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  • The Chicago Sports Reader: 100 Years of Sports in the Windy City
  • Heather L. Dichter
Riess, Steven A. and Gerald R. Gems, eds. The Chicago Sports Reader: 100 Years of Sports in the Windy City. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009. Pp. 384. Notes, illustrations, and index. $24.95 pb, $75.00 cb.

Steven Riess and Gerald Gems bring together a dozen previously published essays along with one specially commissioned article and their own detailed introduction in this anthology on Chicago's long sport tradition. The role of the East Coast, especially New York, has long dominated the literature on the development of modern sport in the United States. Riess and Gems's collection, and in particular their introduction to the volume, demonstrates Chicago's rich and diverse sport history, and that the history of the major sports in America should not be overshadowed by the eastern cities.

While the introduction places Chicago into the broader history of sport in the United States, each chapter examines a particular sport, event, or one - or a few - individuals to show that Chicago "was an important site for the development and expansion of sport" (p. 43). In "The Car Race of the Century," Cord Scott examines the first formal automobile race held in the United States in 1895, which ran from Chicago to Evanston and back. While the race itself was not the success its sponsors had hoped, with few spectators and [End Page 179] only two cars finishing the race (p. 99), the men who participated in the event developed some of the technological advances which facilitated the growth of the automobile industry and "were pioneers of automobile racing and of American culture" (p. 101). John Chi-Kit Wong's new essay on the origins of the Chicago Blackhawks explores how an expansion NHL team established itself, as well as ice hockey, in the city's sport landscape. Several articles also demonstrate the impact of sport on the development of a city, as seen by Riess' article on the role of horse racing on politics and organized crime in late nineteenth-century Chicago or Michael Lomax's piece on semiprofessional baseball within Chicago's black community.

Robin Dale Lester's article on legendary University of Chicago football coach Amos Alonzo Stagg and John M. Carroll's piece on Harold "Red" Grange's jump from college football to the National Football League's Chicago Bears serve as a reminder that the issues surrounding student-athletes at the collegiate level—or, as some might say, athlete-students—are not recent problems but ones that have persisted for a century, even with the growth of the NCAA. Stagg, along with University president William Rainey Harper, used football to market the University of Chicago and raise the profile of the university as a whole, signaling the development of athletic departments as they currently exist. In the week leading up to his last football game as a collegian, Grange faced several public and institutional questions regarding his continued amateur eligibility, and whether the rumors that he had signed a professional contract were true. Current debates on the professionalization of college sports would be well-served to revisit historical cases such as these.

Ten of the articles address sport before the Second World War, reinforcing the importance of Chicago to the development of sport as well as sport's role in the growth of the city of Chicago, which nearly doubled in population in the 1880s to become the second-largest American city with over a million inhabitants. The strength of Riess and Gems's collection lies in these articles on sport in the first half of the century, whereas the postwar era is only addressed via spectator sports in articles on the All-American Girls Baseball League, the Cubs' 1969 season, and Michael Jordan's tenure with the Bulls. The book could have been strengthened with at least one article on Chicagoans' participation in sport after World War II.

The Chicago Sports Reader brings together a wide range of articles on sport in Chicago in one easily accessible book that would be useful for courses on American sport or urban history. One of the drawbacks...


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pp. 179-180
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