“Ballpark: Baseball in the American City”
The author: Paul Goldberger
The publishing info: Knopf (Doubleday/Penguin Random House), $35, 384 pages, to be released May 14
The links: At the publisher’s website, at Amazon.com, at BarnesAndNoble.com. Also at the author’s website.
The review in 90 feet or less
We bring two points of reference here:
First, in 2016, Dr. Chris Kimball, the president and CEO of Cal Lutheran, invited us to a special history class he carved out to teach that spring semester. “U.S. History Through Baseball” was his passion for a 30-session class. On the day we attended, the lesson plan focused on William Cammeyer, a businessman who, in 1862, bought a six-acre vacant lot in Brooklyn and converted it from an outdoor ice-skating pond into a baseball field called Union Grounds. It was a residue of how business was starting to spring up in that New York borough – the predecessor to Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, which was the predecessor to the Dodgers moving to L.A. after trying to get a domed stadium approved.
Kimball had an entire class do a term paper about on stadiums – a way for them to relate to a ballpark from whatever part of the country they grew up and may have been attached, and then do more research more about it. Kimball, a Boston native, had an affinity for Fenway Park but also talked about his interest in reading more about the old Shibe Park in Philadelphia, where an urban historian described how that section of the city grew and then declined around the life of the ballpark.
A year later, we came across a book by Jerald E. Podair called “City of Dreams: Dodger Stadium and the Birth of Modern Los Angeles,” and included it high up in our annual book reviews.
Podair, a professor of history and American studies at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisc., devoted all sorts of research into declaring: “Dodger Stadium made downtown Los Angeles possible. Downtown Los Angeles in turn made modern Los Angeles possible.” This, after the construction of the L.A. Aqueduct (1913), City Hall (1928), the Coliseum (1923) and Union Station (1939) gave that central core specific definition, Dodger Stadium’s opening on April 10. 1962, with its modernistic form and accessibility, “began the process of change … the gateway that transformed downtown.”
In beginning work on this unique project, Goldberger, a 68-year-old Pulitzer Prize–winning architecture critic from Yale and contributing editor to Vanity Fair, admits he drew much insight from Podair’s book when it came to the part where he would discuss the evolution of Dodger Stadium.
In much of his Chapter 6 titled “Leaving The City,” Goldberger gets into how ballparks built or rebuilt in the twentieth century were “dense, lively, curious mixes of the eccentric and the grand. They were disheveled, scrappy and for the most part good natured places, constructed on the premise that there was something valuable in the notion of even so expansive a public space as a baseball park being tightly woven into the urban environment. Baseball parks were a part of the urban fabric because, up until the middle of the twentieth century, everything was part of the urban fabric.”
While Goldberger recounts the motives behind the O’Malleys moving to Los Angeles, buying Wrigley Field in L.A., deciding to use the Coliseum as a home stadium in ’58 while allowing the A.L. expansion Angels to use it as their home field in ’61 as both awaited the construction of Dodger Stadium, we are more enamored with his professional assessments of the Southern California-based landmarks that have undergone several remodels but remain true to their usefulness. Continue reading “Day 21 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: The urban and rural co-existence of ballparks, from the architectural critic view”