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Book Review: Baseball Is America: Origins and History: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly by Victor Alexander Baltov, Jr.

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Cheating in baseball (at any and all levels) has been re-defined and is now known as “strategy” or the “competitive edge.” At least according to Victor Alexander Baltov, Jr., author of Baseball is America: Origins and History: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.  He laments that “High performance with integrity is out of vogue.”  In Baltov’s view, our current culture has condoned lying, cheating, and stealing as acceptable behaviors in a society’s strike zone that stretches from the nose to the toes and just as wide.

The game once (and in many circles, still) known as “The Great American Pastime” provides Baltov with enough innings for metaphors to last till daybreak.  My own experience in officiating football for 14 years has given me pause to be concerned about the lack of self-control and loss of respect; not just for others, but ourselves. 

The release of The Graduate in 1967 was a bellwether event in Baltov’s narrative.  His interest in the Mike Nichols film is not so much that Marilyn Monroe turned down the role of Mrs. Robinson, but the lyrics in the song of the same name.  Concerning the lyric, “Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you,” Paul Simon comments  that America yearns for heroes of the past and DiMaggio was the end of the line.

My personal interest in baseball began to wane as a teenager and then lapsed completely when the MLB players went on strike.  I was looking forward to this review as the World Series approached since that seems to be my only interest in baseball now.  My wife and I consider ourselves to be practitioners of politibacy (abstention from politics) and so it was a surprise to discover that Baseball is America is more about politics than sports.

Maybe I can count the metaphors while they’re changing pitchers and the second string outfielder is texting his outside woman.  If you like to mix politics with baseball — and the mid-term elections will coincide with the series — this book is for you!

 [And there’s more — it’s the second in a trilogy.  First was A Child of Baseball and the third will be the soon-to-be-released, Reclaiming the Strike Zone.  Check the author’s website for details.]

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