3 out of 4 stars
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James T. Farrell and Baseball: Dreams and Realism on Chicago’s South Side is written by Charles DeMotte and describes the history and evolution of baseball in Chicago during the 20th Century. It also explores the life and works of James T. Farrell, who was an author that loved and wrote about baseball. The book covers amateur ball, semi-pro ball, the college game, black baseball, the Chicago White Sox, the Federal League, and the Black Sox scandal. There’s also a focus on Farrell’s life growing up on the South Side of Chicago and his childhood love for the game and the White Sox. Farrell later wrote many novels, short stories, and nonfiction works that share baseball as a theme, and they are mentioned in this book at length as well. The book captures the spirit, popularity, and the innocence of baseball and describes how that innocence was almost shattered forever during the 1919-20 Black Sox fix and subsequent scandal.
I liked how well-researched the book was. It offered many historical sources. A bibliography, notes, and an index were all included to provide context and details. There were also many illustrations that showed Farrell, baseball players, and owners, and they helped make the book come to life and give it more substance. I really appreciated the index, as it quickly directed me to the information that I was looking for by providing the needed page numbers.
I also enjoyed the fact that the book was written with the general reader in mind and wasn’t just for scholars and the people who know everything about baseball. The book was informative, but the language was simple and easy to understand. I likewise appreciated the way the author connected Farrell’s love for baseball and his many baseball-themed works with how the game was developing and evolving in the 20th Century. It was clear how baseball inspired many of Farrell’s works and how affected he was by the Black Sox scandal. It was also a plus that DeMotte didn’t just focus on Major League Baseball but included and covered many different levels of baseball and the rich baseball history.
One of the issues that I had was that the book could have been better organized. Some of the information from one chapter was kind of repeated in other chapters. Also, certain names were mentioned in the early chapters that we didn’t learn about in detail until the later chapters, so some of the context was lost unless you already knew beforehand who those people were. It was also a little disappointing that women’s baseball was only mentioned in passing and wasn’t covered in more detail.
I’m rating this book 3 out of 4 stars. I liked that the book provided a bibliography, notes, and an index. It was well-researched. The illustrations were very helpful and also added realism and substance to the book. I appreciated that the book was informative but also easy to understand. The way that the author intertwined the development and evolution of the game with Farrell’s works was also well done. The professional editing was likewise a plus. I’m taking a star away because the book could have been better organized and could have discussed women’s baseball in much more detail. I would recommend this book to baseball lovers, fans of James T. Farrell, and those that want to learn more about the history and evolution of the game.
James T. Farrell and Baseball: Dreams and Realism on Chicago's South Side
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