Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Balls and Strikes Reviewing Baseball's Rich History

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Balls and Strikes Reviewing Baseball's Rich History

Article excerpt

BASEBALL An Illustrated History Edited by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns 486 pages, Alfred A. Knopf, $60

BRACE the legs of your coffee table before Christmas, baseball fans. Alfred A. Knopf has released the companion volume to Ken Burns' ambitious television documentary on the national game. The handsome quarto runs to almost 500 pages and is graced with 530 illustrations.

"Baseball" is, in the strictest sense, a compendium. Drawing on thousands of sources, the editors present an overview of the history of the game that encompasses every aspect from its beginnings as an afternoon pastime, refined from predecessors such as town ball, base, rounders, cricket and others and played exclusively by the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York City, to the multibillion-dollar entertainment colossus that we know as major-league baseball. If Burns and Ward have overlooked a conventional legend or anecdote connected with the game, I failed to detect it. Even at its considerable length, "Baseball" is remarkably concise.

Why a companion volume to a TV documentary? I am not sure. Perhaps it is intended as a service to those who don't yet own a VCR and so cannot record the telecast. I suspect, however, that the strongest motive is the hope that book sales will offset the obviously heavy cost of producing the television series, particularly a series intended for public broadcasting.

The book, like the telecast, is organized into nine sections, each representing an "inning" of baseball history - the 19th-century game, the Ruth era, the advent of the Negro leagues, New York's dominance of the game in the 1950s, etc. In addition to the narrative, which apparently parallels the television presentation, the book offers essays by 10 distinguished writers on baseball, among them Roger Angell, John Thorn, Thomas Boswell and George F. …

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