BASEBALL'S PIVOTAL ERA
By William Marshall
The University Press of Kentucky, $29.95
Readers should be grateful that Marshall, a University of
Kentucky archivist, avoids employing the platitudinous golden
era in describing the period in question, though he might have
done so with little risk of argument. Indeed, it can be said
with confidence that baseball never had it so good as it did in
the era immediately after World War II. It was still the only
professional sport of consequence, and its ranks, seriously
thinned by wartime imperatives, were suddenly and joyfully
swelled with such returning icons as DiMaggio, Williams, Musial,
Greenberg and Feller. A war-weary public embraced the game as
never before; 13 of the 16 major league franchises established
attendance records, and the Yankees and the Indians became the
first teams to draw more than two million in home attendance.
The minor leagues prospered as well, attracting a total of
nearly 42 million.
But pivotal is the more felicitous expression for this period.
Marshall originally intended to write a straightforward account
of the controversial term as baseball commissioner of former
Kentucky governor and U.S. senator Albert B. (Happy) Chandler.
But he soon realized that there was too much involved to make
this simply one man's story. These, after all, were the years of
Jackie Robinson, of the gestation of a players' union that would
eventually topple the despised reserve clause, of middle-class
flight to the suburbs (which drastically altered the game's
demographics), of the rise of night baseball and of a revolution
in transportation that foretold major league expansion. Marshall
delves into all of these elements and explores how they
converged to alter the game.
Marshall also deals with the effects of television not just on
baseball but also on professional football and other heretofore
lesser sports. Partly because of TV this era was the last in
which baseball could be called with any degree of exactitude
"America's national pastime."
April 18, 1999
Simply put, Marshall has written compelling social history. His
is an important and highly readable book for fan and nonfan alike.