Anthropology, Biography, Reviews, Sociology

Review: Amenta, Professor Baseball

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John Sugden recently reviewed Edwin Amenta’s memoir of amateur sport, Professor Baseball: Searching for Redemption and the Perfect Lineup on the Softball Diamonds of Central Park for the June 8 Times Higher Education Supplement. A British academic periodical might seem like an unlikely prospect for a book about a thoroughly American game, but Sugden swings for the fences:

One hot and humid summer when Professor Edwin Amenta should have been hard at work at home or in his office in the sociology department of New York University—finishing up his book on pensions organizations in Depression-era America—”Eddy” could be found roaming the recreational spaces of Central Park indulging in the very serious business of playing softball.…

At one level, Professor Baseball is a straightforward diary of Amenta’s successes and failures over one summer season in the several teams on which he plays and the one of which he is player-manager. At another, the book is a narrative account of one person’s lived-through obsession. It is a coming-of-middle-age tale of a fortysomething man, with fatherhood imminent, trying to come to terms with changing fortunes in his professional and personal life. Above all, it is about his forlorn and ultimately doomed quest for redemption.…

The academic community might have had to wait a little longer for Amenta’s quantitative study of pension funds in depression-era America because of it, but I for one found Professor Baseball a more than worthwhile diversion.

Read an excerpt from the book.