Today’s snapshots have fun with the all-American pastimes of politics and baseball.
Today’s snapshots have fun with the all-American pastimes of politics and baseball. If you want your baseball fiction, enjoy Dirty Rice, “a minor-league baseball tale in the tradition of ‘Bull Durham’.” If you prefer your baseball non-fiction, then turn to A People’s History of Baseball, which “at its best … cuts through the sport’s ‘patriotic, sepia haze’ and reveals a business as contentious as any on Wall Street or found in corporate America.” And while waiting for the Supreme Court ruling on health care, you might want to read FDR and Chief Justice Hughes: The President, the Supreme Court, and the Epic Battle Over the New Deal, which “considers whether a president should be able to mold the Supreme Court to meet political goals and the related question of whether ideologically driven justices should be allowed to frustrate the public will.”
Dirty Rice: A Season in the Evangeline League
by Gerald Duff
University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press
You know that feeling baseball players get, the one that makes them want to linger on the field or in the clubhouse after a good game, because they sense that once they leave, the game will truly be over, and the spirit of camaraderie it engendered will be yesterday’s old news? Gerald Duff knows it. Or at least Gemar Batiste, the narrator-protagonist in Dirty Rice, Duff’s eighth novel — a minor-league baseball tale in the tradition of “Bull Durham” — surely does. Batiste, a pure-of-heart Alabama-Coushatta-Indian, is a rookie in the Evangeline League, at the bottom of the baseball food chain in Depression-era southern Louisiana, where almost nothing is as simple as it seems, and just about everybody has learned to live with the ambiguities. Peopled by the usual suspects — a superstitious manager who keeps a live toad under his cap for luck, a “Cuban” shortstop treading the fine line between black and white, a not-as-hard-as- she seems landlady and her temptress daughter; conniving owners, embellishing sportswriters and resourceful gamblers — the tale doesn’t go much of anywhere you wouldn’t expect it to, as Gemar Batiste himself might say. But somewhere along the way you realize that feeling the ballplayers get — not wanting to leave the ballpark after a good game — isn’t all that much different from the reader who wants to see how the story turns out, but doesn’t want it to end.
A People’s History of Baseball
by Mitchell Nathanson
University of Illinois Press
A workman-like effort that covers the forces that helped make baseball the national pastime. At its best, A People’s History cuts through the sport’s “patriotic, sepia haze” and reveals a business as contentious as any on Wall Street or found in corporate America. Many of the game’s notable non-players are profiled, including cantankerous owner Charlie Finley, social pioneer Branch Rickey, labor activist Marvin Miller and statistician guru Bill James. The book picks up steam in the latter chapters when Nathanson targets such larger-than-life personalities. That’s when the reader realizes that the game is much more than Mom’s apple pie and red, white and blue bunting. In essence, the national pastime showcases the best and worst of America — often at the same time.
FDR and Chief Justice Hughes: The President, the Supreme Court, and the Epic Battle Over The New Deal
by James F. Simon
Simon & Schuster
James Simon, Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus at New York Law School, has written about constitutional confrontations between presidents and chief justices, including Jackson versus Marshall and Lincoln versus Taney. In his recent book, Simon explores the clash between President Franklin Roosevelt and Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes over New Deal legislation. Under Hughes’ leadership, the Court ruled unconstitutional several key components of the New Deal. Early in 1937, after his reelection, Roosevelt attempted to “pack” the Supreme Court by proposing to appoint an additional justice for each member of the Court over the age of 70, including Hughes. The chief justice played an important behind-the-scenes role in defeating this scheme. The Supreme Court then changed direction and began to defer to Congress on economic and social legislation. Simon argues that this judicial switch did not result from the pressure from Roosevelt. Simon’s book is a dual biography that traces the early careers of and shows strong admiration for both his protagonists. Hughes had served as governor of New York and as an associate justice of the Supreme Court before resigning to run for president and to lose a close 1916 election to Woodrow Wilson. Hughes served as secretary of state before President Hoover appointed him chief justice. Roosevelt served as governor of New York, and as assistant secretary of the Navy under Wilson. After running unsuccessfully for vice president in 1920, Roosevelt’s political career appeared over when he contracted polio in 1921. He fought back and won the presidency in 1932. Simon’s book considers whether a president should be able to mold the Supreme Court to meet political goals and the related question of whether ideologically driven justices should be allowed to frustrate the public will. These questions continue to resonate in American life.
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