Day 13: 30 baseball books in April, 2014 — Don’t overthink this, anthro majors

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  • The pitch: An anthropologist, from what we understand, is more than just someone who apologizes for frequently shopping at Anthropologie. Especially if they’re of the male species.
    thinkOstergaard, who got his Master of Arts degree in that field from the University of Illinois at Chicago, followed that up with a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Minnesota in creative writing. Throw in baseball, and here’s where all that mashes together in one glorious brain purge.
    On the blog anthropologyworks.com, Ostergaard says this book idea about the cultural force of baseball came a decade ago, but “it’s gone through tons of iterations…It started out as a novel, but I scrapped everything I had in 2009, and it turned into something different entirely.” Something, in this case, we don’t recall ever seeing before.
    We wish we could have heard the voices in Ostergaard’s head as he wrote this. Still, the transcript of what he was able to pull in serves us well enough in this case.
    “I long ago came to see the value of doubt, uncertainty and skepticism,” he wrote in the “extra innings” chapter, where he says he wanted to give as many “notes on my methods” so readers can assess for themselves what to make of this project.
    “Evidence can be falsified. Statistics can lie. I view the increasing use of statistics as a way to tell stories about the game of baseball as an outgrowth of underlying cultural beliefs and trends in the United States and it is my impulse to work against hubris. … In the same way ‘Born in the USA’ functions like a Trojan horse by cloaking its critique of post-Vietnam America in the sounds and signifiers of patriotism, I deliberately used the language and history of baseball as a palette through which to convey my deeper concerns about contemporary life. Thank you, Mr. Springsteen.”
    And there’s no favorite part of this book to pass along. Ostergaard takes scattered shots at, in a large part, the New York Yankees and all that is about them. Perhaps this comes from him growing up in Kansas City as a follower of George Brett Royals. But at some point, Ostergaard also comes to the acceptance that the Yankees are what every team should be, which leads him into more about the apathy of today’s fans.
    Those who have to publicize it at Coffee House Pres may have the toughest task. They’ve come to call it in a press release: “A humorous, historical and hirsute miscellany that’s the baseball book Howard Zinn would have written if he hated the Yankees.”
    If this is the answer to “The People’s History of the United States: with horsehide wrapped around it for safe keeping, we’ll go along with that.
  • More to know:
    = A review from The Mighty Quinn Media Machine: “Overall I have to admit I really didn’t care much for this book. But it wasn’t without its merits.”
    = A review from a Cincinnati Reds fan’s blog: “I found the beginning of the book interesting, but as it progressed it seemed to wander off track, or at least to not take a track I was interested in following.”
    = There are no customer reviews yet posted on the Walmart.com sale site.
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