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

4.9 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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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)
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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: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,505,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a long-time baseball fan and have read many baseball books. I've also done some free-lance baseball writing, so I don't give out praise lightly. "Beyond DiMaggio: Italian Americans in Basebal" by author Lawrence Baldassaro, professor emeritus of Italian at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is a wonderful book that ranks high on my list of all-time favorites. It's much more than just a baseball book. It covers a slice of Americana that all students of American history will find interesting, regardless of ethnicity. If, like me, you happen to be an Italian-American who loves baseball history, all the better.

"Beyond DiMaggio" is well researched, well written, and well edited. The author's crisp, clear, engaging writing style made it a joy to read. The book may best be described as a series of vignettes of notable Italian-American ballplayers. Each is an interesting summation of the player's life and contribution to the game. The format allows the reader to "pick-and-choose" through the vignettes, reading the ones that strike his interest first; or he can read the book from cover to cover, as I did.

Students of American history will find this book interesting, as it covers in exacting detail the history of the Italian immigration experience in the early 20th century. What motivation could possibly have compelled these hard-working, family-oriented people to leave their beloved homeland and embark on a hazardous journey to a foreign land without money, without knowledge of the native language, and without any guarantees of success? They would be starting life over in a land in which they would be regarded as foreigners, and where they would be subjected to vicious ethnic slurs, slander, and outright discrimination.
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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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