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Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville: A Lifelong Passion for Baseball Paperback – May 17, 2004
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Baseball, Gould writes in this collection of diverse essays and reviews, is an intellectuals game, but only accidentally so; plenty of smart folks like other sports. In his case, though, baseball was the game to follow, for he grew up in the New York of the 1950s, when the city had "the three greatest teams in major league baseball." Two of those teams later moved far away, but Gould nursed his passion into adulthood, all the while acquiring plenty of ammunition for sophisticated arguments about every facet of the game. In these pages, for instance, he weighs in on such eminently arguable matters as the greatest player the sport has known (Ty Cobb, maybe), the greatest single game ever played (game six of the 1975 World Series), why it is that no one hits .400 these days (its a matter of statistics, but so much more too), and whether the current system of postseason playoffs is a good thing (no).
The sport has had few more learned and literate fans than Gould, who brings his best to these pieces. Celebrating triumphs and mourning tragedies on and off the diamond, this book makes just the right companion for the new season, and for the seasons to come. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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One of the best pieces in the book is actually the introduction by David Halberstam, a good friend of Gould's, a fellow intellectual, and an ardent baseball fan himself. It is literally the perfect bookend for the last selection in the book, a wonderful reprint of a long piece in the NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS which manages to incorporate a meaningful summary review of ten diverse baseball biographies into a discussion of the elemental attraction of baseball, the parallel changes in the sport and our culture while mixing grandiose generalizations with little known facts.Read more ›
This book collects three dozen of Gould's baseball essays. He writes about things like the umpire Babe Pinelli, who called the final strike of the perfect game that Don Larsen pitched in the 1956 World Series. The final pitch was technically outside the strike zone, but only by a few inches. But, considering the context (both a World Series and a perfect game on the line), Pinelli thought that the batter - Dale Mitchell - should have at least made contact, perhaps to tap it foul, because questionable pitches can go either way. Afterward, Mitchell groused that the ball was not a strike, and Gould perceptively concludes that Mitchell was right, but Pinelli was righter.
Also included in this collection is Gould's famous essay about why no one hits .400 (batting average) anymore. What he argues is, curiously, there are no more .400 hitters because players in general are all much better.
As an avid baseball fan and Yankees lover, I enjoyed this book a lot. Any book that re-lives the memory of the ball going through Bill Buckner's legs in the 1986 Mets-Red Sox World Series, thus giving new credence to the Curse of the Bambino, has my gratitude.
The problem, though, is that Gould was not around to oversee the final assembly and publication of this book.Read more ›
Many of these articles are "set-pieces." By that I mean Gould repeats parts of one article in another. For instance, as a child, Gould played stickball in the streets of New York City. This crops up over an over again. He also uses stickball as an explanation as to why so many intellectuals (Bart Giamati, George Will, David Halberstam to name a few) are/were so addicted to baseball. He disavows the notion that baseball imitates life or vice versa. His explanation is that many of these men played baseball as kids and are partial to the game.
Gould examines such issues as why there are no longer any .400 hitters. Gould's explanation is that the standard deviation between the best players and the poorest has lessened since the .400 hitters were in evidence. Later on he discusses sports biographies, using such professiorial words as "hagiographical" and "quotidian" to describe the two kinds. The first concentrates on the player's exploits on the field; whereas, the other would emphasize social commentary and the player's personal life. The quotidian sort of bio took center stage with Jim Boutin's BALL FOUR and has been imitated ever since.
Although he's spent most of his life in Boston, Gould has also been a Yankee fan since he was a kid, and as such, his favorite player has always been Joe Dimaggio. Gould considers Joltin' Joe's fifty-six game hitting streak the greatest achievement in the history of baseball, despite the fact that Joe did it twice actually, once as a player in the Pacific Coast league.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This collection of essays is an astute analysis of the game of baseball. Gould tells us why there are no longer any 400 hitters and why it is extremely unlikely that anyone will... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Paul Moskowitz
As a lifelong baseball and Yankees fan, this was reading euphoria.
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Stephen Jay Gould has long been one of my favorite writers, principally as paleontologist. Here,his other passion is so infectious that you are easily drawn into his childhood... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Kindle Customer
I read this book for nostalgia reasons and I was not diappointed. If you are a baseball fan this book is amust read!Published on February 7, 2014 by 31jj
Published at the end of his life, Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville is a collection of essays by renowned anthropologist, Stephen Jay Gould. Read morePublished on May 11, 2012 by MiddleSchoolTeacher
Gould was a great baseball fan. His writings about what it was like to grow up in New York City during the 50's are wonderful. Read morePublished on June 26, 2007 by Martin Andrade
Though Professor Gould's scientific writing glows, this collection of his musings on baseball varies from satisfactory to maudlin. Read morePublished on August 6, 2005 by Professor Rowe