- Twin Cities Sports: Games for All Seasons ed. by Sheldon Anderson
In Twin Cities Sports, editor Sheldon Anderson has collected a unique and thorough set of articles that provide a strong sense of how residents of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul have used and continue to use sports at all levels to shape their community identities across cultural, ethnic, political, or class-based associations.
Of the thirteen submissions in this volume, four stand clearly above the rest. The first is Shannon Murray's history of the Minneapolis park system in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Murray does an excellent job tracing the use value of parks as a part of the urban built environment. Specifically, her article includes especially keen observations about how the Minneapolis park system was the realization of landscape architect Horace W. S. Cleveland's take on the "city natural" movement, as well as important concluding remarks about how use of parks changed rapidly from simple participation in activities to the more familiar combination of participation and/or spectatorship. Contributing to the literature on the commodification of urban green space and leisure time, Murray does not present in her analysis the troubling implication that Cleveland and his colleagues were able to operate almost at will with little to no interference from local government, though that may have been a choice made for reasons of length.
While Murray's is the only article that focuses entirely on the built environment, it is not the only one that deals with issues of space or place. The two articles immediately following focus on golf and skating, respectively, and are both insightful explorations of the tensions between the inevitable changes of society and the built environment. Thomas B. Jones argues that "golf clicked with what early twentieth-century Americans imagined [End Page 71] themselves and their history to be. … Golf lovers endeavored to rid their game of its British aristocratic taint and transform it into a sport with a distinctly American ethos" (30), reminding readers that sports carry values across temporal and political boundaries. That ethos, Jones argues, was surprisingly tolerant—if not exactly inclusive—of both women and African Americans in the Twin Cities, at least at the outset. David C. Smith argues that the idiosyncratic history of skating in Minnesota was enough of an early draw that luminaries of the skating world relocated to the Twin Cities. The popularity of speed skating, "fancy" or figure skating, and hockey would eventually put Minnesota and especially the Twin Cities at the forefront of movements to promote amateur and professional events on ice. Similarly, Blair Williams contends that the Minnesota Twins, and especially their owner Calvin Griffith, had the most significant impact on Cuban–American relations within the sport of baseball of anyone save Fidel Castro. Williams uses the story of Cuban-born baseball standout Tony Oliva to illustrate the difficulties that foreign-born players encountered both in leaving home and in playing in the United States, as well as the unique difficulties faced by early professional athletes, especially those of color.
Local sport histories are inundated with written volumes that are either unable or unwilling to escape the flowery, nostalgic prose in the tradition of sports journalist Grantland Rice, and Anderson's volume is no exception. The history of Minnesota high school, collegiate, and professional team sports as represented in Anderson's volume is often a prosaic retelling of the contests—wins, losses, and individual statistics dominate, and this encyclopedic information is the majority of the contribution. There is also one truly baffling entry written by John Kerr supposedly covering the topic of the Washington Senators' move to Minnesota. Instead, the article focuses on an attempted rehabilitation of the image of Senators/Twins owner Calvin Griffith from his historical association of eccentricity and racism. In the introduction, Anderson states that the entries by Kerr and Williams "argue [that] Griffith's seemingly overt racism in moving to lily-white Minneapolis was not what it seemed" (7) when, in...