interviews with team owners and employees, industry executives and fans, Golon goes behind the scenes to show how maintaining a minor league ball club can be a risky business venture. Stadiums cost millions to build, and a team full of talented players does not immediately guarantee success. Instead, each of the eight minor league and independent professional teams in the state must tailor themselves to the communities in which they are situated. Shrewd marketing is necessary to attract fans, but Golon also explains how, unlike Major League Baseball, the business aspect of the minor and independent leagues is not something the average spectator notices.  For the fans, baseball in New Jersey is wholesome, exciting family entertainment.

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.

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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.

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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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Qualifying Times

Points of Change in U.S. Women's Sport

Jaime Schultz

This perceptive, lively study explores U.S. women's sport through historical "points of change": particular products or trends that dramatically influenced both women's participation in sport and cultural responses to women athletes.Beginning with the seemingly innocent ponytail, the subject of the Introduction, scholar Jaime Schultz challenges the reader to look at the historical and sociological significance of now-common items such as sports bras and tampons and ideas such as sex testing and competitive cheerleading. Tennis wear, tampons, and sports bras all facilitated women's participation in physical culture, while physical educators, the aesthetic fitness movement, and Title IX encouraged women to challenge (or confront) policy, financial, and cultural obstacles.While some of these points of change increased women's physical freedom and sporting participation, they also posed challenges. Tampons encouraged menstrual shame, sex testing (a tool never used with male athletes) perpetuated narrowly-defined cultural norms of femininity, and the late-twentieth-century aesthetic fitness movement fed into an unrealistic beauty ideal.Ultimately, Schultz finds that U.S. women's sport has progressed significantly but ambivalently. Although participation in sports is no longer uncommon for girls and women, Schultz argues that these "points of change" have contributed to a complex matrix of gender differentiation that marks the female athletic body as different than--as less than--the male body, despite the advantages it may confer.

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(Re)Presenting Wilma Rudolph

by Rita Liberti and Maureen M. Smith

Wilma Rudolph was born black in Jim Crow Tennessee. The twentieth of 22 children, she spent most of her childhood in bed suffering from whooping cough, scarlet fever, and pneumonia. She lost the use of her left leg due to polio and wore leg braces. With dedication and hard work, she became a gifted runner, earning a track and field scholarship to Tennessee State. In 1960, she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympic Games. Her underdog story made her into a media darling, and she was the subject of countless articles, a television movie, children’s books, biographies, and she even featured on a U.S. postage stamp. In this work, Smith and Liberti consider not only Rudolph’s achievements, but also the ways in which those achievements are interpreted and presented as historical fact. Theories of gender, race, class, and disability collide in the story of Wilma Rudolph, and Smith and Liberti examine this collision in an effort to more fully understand how history is shaped by the cultural concerns of the present. In doing so, the authors engage with the metanarratives which define the American experience and encourage more complex and nuanced interrogations of contemporary heroic legacy.

Rebound! Cover

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The Incredible Story of UConn Basketball's Comeback from Defeat to Dominance

David Borges

In September 2012, legendary University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun—who had won three national championships, the last in 2011—abruptly retired. His handpicked replacement was Kevin Ollie, a former UConn player and longtime NBA journeyman who had returned two years earlier to be Calhoun’s assistant. Ollie was widely praised as a “basketball savant” and respected by virtually everyone who knew him. But he had no head coaching experience—at any level—before taking the UConn job. He was also inheriting a mess. Due to past academic problems, UConn was barred from postseason play in 2013, and largely because of this, several top players left the program, either for the NBA draft or for other schools. On top of that were the uncertainties of a greatly changed conference, as well as difficulties on the recruiting trail. Despite it all, a dedicated core of players stayed and won twenty hard-fought games, even with no tournament chances to hope for.

The following season, expectations for the team were modest, and the odds of a championship were slim to none. But with the tournament ban lifted, a talented group of players, led by Shabazz Napier, emerged and went on to upset Michigan State to advance to the Final Four, causing millions of college hoops fans across the country to rip up their carefully constructed brackets. When they beat preseason no. 1 Kentucky, with its “Fab 5” NBA-bound starters and celebrity coach John Calipari, to win the 2014 title, theirs became one of the great comeback stories in all of sports, a rags-to-riches triumph for a storied program and its new head coach.

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