Baseball

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Baseball

The Turbulent Midcentury Years

Steven P. Gietschier

672 pages
49 photographs, index

Hardcover

July 2023

978-1-4962-3537-4

$44.95 Pre-order

About the Book

Baseball: The Turbulent Midcentury Years explores the history of organized baseball during the middle of the twentieth century, examining the sport on and off the field and contextualizing its development as both sport and business within the broader contours of American history. Steven P. Gietschier begins with the Great Depression, looking at how those years of economic turmoil shaped the sport and how baseball responded. Gietschier covers a then-burgeoning group of owners, players, and key figures—among them Branch Rickey, Larry MacPhail, Hank Greenberg, Ford Frick, and several others—whose stories figure prominently in baseball’s past and some of whom are still prominent in its collective consciousness.

Combining narrative and analysis, Gietschier tells the game’s history across more than three decades while simultaneously exploring its politics and economics, including, for example, how the game confronted and barely survived the United States’ entry into World War II; and how owners controlled their labor supply—the players; and how the business of baseball interacted with the federal government. He reveals how baseball handled the return to peacetime and the defining postwar decade, including the integration of the game, the demise of the Negro Leagues, the emergence of television, and the first efforts to move franchises and expand into new markets. Gietschier considers much of the work done by biographers, scholars, and baseball researchers to inform a new and current history of baseball in one of its more important and transformational periods.
 

Author Bio

Steven P. Gietschier is an archival consultant for The Sporting News. He taught American history, sport history, and the history and culture of baseball at a midwestern university before retiring in 2020, and prior to that he served in several roles for The Sporting News. He is the editor of Replays, Rivalries, and Rumbles: The Most Iconic Moments in American Sports.

Praise

“Steven Gietschier knows that history is not merely a record of what happened long ago but also what it may portend for today’s game, fans, and nation. The Seymours’ scholarly history of baseball ended in 1930; this ambitious, sprawling volume tells us what has happened since and why—it is a splendid successor. If you take a serious interest in baseball, Baseball: The Turbulent Midcentury Years must find a place on your shelf.”—John Thorn, official historian of Major League Baseball

“Baseball seemingly lurched from one crisis to the next during the middle decades of the twentieth century, as a host of new and newly urgent challenges threatened to overshadow the on-field product. In Baseball: The Turbulent Midcentury Years, Steven Gietschier gives due consideration to both baseball’s triumphs and its blind spots, providing much-needed clarity about a troubled and misunderstood era. Highly recommended!”—Peter Morris, author of A Game of Inches: The Stories behind the Innovations That Shaped Baseball

“Business, baseball, and politics make for a fascinating discussion about America during the mid-twentieth century. Good narrative stories are paired with analysis to offer a new look at turbulent time in American history. Baseball: The Turbulent Midcentury Years is a must-read for fans of baseball and American history.”—Leslie Heaphy, associate professor of history at Kent State University at Stark

“Extremely well researched and ingeniously organized. Steven Gietschier has produced a work that I predict will stand the test of time. There is something of value to fans, baseball and cultural historians, and lovers of a good yarn on almost every page.”—Lee Lowenfish, author of the award-winning biography Branch Rickey: Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman

“‘Dunnie’s baby’—know his real name? What manager lived with ‘an entire retinue of shady characters’? Why did DiMaggio take a pay cut from $40,000 to $50 a month? Here are all the answers. What a stupendous book! All the tumult and shouting of organized baseball’s 150 years of messy, thrilling, hair-raising, and altogether unpredictably beautiful evolution.”—Dave Kindred, author of Leave Out the Tragic Parts: A Grandfather’s Search for a Boy Lost to Addiction

Table of Contents

Introduction
Prologue: “A Grim Harvest”
1. “The Ball Player Is a Fortunate Man”
2. “So You’re the Goddamned Prohibitionist”
3. “A Tyro in the Intricacies of Organized Baseball”
4. “The Yankees Need Building Up”
5. “Keen Competition throughout the Closing Month”
6. “They Could Never Say He Wasn't a ‘Real Jew’”
7. “It Would Be Best for the Country to Keep Baseball Going”
8. “A Great Display of Tingling Patriotism”
9. “The Smiling Young Man with the $1,000,000 Check Book”
10. “Bright Colored Paper and Red Ribbons”
11. “Il A Gagné Ses Épaulettes”
12. “A Sound If Not Spectacular Choice”
13. “I Have Long Desired to See California”
14. “Henry, Don’t Go Out There”
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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