Monday, September 5, 2016

Review of "Eighth Wonder of the World"

In order to have two reviews posted in one day, that means one of those books has to be pretty good to have me read it so quickly.  This book certainly qualifies as one, as I finished it today on my train rides to and from the ballpark today.  It was a page turner about the Houston Astrodome that covered anything you can think of about the iconic stadium. Here is my review of "Eighth Wonder of the World."

“The Eighth Wonder of the World: The Life of Houston’s Iconic Astrodome” by Robert C. Trumpbour and Kenneth Womack

Baseball, Football (American), Oilers, Astros, history, stadium, politics

Publish date:
September 1, 2016

272 pages

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

When the Houston Astrodome opened for its first baseball game in April 1965, it was so unlike any other sports stadium that was in use at the time.  How the iconic structure came into being and what it meant to the city of Houston and to sports stadiums is captured in this outstanding book by Robert Trumpbour and Kenneth Womack.

While the Astrodome was the home field for both baseball’s Houston Astros and football’s Houston Oilers, the book’s sports passages concentrate on baseball and the quirks it presented as a ballpark. The early flaws that are well-known such as the glare from the original roof and the death of the natural grass inside the dome are covered well in the book and how quickly the problems were addressed.

However, the best writing in the book is saved for the political maneuvering (both in government and in baseball) to get the Astrodome built. Trumpbour and Womack describe all the deals and pleading that Roy Hofheinz and others had to work in order to gain approval. The baseball politics to make sure that Houston would get a team to be a tenant in the Dome was just as intriguing as that was not a sure bet either.

No matter the topic covered, every aspect of the stadium’s history was chronicled and written in a such a manner that will make the reader want to learn more. Even topics such as the architecture of the stadium and the push for destruction of the currently empty mausoleum made for interesting reading.

Throughout the book, the two authors emphasize how the Astrodome not only made Houston a “big league” city, but they also noted that many of the innovations in the fans’ experience at a stadium, such as in-house restaurants, padded seating and a video scoreboard, are here today because of Hofheniz’s vision. The authors also made the same observation for items such as private boxes. Other teams and stadiums copied this because after all, as the authors stated, “luxury was not a patentable commodity.”

Any reader who wants to learn more about this state-of-the-art (for its time) stadium and its history and the current push to decide its fate should read this book. It covers the entire history of the “Eighth Wonder of the World” in one terrific book.

I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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