Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Book Review: The Comic Book Story of Baseball by A. Irvine et al.

The Comic Book Story of Baseball: The Heroes, Hustlers, and History-Making Swings (and Misses) of America's National Pastime written by Alex Irvine and art by Tomm Coker and C. P. Smith

The origin of American Baseball goes back at least to the mid-1800s. It become popular in the states during the American Civil War. Formal leagues didn't come till much later and codification of the rules was ongoing into the early 1900s. Gloves, balls, and uniforms evolved over the years too. Many players came and went, often with interesting and eccentric stories. This book is a wide-angle look at the history of this iconic American pastime.

The book is fairly comprehensive, getting into details about the players from the 1870s till now (often with one-page or half-page biographies). It also describes the rules shifts (the pitcher's mound went up and down; how many balls constituted a walk eventually dropped to four; etc.) and some of the larger historical context (the impact of the World Wars and the Civil Rights movement, radio and television broadcasting, among others). The survey is fascinating but a bit scattershot. Occasionally things are just touched upon or there are abrupt shifts into other topics. The biographies and asides about details (like new teams added to the leagues or the difference between "dead ball" and "live ball" eras) make the flow even more choppy. It's hard to compress all that information into 170 pages, especially in a comic-book format.

Recommended for baseball fans or those curious, but be warned it has a little bit of everything.

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