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Baseball: A History of America's Favorite Game (Modern Library Chronicles) Paperback – March 11, 2008


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Baseball: A History of America's Favorite Game (Modern Library Chronicles) + The Greatest Baseball Stories Ever Told: Thirty Unforgettable Tales from the Diamond + The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)
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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Chronicles
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Reprint edition (March 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812978706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812978704
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #550,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

New York Times sports columnist Vecsey (Year in the Sun) devotes himself to this sprightly history of the national pastime. His survey unfolds much like a highlights tape, with a breezy background narrative of the game from its pre–Civil War roots to its current drug scandals, structured around set pieces spotlighting the outsized deeds of luminaries like Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey and George Steinbrenner. He finds plenty of time for color commentary, like an appreciation of radio announcers' whimsical homerun catch-phrases (" 'Get up Aunt Minnie and raise the window!' " Pirates voice Rosey Roswell was wont to yell), cantankerous opinionating ("Trying to be fair and neutral about it, I can only say that the designated hitter rule is a travesty and ought to be tossed out") and ruminations on the ultimate metaphysical question of "why the Yankees exist." Throughout, the author stresses the game's continuities: modern-day anxieties about free agentry, labor strife and the bereavement of cities abandoned by their teams for greener pastures have plagued baseball from the beginning. Vivid, affectionate and clear-eyed, Vecsey's account makes for an engaging sports history. (Aug. 15)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Many of baseball's landmark events and personalities--its ancient origins (Abner Doubleday notwithstanding), the development of pro baseball, the Black Sox scandal, Babe Ruth, Branch Rickey, the Negro League, Jackie Robinson, the media's influence, free agency, the globalization of the game, steroids--have been covered more thoroughly in their own volumes over the past several years. But New York Times sports columnist Vecsey neatly pulls them together in this seamless and succinct popular history. His account of the game's early days is especially strong, debunking in particular "founder" Doubleday's role: Vecsey argues that the only verifiable association is a request Doubleday, as a U.S. Army commander, made for baseball equipment for his troops in 1871. Vecsey has covered the game for more than 40 years, and it shows in such simple but profoundly true statements as "Baseball has always relied heavily on luck." Recommended especially for smaller sports collections in need of a general history of America's pastime. Alan Moores
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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See all 25 customer reviews
I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves baseball.
Merrill G. Clark
I felt the author spent way too much time on insignificant portions of the history of baseball and ignored other crucial areas.
P. Wilson
Excellent, broad-sweep chronicle of the game's history for the new or casual fan.
Trevor J Marshallsea

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Bill Emblom on September 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
If you're looking for an in-depth history of baseball you need to look elsewhere. However, if you want a quick history of the game from its different time periods this book of 222 pages is quite good. The writing by George Vecsey is also very well done. If there were any mistakes in the book I didn't find them. You may find anecdotes told here in other books, but for a book covering the history of the game in 222 pages I would recommend it to you.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By a customer on June 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is strictly for casual fans or general readers. While smoothly written, the stories told are well-known and the historical insight negligible. For a serious academic history of the game, read Benjamin Rader, BASEBALL: A HISTORY OF AMERICA'S GAME (second edition) or Charles C. Alexander, OUR GAME: AN AMERICAN BASEBALL HISTORY (a little dated, since it was published in 1991). If you are really determined, try Harold Seymour's classic three-volume history.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By R. DelParto VINE VOICE on May 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
BASEBALL: A HISTORY OF AMERICA'S FAVORITE GAME by George Vecsey is not quite a comprehensive account of America's pastime. However, Vecsey pinpoints the major events and people who defined the game on and off the field, and clears the myths from the facts. He intermingles the Abner Doubleday myth with Columbus and Pocahontas, and specifically states that Albert Goodwill Spalding, a pitcher turned businessman, helped typify baseball to how it is recognized today. From Abner Doubleday to the scandalous fervor of 1919 and the Black Sox as well as the so-called Great Bambino curse that was finally broken one day in October 2004, the book places the game within a historical perspective.

Vecsey intertwines baseball with history. He embraces the game as a long-time fan as well as a sports columnist, but with a tinge of romanticism when he recounts his childhood memories of the game during baseball's "golden age" and Jackie Robinson and Stan Musial reigned. The book is a combination of the Ken Burns's documentary and HBO Sports', "When it was a Game." There are several historical references throughout the book, such as his discussion of the First and Second World Wars when team members heeded to the call of duty, and unfortunately, never to return. What is worth noting is that the game boosted morale during and after the war; in 1949 General MacArthur praised the game as a "piece of diplomacy," and decades later, Japanese Ambassador to the United States, Ryozo Kato, stated that the game "helped heal the memories of war" (115). In addition, with emergence of the Civil Rights Movement, baseball became integrated and progressed with the times.

Although BASEBALL is geared towards the general-reading public, this is by no means an introduction to the game.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Blaine Greenfield on April 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
When I was a kid, I couldn't get enough of the game of baseball . . . I
watched games on TV and went to them, and I also read everything
about the subject that I could.

For some reason, I lost interest in it sometime around my teenage
years . . . maybe it was when my mother threw out my collection
of baseball cards (including one signed by Sandy Koufax!) or perhaps
it's when I discovered that girls were frankly more interesting, but
I also forgot many of my childhood memories . . . that is, until I came
across BASEBALL: A HISTORY OF AMERICA'S FAVORITE GAME
by NEW YORK TIMES sports columnist George Vecsey.

What a joy it was to hear this book over the past several days as
I drove to and from work . . . it reminded me of the days when
I followed both the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers, but
it also gave me a mini-history lesson about the Black Sox 1919
scandal (and why it happened), along with an appreciation of
what it was like to have to play in the Negro Leagues.

I also liked hearing about how baseball became popular in the
United States . . . and learning that Abner Doubleday really had
little to do with the game's development.

It was fun hearing about Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, but
equally interesting to learn about the role of such executives
as Branch Rickey and my personal favorite, Bill Veeck.

And I got a kick learning why Ricky Henderson had so many
doubles in his career . . . it seems he could have stretched many
of them into triples, but held off on doing so in order to then
be able to steal third (and add to his all-time steals record).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By CJA VINE VOICE on March 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
Vecsey has written some terrific columns for the New York Times, and this volume includes some very well written vignettes. Of particular interest are the description of Hall-of-Famer Cap Anson's successful lead of the boycott of African American players of the 19th century; the American need to claim baseball as its own unique sport despite evidence of a long international history of bat and ball games; a concise narrative of the Black Sox scandal; the extremely clear explanation of the Curt Flood and Andy Messersmith litigation that led to the free agent era; and an even-handed treatment of the steroid & drug scandals. On this last point, Vecsey is a sensitive observer who is able to admit his own personal fault in looking the other way at a long history of drug and alcohol abuse by players.

But the column method of writing does not translate well to a full volume, and is likely to frustrate most fans who pick up this book.

A more evenly-told chronological narrative would have been more effective.
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