Playing with Tigers

Playing with Tigers

A Minor League Chronicle of the Sixties

George Gmelch

288 pages
20 illustrations, 1 table

Hardcover

February 2016

978-0-8032-7681-9

$26.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

In 1965 George Gmelch signed a contract to play professional baseball with the Detroit Tigers organization. Growing up sheltered in an all-white, affluent San Francisco suburb, he knew little of the world outside. Over the next four seasons, he came of age in baseball’s Minor Leagues through experiences ranging from learning the craft of the professional game to becoming conscious of race and class for the first time.

Playing with Tigers is not a typical baseball memoir. Now a well-known anthropologist, Gmelch recounts a baseball education unlike any other as he got to know small-town life across the United States against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, civil rights protests, and the emergence of the counterculture. The social and political turmoil of the times spilled into baseball, and Gmelch experienced the consequences firsthand as he played out his career in the Jim Crow South. Playing with Tigers captures the gritty, insular, and humorous life and culture of Minor League baseball during a period when both the author and the country were undergoing profound changes.

Drawing from journals he kept as a player, letters, and recent interviews with thirty former teammates, coaches, club officials, and even former girlfriends, Gmelch immerses the reader in the life of the Minor Leagues, capturing—in a manner his unique position makes possible—the universal struggle of young athletes trying to make their way.

Author Bio

George Gmelch is a professor of anthropology at the University of San Francisco and at Union College in Schenectady, New York. He is the author of a dozen books, including In the Ballpark: The Working Lives of Baseball People, with J. J. Weiner (Bison Books, 2006), and Inside Pitch: Life in Professional Baseball (Bison Books, 2006) and is the editor of Baseball without Borders: The International Pastime (Nebraska, 2006). His work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Psychology Today, Society, and Natural History.

Praise

"You don't need to have any particular team affiliation to enjoy this book. It really is a good book about a life journey that has a baseball flair to it."—Gregg Kersey, Gregg's Baseball Bookcase

"Playing with Tigers provides a wonderful, easy-to-follow anthropological view of an above-average minor league baseball player coming of age in a rapidly changing social environment."—Timothy Dodson, Journal of Sport History

"Gmelch's Playing With Tigers balances humility with grace, heartbreak with humor, and victory with defeat in a way that readers not only understand, but appreciate."—R. Zachary Sanzone, Spitball

“A completely engaging, insightful tour of a lost era of the 1960s in baseball and America. . . . A ballplayer-turned-anthropologist, Gmelch skillfully applies his ethnographic skills to his own experience. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to want to read this fascinating, very personal, and often surprising story. Enthusiastically recommended.”—Robert Elias, author of The Empire Strikes Out 
 
 

“George Gmelch is an astute guide to the magic and mystery of the Minor Leagues in the 1960s, and Playing with Tigers belongs alongside baseball memoirs by Brosnan, Bouton, Jordan, and Hayhurst. Anyone who cares about the people who play the game should read this insightful and intelligent book.”—Trey Strecker, editor of NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture

“A compelling glimpse into a vanished social world, the trials and tribulations of an aspiring Minor League Tiger, as well as the glimmerings of an insightful, productive social scientist who still loves and has a feel for the game.”—Daniel A. Nathan, president of the North American Society for Sport History and author of Saying It’s So: A Cultural History of the Black Sox Scandal 

“A remarkable baseball story from an extraordinary anthropologist and writer.”—Dan Gordon, author of Haunted Baseball

“A poignant memoir about coming of age in and through baseball in the turbulent 1960s. Racial, gender, political, and identity conflicts—they’re all here, recounted by a gifted author.”—Jean Ardell, author of Breaking into Baseball: Women and the National Pastime

“George Gmelch has written a true and compelling story of Minor League Baseball in the ’60s. . . . It’s an engaging and accurate portrait of the lives and work of Minor League hopefuls chasing the dream of making it to the Majors.”—Jim Leyland, former Major League manager of the Detroit Tigers, Florida Marlins, and Pittsburgh Pirates


Table of Contents

List of Illustrations    
Acknowledgments    
Introduction    
1. Ambition for the Game    
2. Breaking In: Duluth-Superior Dukes    
3. Wearing Kaline’s Pants: Jamestown Tigers    
4. A Little Wildness: Jamestown Tigers    
5. Spring Training: Tiger Town    
6. Putting Up Numbers: Daytona Beach Islanders    
7. Moving Up: Daytona to Rocky Mount    
8. Double Passage: The Carolinas    
9. Southern Exposure: The Rocky Mount Leafs    
10. When the Cheering Stops: The Rocky Mount Leafs    
11. Exiled: The Québec Provincial League    
12. Lights Out: Drummondville Les Royaux    
Epilogue    
Appendix: What They Did after Baseball    
Notes    

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