Book Reviews

One Nation Under Baseball- How the 1960’s Collided With the National Pastime

Book review at Knup Sports

This book by Florio and Shapiro chronicles the 1960’s and how events such as racism and reserve clause shaped the national pastime into today’s game.

This is such an interesting book from authors John Florio and Ouisie Shapiro. It keeps your attention from start to finish. They touch on some subjects that are a bit sensitive but they happened and they shaped baseball.

They jump right in with race relations and how the black athletes were not included in many aspects of major league baseball. All the way from not staying in the same hotels during Spring Training to eating at places for blacks only. It was two classes for the majority of the time.

In 1947, Bill Veeck has some issues and tries to get black layers onto his team as they are good athletes and Larry Doby is his choice to break into the American League and the Cleveland Indians. The book ventures into how the NFL dealt with players along with the boxing world seeing black fighters facing white fighters.

One of the most interesting stories in the early part of the book deals with Peter O’Malley and his strong arm attempts to manipulate the town council and mayor in Vero Beach, Florida where they hold Spring Training. He waned the black paying customers to move out of right field and allow them to sit anywhere and the city found that offensive. I will leave the results of this fight for you to read.

Later, the issues with the reserve clause are expounded on and how it directly affected all players no matter if they are black or white. The salaries and working conditions were of no business of the players and the owners came down hard on this issue.

Sandy Koufax, one of the best pitchers in baseball during the 1960s was a master of understanding he had only a limited number of innings to pitch before his days were over and he marketed himself that way. But what he didn’t do made him more famous to a cross-section of people in the world. He refused to pitch on Yom Kippur day (Koufax was Jewish) which coincided with the opening of the World Series. His employer, the Los Angeles Dodgers, had no issues with his request to sit it out. The Jewish faith instantly made him a hero and people all over the world honored him for his decision.

There are some interesting inside stories about Curt Flood and is conquest to get the reserve clause nullified. People in the office with commissioner Bowie Kuhn offer insight into their way of thinking and then it plays out about how major league executives couldn’t stand the fact the former player Jim Bouton wrote a tell-all story about what goes on behind the scenes,

There are dozens of more stories like these throughout the book and the authors present them with research and authority. There are times the book drags a bit which include discussion about the new breed of sportswriters known as chipmunks and a few stories about The Beatles that is a stretch to include in this book.

This is a book that all baseball fans should put on their shelf as it gives us a glimpse into how these events help shape and mold the national pastime. The book is worth reading.

I would like to thank the University of Nebraska Press for a copy of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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