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Past Time: Baseball As History Paperback – May 24, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0195146042 ISBN-10: 0195146042 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy and the follow-up Jackie Robinson Reader, Jules Tygiel focused his historian's eye on what was arguably baseball's most stunning single event. Dissecting it from every angle, he followed its consequences through the weft of the national fabric in a pair of consummate, readable, and marvelously entertaining books that painted an arresting portrait of a remarkable man and his remarkable ordeal. In Past Time Tygiel widens his focus to turn his considerable narrative and interpretive skills loose on the broader tapestry of the game itself. The result is a superb collection of essays on American history filtered through the national pastime's lens. "If there is a unifying theme"--and there certainly is--"it is that while the game of baseball itself has changed minimally since its origins, the context and format in which Americans have absorbed and appreciated the game have dramatically shifted."

Drawing on his encyclopedic knowledge of the game, Tygiel uses the game as his doorway for entry into--and airing out--several rooms of the American past. Though the nine essays that make up Past Time reflect the game's nine innings and are presented chronologically, they are each entities unto themselves and can be read in any order. Rarely stepping onto the playing field, they avoid the mushiness and rhapsodizing that baseball tends to evoke. Instead, they take provocative looks at the often overlooked--like why statistics hold the game together, and why holding the game together was crucial to an America emerging from the Civil War--and fresh looks at old warhorses like baseball and the Depression era, baseball and civil rights, and baseball and America's post-World War II geographical shift. The final "inning" examines such recent obsessions as rotisserie leagues and fantasy camps, and the chapter on Bobby Thompson's famed home run and how the ways we would experience the game in the early years of the Cold War would change is thoroughly absorbing. But, then, so is the rest of Past Time. It has you wishing for extra "innings." --Jeff Silverman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

"Baseball, with its long, rich, well-documented history remains a powerful vehicle for exploring the American past." In this goal Tygiel fails, but readers will likely stick around beyond the seventh-inning stretch nevertheless. In this collection of nine essays, he's gathered energetic and cogent discussions of the game. "The National Game" shows how the earlier version of baseball played in New York became the basis for the modern game, not because of "its inherent attributes" but because of the ability of its originators to incorporate emerging social attributes into the evolving game. "Adjusting to the New Order" fascinates with a portrait of Henry Chadwick, the inventor of the stat, a man who saw box scores as "a series of mini-morality plays." Perhaps the finest, "The Homes of the Braves" explores how the movement of teams in the 1950s and 1960s, starting with the Braves' move from Boston to Milwaukee in 1953, reflected America's changing demographics. In each essay, Tygiel demonstrates how baseball has reacted to the real world, but his tone often grows stiff, academic or curmudgeonly as he makes his points. When he turns back to the game, however--whether to illustrate the bitter feud between Branch Rickey and Larry McPhail or to relate the origins and madness of Rotisserie Baseball--his prose gets more casual and lively. In these moments, he's not a professor but a fan--and the shift itself is a reward, for it mirrors that moment when each of us reaches his or her seat and the world of work dissolves in the realization, "I'm at the game." 32 halftones.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 24, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195146042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195146042
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 0.8 x 5.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #222,186 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Eric V. Moye on May 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I must start with the disclaimer: I am an unabashed fan of Baseball. To some of us, there is so much about Baseball which parallels the growth and development of our country. Jules Tygiel does an admirable job of linking some of Baseball's magic moments with the spirit of the times, and interweaves the two in a fascinating piece of work.
The history of some of the early magnates of the game (Comiskey, Mack and McGraw) parallels some of the other early captains of industry, and understanding how they did what they did explains much of how we have moved from agrarian society to industrial capitalism. The segregation of the Negro Leagues and the ultimate integration of the game are richly explored, set with the backdrop of the issue of race in America.
"The Shot Heard Round The World" was certainly one of the games greatest moments. But I had never thought of it in terms of the "post-war pre-eminence" (some, including the author might instead say the "arrogance") of America, and the place of New York as the center of the world (I guess the moniker "Mediteranian" had been already taken several centuries prior).
Easy reading. A great gift for those who have an interest in the game which goes deeper than what can be found in tomorrow morning's box scores.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on July 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
Jules Tygiel, one of America's finest historians and citizens, died the day before yesterday, July 1 2008, after a three year tussle with cancer. He was a good friend; his son and mine were high school classmates, and had played against each other in Little League baseball. Jules and I were third-base coaches for their opposite teams. Jules taught history at San Francisco State University from 1978 until this year, doing the labor of Sisyphus to maintain intellectual excitement at that wounded school, which was so exciting when he started there but which was dampered and hampered by its Republican political foes. Jules's two historical concentrations were the social history of baseball and the social/economic history of America in the 1920s. His graduate seminar in the latter was described to me again and again as the most exciting history class at SFSU.

Jules wrote a concise, even-handed biography of Ronald Reagan - "Ronald Reagan and the Triumph of American Conservatism - a book that acknowledges Reagan's political skills yet clearly depicts the inconsistencies and shortcomings of his two terms as president. Jules also wrote "The Great Los Angeles Swindle: Oil, Stocks and Scandal During the Roaring Twenties," but his most widely-read books were about baseball, which he loved not only as a sport but as an aspect of America's better nature. Born in Brooklyn in 1949, Jules grew up a passionate Dodgers fan; ironically, he spent most of his career living within a few minutes of the SF Giants ballparks.

Jules first published "Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy" in 1983.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Doug Pappas on May 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In the nine essays comprising this volume, historian Jules Tygiel demonstrates his mastery of 150 years of baseball history. But rather than attempt a comprehensive treatment of the topic, he focuses on key issues which often slip through the cracks of broader histories and biographies: the evolution of baseball statistics, the men whose personalities dictated the evolution of the game from 1900-20, the effect of mass media on the game and its fans, the rise of fantasy games and adult fantasy camps in recent decades.
This shouldn't be the first baseball history book in your library. If you have a shelf-ful of books on the topic, though, "Past Time" should be among them. No matter how many you've read, you'll learn something new here.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bruce J. Wasser on May 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
When Professory Jules Tygiel presented his authoritative analysis of Jackie Robinson in "Baseball's Great Experiment," he gave notice that writing about baseball could not only reflect history but provide lovers of the "national game" a sense of how baseball reflected and influenced the society in which they live. His most recent effort, "Past Time," is a splendid integration of baseball and the dominant social and economic themes resonating around and through the sport. Written in nine chapters, each representing an inning/era in baseball's past, Professor Tygiel explores numerous athletic and historical themes in a beautifully written and thoroughly researched volume. It belongs not only on shelves of those, like me, who love the sport, but those, like me, who believe that imaginative and provocative histories can help assist all of us in understanding who we are and how we became the way we are.
Readers could enjoy this volume by selecting any one of the chapters; although the work is presented chronologically, Professor Tygiel offers each "inning" as its own entity. The meticulous research that entered into his writing (the book has some twenty pages of footnotes) weaves seamlessly into truly graceful writing. As he would say of DiMaggio, "he makes it look easy." There are trenchant observations on baseball as business, on the place of a ballclub in a city's self-definition and how the media has enhanced and democratized the sport.
I especially enjoyed his talented analysis of the impact of media on the sport.
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