Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Review of "One Nation Under Baseball"

The old adage that sports and politics do not mix has been proven to be false many times. This book is another blow to that thought as it illustrates how the game can be a mirror of what is going on in the country at large.  Here is my review of "One Nation Under Baseball."

“One Nation Under Baseball: How the 1960’s Collided With the National Pastime” by John Florio & Ouisie Shapiro

Baseball, history, society

Publish date:
April 1, 2017

256 pages

4 of 5 stars (excellent)

No matter what time frame or era is mentioned, one can usually find a connection to baseball and the political and social culture of the times. That was especially true in the 1960’s and how they intertwine is illustrated in this book by John Florio and Ouisie Shapiro.  

Most of the important social issues and important events of the decade and are
mentioned and their connections to baseball are documented as well. There is the
moon landing by the Apollo 11 crew in 1969 – and baseball games were paused to
announce the landing generating cheers and tears from fans. The connection
between the New York Mets and the Beatles was mentioned  - or more
appropriately, a certain Mets employee who served the Beatles at their
historic Shea Stadium concert.

The most compelling writing for both society and baseball was saved for the topic of race relations. One of the more poignant stories was shared by Atlanta Braves slugger Henry Aaron when he talked about hearing dishes breaking in a restaurant where he ate a meal. He stated that it was the belief of the owner that no future customers would want to eat off of the same plate from which a black man ate, so the workers were told to break the dishes instead of wash them. There is detailed writing about the important events on this issue such as the March on Washington as well as rioting across the country.

The same attention to detail is paid to baseball issues of the decade and how they connect to the political and social fabric of the country as well.  Topics that are covered in this manner include the unionization of the players by Marvin Miller, the publication of “Ball Four” and the portrayal of the game and the challenge to baseball’s reserve clause by Curt Flood.  There is also detailed writing about the change in how sports were covered by newspaper writers, in which the stories and questions asked were not always flattering to the players or teams.  These reporters, called “chipmunks”, were the writers who revolutionized the way baseball was covered.

At times the book reads more like a history lesson about the 1960’s instead of a baseball book – and that makes it an even better book to read if one is truly interested in how the game is connected to the American mood. This is recommend for those who like reading history books, whether that history is about baseball or about America.

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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