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The Barling Darling: Hal Smith in American Baseball Paperback – April 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The St. Louis Cardinals were contenders in 1957 and ’59, two of Hal Smith’s best years as a Major League player. Smith, out of tiny Barling, Arkansas, had risen in the Minor Leagues, and even played in Mexico, Cuba, and the Asian circuit. Readers will be intrigued to learn key roles Smith played as baseball went through profound changes in the late 1950s. At the time, Smith was helping Bob Gibson grow into an All Star pitcher and Tim McCarver to become one of the great catchers. Smith, himself, played in the 1959 All Star Game—one of only two Cardinals to do so that year. The “Barling Darling” had a certain magic working for him, a quality readers will discover within the pages of this book. They will also observe the parallels between baseball’s maturation during the 1950s and those of American society at the time. Higgins has crafted the story of a man who not only stood out in his time but also reflected its best hopes, its dynamic evolution in the postwar era, as well as the expansion of “America’s game” onto the national stage, propelled in part by the medium of the day, television.

About the Author

Billy D. Higgins is professor of history at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith and a member of the Society of American Baseball Researchers. His previous book, A Stranger and a Sojourner: Peter J. Caulder, Free Black Frontiersman in Antebellum Arkansas (University of Arkansas Press), won the Ragsdale Award for excellence in historical writing about Arkansas.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Butler Center for Arkansas Studies (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935106090
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935106098
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,904,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Book 'em Danno on April 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
Although Harry Caray gave Hal Smith the rhythmic handle of "The Barling Darling" it belies the more humble nature of the real Hal Smith. Hal Smith is revealed to be a genuine, honest, hard-working man who traverses the tumult of history with a particular elegance and style. Accompanied by the author, Billy Higgins, we are invited to tag along through not only Hal Smith's baseball career but through the history through which his life intersected. With a heightened sociological imagination Higgins is able to locate the life of Hal Smith as an individual within the wider social context of mid 20th century America. The reader is treated to incisive detail as to how the unpredictable turns in the life of a nation impact the life of an individual. With a keen eye Higgins details Hal Smith not just as a solid baseball player but as someone who loved to play the game, and loved to play it with others. Clearly, what has given Hal Smith the measure of success he has had in life- on and off the diamond, is a collegiality that exudes warmth and confidence in those around him. Raw talent is insufficient as a single ingredient to being a successful athlete. When talent is combined with compassion and empathy the results are sure to create well played games, warm memories, and good friends regardless of the win-loss column- a profound lesson for us all to take note of.

While the grace that Hal Smith exhibited throughout his ball-playing days (and after that which knocked him off the diamond) may seem uncommon today, I think it is more accurate to say that it is uncommonly documented. Prone to the glitzy, the flashy, and the arrogant, we are inundated by the media today with the hyped-up lifestyles of these pseudo-celebrity athletes.
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