Monday, August 15, 2016

On the Coffee Table: Jules Tygiel

Title: Past Time: Baseball as History
Author: Jules Tygiel
via Amazon
Jules Tygiel was a history professor at San Francisco State University and a lifelong baseball fan.  In Past Time, he collected nine essays relating developments in the game to parallel changes in American society.  The nine are arranged chronologically, covering topics from the 1850s to the 1990s.

While I enjoyed the book for the most part, the essays were uneven.  I learned a lot from the chapters about the rise of radio and the efforts to survive the Great Depression.  The material on segregation was good, too, though I've read better books on the subject.  The weakest chapter was about early 20th century baseball, focusing on the careers of Charles Comiskey, Connie Mack, John McGraw and Clark Griffith.  I'm convinced all four were giants of the game but Tygiel tried too hard to link them together.  He would find common threads between two or three but rarely all four.  I'd rather have read a separate chapter about each man.

Somehow, Tygiel also completely missed the point of the film Bull Durham, claiming it was about fans, not players.  Really?  Did he actually watch the movie?  Or was he so dazzled by Susan Sarandon's admittedly wonderful performance that he was blind to the rest of the narrative?

If you want to tackle a lot of baseball material quickly Past Time would be a reasonable place to start.  The writing is informative and easily digestible.  If you have the time for Ken Burns's Baseball documentary, though, it covers a lot of the same topics and more effectively.


  1. It's been a long time since I saw Bull Durham.

    We're theoretically watching the baseball documentary series by Ken Burns, but we're doing that with our kids, so we've only watched the first one so far.

    1. So good. The episode about the Jackie Robinson is must see, baseball fan or not. I haven't seen the new Jackie Robinson series yet.

  2. Never been much of a baseball fan, but I appreciate its roll in American History.

    1. Really? Didn't I see you with a Norfolk Tides t-shirt in one picture? Or is that just regional loyalty? I like the Tides as they are the Orioles' Triple-A team.