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Beyond DiMaggio: Italian Americans in Baseball Hardcover – March 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 520 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press; 1St Edition edition (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803217056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803217058
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #254,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this informative and entertaining book, Baldassaro, professor emeritus of Italian at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, explores the role Italian-Americans have played in America's pastime. He offers a straightforward "chronological history of the evolution of Italian Americans in professional baseball" from Ed Abbaticchio, who made his debut in 1897, to such recent players as Mike Piazza and Craig Biggio. Baldassaro does a nice job going beyond recapping careers and doling out statistics by exploring deeper topics like the circumstances that made Northern California (birthplace of the DiMaggios) a hotbed of Italian-American hardball talent. He analyzes such sociopolitical factors as how discrimination and family obligations limited the number of Italian players in the first third of the 20th century, and how the changing perceptions of Italian-Americans led to a postwar book of ballplayers whose last names ended in vowels. Baldassaro brings a great deal of affection and merriment to his storytelling—whether he is replaying Cookie Lavagetto's and Al Gionfriddo's exploits in the 1947 World Series or exploring the sporting and cultural significance of Joe DiMaggio. (Mar.)
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Review

"Baldassaro brings a great deal of affection and merriment to his storytelling—whether he is replaying Cookie Lavagetto's and Al Gionfriddo's exploits in the 1947 World Series or exploring the sporting and cultural significance of Joe DiMaggio."—Publishers Weekly
(Publishers Weekly 2011-01-10)

"Baldassaro's sweep ranges from Ed Abbaticchio, one of the first Italian Americans in the game, and Ping Bodie, who, born Francesco Stephano Pezzolo, was the first Italian American who came close to baseball stardom, to general managers, team owners, commissioner Angelo Bartlett Giamatti and, most movingly, the rise and fall of Red Sox slugger Tony Conigliaro."—Robert Cottrell, Library Journal
(Robert Cottrell Library Journal 2011-01-20)

"With interviews conducted by the author over the past decade and references to first-person accounts of the play and personalities of the older subjects, Baldassaro unearths colorful details such as the origin of Oscar 'Spinach' Melillo's nickname and Sal Maglie's run-ins with his Mexican League pitching coach, former Big Leaguer Dolf Luque, which even included some gunplay."—Jerry Milani, Baseball Digest (Jerry Milani Baseball Digest 2011-03-02)

"The love of both his heritage and the great game of baseball pours from his heart as Baldassaro writes about the progress of Italian Americans through the 20th century until today."—Buddy Fortunato, Italian Tribune
(Buddy Fortunato Italian Tribune 2011-04-28)

"There are countless stories of Italian-Americans in baseball in this book, but they all share not only a common heritage but also the experience of participating in what the author justifiably calls 'the quintessential American game.'"—Mike Bauman, MLB.com
(Mike Bauman MLB.com)

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
I found this book very enjoyable and a fast read.
S. A. Bertone
It's a look at life in the early 20th century and gives one the feel of 'being there'.
James J Capron
I'm a long-time baseball fan and have read many baseball books.
Gary L

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A reader on April 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Whether or not you're an Italian American, if you're a baseball fan, this book is for you--a volume that delivers what it promises: comprehensive coverage of Italian American ballplayers from the first one ever recorded--named Ed Abbaticchio--right up to the present. As the title implies, it goes WAY beyond DiMaggio, acquainting the reader with dozens of lesser-known Italian American players, and covering the careers of famous players of Italian origin other than the Yankee Clipper. Beyond that, the author describes the social and economic forces at work in each of the periods he covers, which makes the book a major contribution to both sports history and cultural history.

But this is by no means an "academic" book. Baldassaro's writing is a pleasure to read, crisp, economical, free of jargon, and enlivened by flashes of humor. The author did plenty of digging in the newspaper files and sports periodicals of each era he covers, but he also uses the extensive personal interviews he conducted with Italian American ballplayers and former ballplayers, as well as with others of Italian background connected to baseball. The fact that the interviews were conducted over several decades suggests that this is a long-nurtured project, a labor of love that's at last come to fruition. Many of those interviewed have since died, so the record of their words now has even greater value. The way the author interweaves the larger historical picture with the lives and specific, vivid personalities of Italian American ballplayers is a particular strength of the book.

Baldassaro's book shows how strong anti-Italian prejudice was in the not too distant past.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The Humble American on November 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a book about the Italian-American experience in the United States. It uses the participation of Italian-Americans in baseball as a means of conveying the deeper story of their incorporaton into American society. Prior to Tony Lazzeri's acquisition by the New York Yankees, relatively few Italian ballplayers made notable contributions to a sport then dominated by Irish-, German- and other hyphenated Americans. When Lazzeri's contributions to the Yankees drew in Italian-American fans all around the American League, the mood began to shift in the higher echelons of baseball management. This movement reached its apex with the New York Yankee teams of the late thirties to late fifties when the Yankees had DiMaggio in center, Rizzuto at shortstop, Martin at second, Berra behind the plate and Raschi on the mound. These teams won with an astonishing consistency. However, the main story here is not about baseball, but rather about the strugges an ethnic group has to endure in order to succeed in a society sometimes hostile to them. Those who grew up in the latter stages of the twentieth century might be surprised by the animosity that Italian-Americans encountered since they have now been cozily incorporated into American society. It is good for all of us, however, to recognize that prejudice is part of the fabric of life. This book details that struggle in the realm of baseball and specific to one ethnic group. Its main import is far more general than that. Its lessons can be extended to other minority groups as well It is really a superb read.
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Format: Hardcover
This well meaning book is nicely researched with elite MLB class storytelling and many nostalgic interviews of colorful icons who flourished when the game was more tolerant of olive skins and voweled surnames. But startlingly lesser star power ratios across generations merit an update as to the reasons why. Fans and critics of the show may want a more balanced portrait of what unsung journeymen footnotes went through for whatever reason. But this has no data numbers that span eras to gauge and chart stat difference between the utter domination of yesteryear and the downplayed dearth of today. No outcry comparison of IAs in baseball then and now.

For the latter reason, the book lacks a general across the board inclusion of the total Italian-American experience in MLB. It covers backdrop struggles that salted and seasoned the rich history of IA identity in the sweet science. But then like so many other forest tree missing ethnic sports tomes, it suffers from past tense myopia. That is, it mostly covers the good old days and hardly ever touches upon the rug swept inequities of millennial MLB at a time when most IAs are subs, UTs or bench part timers. Meanwhile, as Piazza and Biggio are left out of the Hall of Fame, a book like this is too PC to admit issues of disparity or marginalization.

You get a feeling the author dealt with research organization establishmentarians and was too humble to rock the boat and tell the whole story via human math and social numbers. Back in the golden era, IA ballplayers may have matched their ratio in the general population. But that was more than half a century ago. Today they average only a paltry 1-2 percent of full time starting ballplayers.
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Beyond DiMaggio: Italian Americans in Baseball
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