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Protecting Home

Protecting Home: Class, Race, and Masculinity in Boys' Baseball

Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Protecting Home
    Book Description:

    Through a close exploration of a boys' baseball league in a gentrifying neighborhood of Philadelphia, sociologist Sherri Grasmuck reveals the accommodations and tensions that characterize multicultural encounters in contemporary American public life. Chapters explore coaching styles, parental involvement, institutional politics, parent-child relations, and children's experiences. Grasmuck identifies differences in the ways that the mostly white, working-class "old-timers" and the racially diverse, professional newcomers relate to the neighborhood. Through an innovative combination of narrative approaches, this book succeeds both in capturing the immediacy of boys' interaction at the playing field and in contributing to sophisticated theoretical debates in urban studies, the sociology of childhood, and masculinity studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-3761-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. 1 Seeing the World in Neighborhood Baseball
    (pp. 1-16)

    After watching my son strike out three times during a game early in his first baseball season, then come up to bat for the fourth time and get two strikes, I left the bleachers and walked quickly to the women’s bathroom to calm the nausea that was overwhelming me as I sat in the stands. How had someone with as little interest in male sports as I had come to care so deeply for the outcome of a game played by seven-year-old boys? What had become of me? Evidently, the same thing that happened to countless other parents I watched...

  6. 2 The Neighborhood and Race Sponsorship: “A Dropped Third Strike”
    (pp. 17-48)

    In the late 1960s, white residents of a neighborhood called Fairmount, north of Center City, regularly ran off blacks who walked through the neighborhood, often with the support of police. A red-faced Irish-Ukrainian Fairmounter, looking back at his teenage years, described the neighborhood this way: “They called our neighborhood ‘’white island’ because we were surrounded…. When I was growing up there would have been fighting no matter what. We fought every day. We fought our way to school. We fought our way home from school. We fought every day.” Thirty years later, on a summer evening in 2001, three police...

  7. 3 The Clubhouse and Class Cultures: “Bringing the Infield In”
    (pp. 49-95)

    In 1995, a middle-aged newcomer named Howard took it upon himself to run for an office in the normally uncontested election of the FSA board of directors. A businessman who lived outside the neighborhood, Howard had coached his son’s seven-to-nine team at FSA for three years prior to the election. His son, who attended a secular private school in Center City, as did many of the newcomers’ children, was a relatively strong player among the younger boys. Howard, with long, hippy-like grey hair, typically dressed in baggy khaki shorts and a polo shirt. Although he had an easygoing, personable coaching...

  8. 4 The Dugout and the Masculinity Styles of Coaches: “Never Bail Out”
    (pp. 96-146)

    Because the encounter between newcomers and old-timers at Fairmount happened in the masculine realm of baseball, part of what was at stake was competing styles of masculinity. Baseball is a central site in American culture for the passing down, from one generation of men to another, of powerful lessons about what it means to be a man.¹ But if there is one thing well established in the literature on gender relations, it is that while certain gender styles are often dominant at particular historical moments, there are usually alternative versions floating nearby as well. Whatever we call the alternative versions...

  9. 5 The Bench and Boys’ Culture: “The Heart of the Lineup”
    (pp. 147-192)

    What mattered to the boys? How did the background context shape their experiences? Did the changes in the neighborhood, the encounters with parents from different backgrounds, the organizational challenges and tensions, and the range of coaching styles filter down to them in meaningful ways? For one thing, because baseball is a highly structured encounter between competing teams, the social chemistry of a team matters greatly to any boy’s experiences. Many parents and coaches mention that teams have personalities. We have seen how the divergent styles of adult coaches give rise to very different environments for their players. But a coach’s...

  10. 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 193-205)

    The Fairmount baseball field is one example of what multiculturalism in urban public space felt like at the beginning of the twenty-first century, forty years after the civil rights movement. Although far from a social utopia, its achievements would have been hard to imagine in the not so distant past. In a changing neighborhood space, residents and outsiders who have lived most of their lives in racially segregated neighborhoods come together voluntarily to watch their children play together. It is also a space in which divergent class backgrounds meet, with competing class cultures. The social world of Fairmount sports also...

  11. Appendix: Methodological Considerations
    (pp. 206-222)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 223-234)
    (pp. 235-242)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 243-248)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 249-251)