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  • San Francisco Bay Area Sports: Golden Gate Athletics, Recreation, and Community ed. by Rita Liberti and Maureen M. Smith
  • Richard D. Loosbrock
Liberti, Rita, and Maureen M. Smith, eds. San Francisco Bay Area Sports: Golden Gate Athletics, Recreation, and Community. Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 2017. Pp. 354. Notes, references, index. $24.95, pb.

The San Francisco Bay area has long been an American cultural hearth. From the nineteenth-century Gold Rush to the rise of the counterculture, the bay area has generated trends and ideas that eventually reached the wider society. This set of well-crafted essays sheds light on the San Francisco Bay area as an area of innovation and pioneering in the areas of sports and leisure. Fifteen essays cover a wide swath of territory, but they succeed in illuminating not just the sporting history of the region but a sense of the unique political and social landscape as well. They are balanced, offering equal space for women's sports with attention paid to topics of ethnicity and sexual orientation. [End Page 261]

Leisure activities are the focus of several chapters. Deane Anderson Lamont explores the role of parks and resorts in nineteenth-century Oakland. The parks movement was evident around the country, but Lamont suggests that Oakland used parks to attract residents and businesses and played an early role in creating the California lifestyle. Linda L. Ivey's essay on hiking in Marin County demonstrates how weekend trekkers led to local efforts to preserve the pristine landscape and gave rise to environmentalism in the area and a status to hikers. Claire M. Williams provides an insightful chapter on the "Bay to Breakers" run that originated after the 1906 earthquake and is now mimicked by many other events. She describes a "fun run" that is known for its nonconformist aura but actually developed with capitalistic marketing.

College and amateur sports offer several angles from which to understand the sporting culture of the bay area. Brian M. Ingrassia provides the story of Stanford and the University of California's unsuccessful attempt to replace the violence of American football, a hot topic at that time, with rugby. Adam Fitch explores the phenomenon of Cal's crew team in the 1920s and argues that it promoted a version of masculinity that prepared its members for the corporate world and, what some would suggest, constructed a male hegemony. Maureen M. Smith and Matthew R. Hodler provide one of the strongest chapters on the Santa Clara Swim Club that set the standard for the country in the 1950s and 1960s and propelled Olympic success. Chris Elzey writes on Stanford's hosting of the 1962 USSR–US track meet, which came at the height of the cold war and two years after a tense Rome Olympics. Elzey suggests that it was a feel good moment, characterized by warmth and sportsmanship but did not produce any long-term benefits for Stanford or the bay area. Judy Davidson provides a chapter on the early Gay Games and argues that they were essentially an "assimilationist project" that bought into traditional notions of white, male athleticism that belied the movement's original, inclusive intent. Joel S. Franks explains how Asian Americans in the Santa Clara Valley used sports as a means for developing community pride and acceptance in the wider society, with mixed results.

Several essays deal with aspects of professional sports. Louis Moore tells the story of the fabled 1910 Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries fight, which different cities in the bay area sought to host but which eventually went to Reno. Progressive reformers, many of whom also espoused the use of sport to reform society, argued that the interracial boxing spectacle fell below standards of respectability, despite the revenues it would generate. Jeffrey Montez de Oca provides a particularly insightful essay on the San Francisco 49ers, in which he argues that the popular image and memory of the 1980s team, with its Bill Walsh– and Joe Montana–led technical and precise West Coast offense, belies the rowdy, blue-collar fan base of the team's economic realities of the era. Maria J. Veri studies the 49ers counterparts across the bay, the Oakland...


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