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Expanding the Strike Zone

Expanding the Strike Zone: Baseball in the Age of Free Agency

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Expanding the Strike Zone
    Book Description:

    With its iconic stars and gleaming ballparks, baseball has been one of the most captivating forms of modern popular culture. In Expanding the Strike Zone, Daniel A. Gilbert examines the history and meaning of the sport’s tumultuous changes since the midtwentieth century, amid Major League Baseball’s growing global influence. From the rise of ballplayer unionism to the emergence of new forms of scouting, broadcasting, and stadium development, Gilbert shows that the baseball world has been home to struggles over work and territory that resonate far beyond the playing field. Readers encounter both legendary and unheralded figures in this sweeping history, which situates Major League Baseball as part of a larger culture industry. The book examines a labor history defined at once by the growing power of big league stars—from Juan Marichal and Curt Flood to Fernando Valenzuela and Ichiro Suzuki—and the collective struggles of players working to make a living throughout the baseball world. It also explores the territorial politics that have defined baseball’s development as a form of transnational popular culture, from the impact of Dominican baseball academies to the organized campaign against stadium development by members of Seattle’s Asian American community. Based on a rich body of research along with new readings of popular journalism, fiction, and film, Expanding the Strike Zone highlights the ways in which baseball’s players, owners, writers, and fans have shaped and reshaped the sport as a central element of popular culture from the postwar boom to the Great Recession.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-259-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Why does baseball matter? Why do we care so deeply about the teams we follow? How do we manage to turn games into consequential events? These are the sorts of fundamental philosophical questions that many of us have been forced to ask ourselves—or our loved ones—in states of baseball-inspired despair. I found myself doing this kind of soul searching in late October 2003, grasping for clues that might explain the depth of my depression in the wake of the Red Sox’ defeat at the hands of the Yankees in the seventh game of that year’s American League Championship...

  5. 1 The Roots of Free Agency: Integration and Expansion in the Baseball World
    (pp. 9-40)

    Opening day is always a special occasion, containing all the hope and possibility of a new season for players and fans alike. The start of the 1964 National League campaign had a particular significance in New York City, marking the debut of a state-of-the-art home for the local club. On April 17, over fifty thousand New Yorkers made their way to Shea Stadium in Queens to see the Mets christen their diamond with a 4–3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Mets had been born two years earlier, playing in the Polo Grounds in upper Manhattan, where the New...

  6. 2 A Piece of Property: The Making and Meaning of Free Agency in Major League Baseball
    (pp. 41-74)

    While masanori murakami was making history with the San Francisco Giants in the early fall of 1964, another team was rising to the top of the National League. Aided by an epic late-season collapse by the Philadelphia Phillies, the upstart St. Louis Cardinals captured the pennant and went on to defeat the defending champion New York Yankees in the World Series. The Redbirds’ triumph over the Bronx Bombers in 1964 marked the coming-out party for one of the decade’s most successful clubs. The Cardinals won the World Series again in 1967, defeating Carl Yastrzemski and the “Impossible Dream” Boston Red...

  7. 3 Two Strikes: Star Power and Solidarity in the United States and Mexico
    (pp. 75-106)

    Reggie jackson played his final games as a member of the New York Yankees during the 1981 World Series. He suffered an injury during the American League playoffs and watched the first three Series games against the Los Angeles Dodgers from the bench. Though the slugger went three for three with a home run in Game 4, his return to the lineup wasn’t enough to overcome the surging Dodgers, who captured L.A.’s first title since 1965. The 1981 World Series defeat ushered in a period of decline for the Yankees. While Jackson left New York as a Big Apple–sized...

  8. 4 On the Borders of Free Agency: Dominican Baseball and the Rise of the Academies
    (pp. 107-135)

    One marker of Fernando Valenzuela’s considerable cultural impact is the symbolic position he occupies in one of Hollywood’s most celebrated baseball films—Bull Durham(1988). In a pivotal scene, Annie Savoy (played by Susan Sarandon) refers to Valenzuela’s unmistakable windup while offering pitching advice to Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (played by Tim Robbins), a minor league prospect with “a million-dollar arm and a five-cent head,” whose unfortunate tendency to think too much has led to a losing record.

    Savoy:Now, I want you to breathe through your eyelids.

    LaLoosh:My eyelids?

    Savoy:Yeah—like the lava lizards of the Galapagos...

  9. 5 Constructing Ichiro’s Home Field: Seattle, the Mariners, and the Politics of Location
    (pp. 136-165)

    In a sport whose history is marked and measured by individual achievements, relatively few Major League Baseball players have earned single-name status. The early months of the 2001 season saw this elite cohort, led by such larger-than-life stars as Babe, Jackie, Reggie, and Fernando, welcome a new member: Ichiro. Like Valenzuela two decades earlier, Ichiro Suzuki made it onto the cover ofSports Illustratedbefore the end of May of his rookie year. Playing right field and batting leadoff, MLB’s first Japanese position player helped lead the Seattle Mariners to 116 victories, eclipsing the 1998 New York Yankees’ record for...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 166-174)

    Ichiro’s phenomenal debut season in Seattle, in which he led his team to a runaway division title and a showdown with the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, helped Mariners fans get over the departure of the previous face of the franchise: star shortstop Alex Rodriguez. Following the 2000 season, “A-Rod,” widely considered one of the best players of his generation, signed a ten-year $252 million free agent contract with the Texas Rangers. For Seattle fans this marked the second consecutive winter of catastrophic loss, coming on the heels of Ken Griffey Jr.’s departure for his hometown of Cincinnati...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 175-200)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 201-211)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 212-212)