Academic journal article Base Ball

It Has to Be Fair

Academic journal article Base Ball

It Has to Be Fair

Article excerpt

It Has to Be Fair Review by Paul Adomites Level Playing Fields: How the Groundskeeping Murphy Brothers Shaped Baseball, Peter Morris. University of Nebraska Press, 2007, 194 pp., $24.95 (hardcover).

In just a few years Peter Morris has leapfrogged into the upper echelon of baseball historians. He is now the only person to have won the prestigious Seymour/Mills Award twice. Morris's first book, Baseball Fever, a history of the game in Michigan, was founded on a historically unassailable concept: that baseball did not become America's game until it was accepted and played widely away from the East Coast. Then he demonstrated exactly how that took place.

His next book was actually two: the doubleheader Game of Inches. Subtitled "The Stories Behind the Innovations that Shaped Baseball," its two volumes provide a breathtakingly encyclopedic insight into how the game changed, including everything from identifying the first written account of a game to where the spitball really came from. He talks about everything: pitching, batting, fielding, uniforms, and equipment. And even skullduggery. Morris uncovers who really did what first, in dozens of mind-altering examples. (The first "Williams shift" wasn't directed at Ted but at Cy!) This remarkable piece of work landed Morris his second Seymour.

His newest work is much less broad in scope. Titled Level Playing Fields: How the Groundskeeping Murphy Brothers Shaped Baseball, it is more like a delicately polished gem. It is in this book that Morris establishes his credentials as more than a geographical expert or as an encyclopedist. Because here he builds on the simple tale of the history of baseball groundskeeping to reach for and connect with broader issues-and most particularly the one mentioned in the title: level playing fields. …

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