From Publishers Weekly
Lamster paints a picture of sporting goods icon Albert Goodwill Spalding at the end of the nineteenth century, suited up and on a mission to spread the American gospel of baseball (and expand his business opportunities in the process). For six months in 1888, Spalding and two baseball teams went on a globe-spanning goodwill tour, endorsed by President Cleveland, to introduce the national American sport to the world. As Spalding books a convoy of camels to carry the touring group to the pyramids in Egypt and attempts to hire out the Coliseum in Rome, his grandiloquent business sense is rendered in all its color and force. Lamster's descriptions are careful and precise, but overly detailed scenes can become tiresome-from a sumptuous gala at Delmonico's in New York to Clicquot toasts in Australia with the mayor of Sydney, Lamster indulges in pages of the tourists' luxuriating. Influenced by P. T. Barnum and credited with fabricating the mythology of baseball that we still hold dear, Spalding's impact on the sport is obvious, and this account of his world tour should please fans of baseball and marketing mavens alike.
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In the late nineteenth century, Albert Spalding, a sporting-goods magnate and former baseball star, decided to improve business by anointing himself ambassador for baseball and taking two teams of professional players on a six-month world tour. He brought along sideshow attractions, including an aerialist who hung on a trapeze from a hot-air balloon before the game, and he paid a prominent journalist to lend his support in print. Spalding's success is debatable; spectators in Britain, for instance, were hard-pressed to follow the action and declared the game a knockoff of rounders. Spalding's jaunt was an early example of the globalization of sports (the Olympics weren't far behind), but Lamster's history, while thorough and detailed, doesn't substantively address what its reception might have suggested about overseas attitudes toward America's burgeoning cultural clout.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker