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  • The Politics of Baseball: Essays on the Pastime and Power at Home and Abroad
  • Michael T. Wood
Briley, Ron, ed. The Politics of Baseball: Essays on the Pastime and Power at Home and Abroad. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2010. Pp. vi+250. Graphs, notes, and index. $39.95 pb.

Editor Ron Briley introduces The Politics of Baseball by asserting that professional baseball is “a reflection of and not an escape from the American political scene” (p. 2). He contends that baseball provides an entry point to power relationships in politics, social issues, sex, race, nationalism, diplomacy, colonialism, and patriotism. Organized into two parts with eight chapters each, the sixteen essays present examples of how baseball forms a “contested terrain” for these topics on the domestic and international fronts.

The first and fourth chapters concentrate on the intersection of baseball and politics. John A. Tures evaluates the success of politicians connected to baseball as players, coaches, or umpires. Raymond I. Schuck focuses on the 1996 presidential campaign in which the Republican nominee, Sen. Bob Dole, misspoke at an event calling the Los Angeles Dodgers the Brooklyn Dodgers and how Dole’s opponents used it against him.

The second, third, and eighth chapters examine the relationship between baseball and social issues. Wendy Knickerbocker profiles the contribution of ballplayer-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday to the Prohibition movement. Scott D. Peterson provides a literary analysis comparing the print coverage of the 1937 season by Lester Rodney of the Daily Worker to the work of John Kieran and Roscoe McGowen of the New York Times. Joshua Fleer links the significance of Willie Horton being honored along with other great Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park to his actions on and off the field in Detroit during the turbulent late 1960s.

The fifth chapter addresses the issue of sexual orientation in Major League Baseball (MLB). Lisa Doris Alexander examines former player Billy Bean’s admission of homosexuality and his description of baseball clubhouses as being hyper-heterosexual and/or homophobic in his 1999 autobiography.

The sixth and seventh chapters examine racial issues in professional baseball. Michael J. Haupert provides a comparative study of the wage structure in professional baseball for African-American players during integration. N. Jeremi Duru describes a failed lawsuit brought by Sam Jethroe, a retired African-American player, that claimed segregation prevented him from playing enough years to qualify for a MLB pension.

The ninth and thirteenth chapters focus on the use of baseball to promote nationalism. Russ Crawford shows how the United States employed baseball as a tool of assimilation, [End Page 143] Japan viewed baseball as a movement toward modernity, and pre-revolution Cuba adopted baseball to differentiate itself from colonial Spanish culture. Glen M.E. Duerr analyzes the use of baseball by Taiwan to promote national identity and gain international recognition as separate from China.

The tenth, eleventh, fourteenth, and fifteenth chapters address the use of baseball as a tool of diplomacy. Bryan C. Price studies the spread of baseball internationally during the Second World War and during Cold War conflicts as a way to promote goodwill and democracy. Robert Elias illuminates the long history of baseball in Nicaragua set against the turbulent backdrop of U.S.-Nicaraguan relations. Robert F. Lewis applies the “smart power” model in evaluating baseball commissioners and concludes that Bud Selig’s multilateral approach increases the chances for MLB success internationally. Mathew J. Bartkowiak and Yuya Kiuchi consider the economic and cultural implications for the United States and Japan of an increase of Japanese players in the major league.

The twelfth chapter presents an example of the relationship between baseball and colonialism. Jessica Skolnikoff and Robert Engvall analyze the social, economic, and cultural effect of baseball academies in Caribbean and South American countries. They compare the academies to plantations in terms of disposable labor and assert that the academies represent a form of economic exploitation and cultural imperialism.

The sixteenth chapter analyzes the relationship between baseball and patriotism. Michael L. Butterworth characterizes the close relationship between baseball and the celebration of national holidays, the post-September 11 singing of “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch, and the Welcome Back Veterans program...


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pp. 143-144
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