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A People's History of Baseball Hardcover – February 23, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Chronicles the historic power struggles among those seeking to define and regulate pro baseball. . . . A fine book."--Library Journal

"A valuable and vibrant contribution to an expanding scholarly literature on American baseball."--The Historian

 "Nathanson's arguments are intriguing throughout."--The Journal of American History

"Armed with convincing and creative arguments that challenge the many myths surrounding America's national pastime, A People's History of Baseball provides ample fodder for debate among sport history scholars as well as general readers interested in exploring the game's meaningful role in shaping the American identity."--Samuel O. Regalado, author of Viva Baseball! Latin Major Leaguers and Their Special Hunger

"A People’s History of Baseball provides vigorous and fascinating challenges to the ways in which fans have related to a game that [Nathanson] says has been ‘virtually synonymous’ with America for well over a century.”--The Boston Globe

"Nathanson has researched thoroughly, writes persuasively, and does not shy away from challenging even the most revered narrative in baseball:  Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson, and the integration of Major League Baseball."--Journal of Sport History

About the Author

Mitchell Nathanson is a professor of legal writing at Villanova University School of Law and the author of The Fall of the 1977 Phillies: How a Baseball Team's Collapse Sank a City's Spirit.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; 1st Edition edition (February 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252036808
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252036804
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,530,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mitch Nathanson, Professor of Law and professor in the Jeffrey S. Moorad Center for the Study of Sports Law at the Villanova University School of Law, focuses in his scholarship on the intersection of sports, law and society and has known how to read for as long as he can remember. He has written numerous articles examining the interplay between, most notably, baseball and American culture and has never been eligible for the Man Booker Prize. His article, "The Irrelevance of Baseball's Antitrust Exemption: A Historical Review," won the 2006 McFarland-SABR Award which is presented in recognition of the best historical or biographical baseball articles of the year and was not shortlisted for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. His 2008 book, The Fall of the 1977 Phillies: How a Baseball Team's Collapse Sank a City's Spirit, is a social history of 20th century Philadelphia as told through the relationship between the city and its baseball teams - the Athletics and the Phillies. It was not considered for the National Book Award. In 2009 he was the co-producer and writer of "Base Ball: The Philadelphia Game," a documentary "webisode" on the 19th century development of the game within the city that is part of a larger documentary project, "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment," currently in production and to which he is a contributing scholar. He believes it should have at least been nominated for Best Documentary Short Subject at the 80th Academy Awards or, at a minimum, an Independent Spirit Award, which he doesn't consider to be such a big deal anyway. In addition, he was a scholarly advisor to the 2011 HBO production, "The Curious Case of Curt Flood," which, to his knowledge, was not viewed by either President Barack Obama or Salmon Rushdie. In the United States, he has lectured at, among other venues, the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and since 2011 has been a Guest Professor in the International Sports Law Program at the Instituto Superior de Derecho y Economia in Madrid, Spain. He has also eaten numerous times at Denny's. In addition to his most recent book, A People's History of Baseball, he is co-author of Understanding Baseball: A Textbook (McFarland & Co., Inc., Publishers), neither of which resulted in his being awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant. His article "Who Exempted Baseball, Anyway: The Curious Development of the Antitrust Exemption that Never Was," was published in the Winter, 2013 edition of the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and won the 2013 McFarland-SABR Award. He thought it should have at least won, as well, one of the minor Pen American Literary Awards that nobody cares about. His next book, "God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen," will be published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in the spring of 2016. Currently, he has a slight headache and has just realized that he forgot to charge his phone last night. He would like to be considered for a National Humanities Medal.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My library shelves are lined with baseball books, from Roger Angell to Robert Whiting - but this one book truly made me re-think all the others. Nathanson combines progressive politics, legal scholarship, and baseball history into a terrific read, providing context and perspective for several of baseballs old "mythologies", and well as shining a light on opportunities for creating new "crowd-sourced" myths (SABR-metrics, fantasy league, sports blogs). Nathanson also writes with a focused passion born from a belief system, so if you don't agree with his POV, or are just plain close-minded, you may find the attitude a bit over-bearing. But I found an energy and a flow to the writing that was joyous. The big take-away for me was that an era of top-down (authoritarian) myth-making is at an end, and we are now in a time of bottom-up myth-making. The new myth-making is more democratic, more engaging, and more flexible - most importantly, it's less manipulative and less corruptible.

I particularly found the sub-chapter on Bill James illuminating. Bill James' early work invited and encouraged an influx of "outsider" involvement: data-based, but allowing combinations and relationships to be established which changed the weighting of existing stats. Certainly an inflection point in baseball myth-making, this also marks a change in tone within the book, wherein Nathanson closes the loop on re-telling our history of manufactured myths, and begins a more specific examination or our current culture and media. Nathanson clearly identifies James' own selective viewing and myth-making - that is, James does not set out to remove myth-making from baseball, but to modify the myth-maker.

This is also one of those rare books that made me dig through the bibliography, and check some of the sources and notes. I think most of us can count on one hand the number of books that have had deeply interesting bibliographies - a reflection, I think, if the quality of research here.
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Format: Hardcover
Nathanson offers a populist polemic here, debunking the constructed myth of baseball as our golden national pastime, expressive of American can-do, sportsmanship, and all-for-one spirit. The myth, as he sees it, emerges from the usual neo-marxist's villains, complacent and rapacious owners, complicit journalists and "insiders," and agents of false consciousness (playing-fields-of-Rugby heirs, morning-in-America optimists, worshipful fans in the seats of power). And as is usual with ideological polemics, Nathanson's provides a useful, because different, point of view. He is quite good on Branch Rickey's deployment of Jackie Robinson, the one episode of baseball history he dwells on at length, and on the history of baseball's special legal status. He gives one a fresh sense of the slipping of owners' control through expansion, the growth of players' rights, the spread of television, the new popularity of alternative major sports, sabermetrics, and the blogosphere. Nonetheless, and especially since he seems to rely on a variety of secondary sources rather than original research, one ought to treat each of his assertions with as much suspicion as he directs toward those of others. He can discern no motives save those that suit his predispositions, and simplifies history to the point, I think, of occasional silliness. The line of argument about underdogs and "positive thinking" seems to me at best shallow. Sabermetric analysis is invaluable, agreed, but a great deal of evidence renders absurd Nathanson's claim that it allows outsiders with computer access an understanding of baseball equal to that of people who have seen and evaluated thousands of plate appearances, and who have experience dealing with actual players.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Having been a fan of baseball for many, many years, I was skeptical about reading a book about baseball...especially a "people's history." What could Mr. Nathanson possibly have to say that so many other people haven't said in the past? Well, I was pleasantly surprised and totally thrilled about the way he approached baseball's history. If you don't read any other factual book about baseball--read this one. His research is impeccable, as is his writing style. He has managed to pack into a few hundred pages, what seems to be the highlights and lowlights of baseball's hallowed (lol) history. The conclusions he draws from his analyses of major events sheds a completely different light on our nation's pasttime. This book has changed how I will view baseball in the future.
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