A study of baseball-card collecting in the upper Midwest becomes ``an ethnographic account of a local fan culture'' by dint of Bloom's wearisome academese. Bloom (American Studies/Dickinson Coll.) latches onto the perhaps obvious premise that ``white middle class men were the primary constituency that comprised the core of the baseball card collecting hobby'' and never lets go. His study covers the late 1980s into the 1990s, after the hobby had been thoroughly commercialized by home-shopping shows on cable television. A hobby with its origins in ``the nostalgia for innocence located in symbols of white middle-class boyhood'' became a big business back in the mid-1970s, when the number of serious collectors grew from 4,000 to 250,000. The Fleer Corporation's successful antitrust suit against Topps opened the door for other companies to produce cards. That, Bloom argues, set off the direct-marketing boom of the late 1980s; baseball cards became the product rather than the incentive to buy a product, such as cereal or gum or cupcakes. Bloom goes on to examine the dynamics of sports memorabilia shows, finding a class structure among the dealers and collectors in their baseball caps and beer-commercial T-shirts. Those he studied ``attempted to make a mass-media form meaningful within their collecting subculture.'' Numbing statements unfortunately blot out astute, ironic observations, such as Bloom's noting the annoyance show dealers have with children: What was once a boy's hobby now has little patience for childish enthusiasms. Not a collector himself, Bloom refers to his interviewees by first names only (``I first learned of Dave when I was interviewing Bob . . .''), thus giving their statements a confessional edge, like testimony at an AA meeting. Bloom's occasional cogent observations would be better served by levity and clarity. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Bloom sees nostalgia as potentially a positive force in our lives. The card collecting that we do results in the maintenance of a form of play in our adult lives. We are being active and creative rather that simply accepting adult conventions...
But there are negative dimensions to nostalgia, too. Bloom points out that "nostalgia is more often a commentary of dissatisfaction with the present than it is an attempt to accurately understand the past" (p.87). In this context, Bloom finds nostalgia to be as destructive as it is liberating...
Having begun the book by announcing himself as an involved observer, Bloom ends by underlining the tentativeness of his conclusions, saying "I see this book as initiating a dialogue about gender identities of men by critically examining an aspect of our culture", viz., baseball card collecting. I found Bloom's narrative informative and his interpretations thought-provoking. -- Leverett T. [Terry] Smith, Society for American Baseball Research, Bibliography Committee Newsletter, April 1998: 98-2
Changes in baseball, American society, and marketing techniques stimulated an upsurge in baseball card collecting in the late 1970s that resulted in a fad that has lasted for two decades. An estimated 4,000 collectors grew to four million by 1989, making baseball card collecting the fourth largest hobby in the United States. Bloom's book reminds us of how recent the phenomena is and how such a boom creates conflicts among its participants.
His book is based on a close reading of collector's newsletters and magazines, participant observation at baseball card shows and shops where collectors sell and trade their wares, and interviews with about thirty collectors. His purpose is to examine adult sports fan culture as it relates to male gender identity and the concept of masculinity.
He succeeds for the most part. Readers interested in the interrelationships among advertising, sports, and masculinity will be amply rewarded by Bloom's study. Those more interested in the culture of collectors may use his data to compare with other kinds of hobbyists. -- Bernard Mergen, American Studies International, Oct97, Vol. 35 Issue 3, p117.