Sugarball: The American Game the Dominican Dream Americas Caribbean & West Indies Dominican Republic Assoc. Prof. Alan M. Klein Yale University PressMar 31
One hundred years ago two Cubans introduced baseball to the Dominican Republic, where it became the national pastime. But the game has evolved into something other than a carbon copy of the U.S. sport, and Klein, a professor of sociology and anthropology at Northeastern University, shows how the two differ. After a jargon-laden introduction, he presents an excellent short history of Dominica, the development of teams sponsored by the large sugar refineries (hence the book’s title), and an absorbing analysis of how the Dominican national persona affects players and fans today.
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In the Dominican Republic baseball is not only a game but a national obsession. Exported from the United States and still controlled by it, the game is also an arena of intercultural relations. “Sugarball” describes how Dominican baseball fosters national pride and competition with the United States while at the same time promoting acceptance of the North American presence in the country. Alam M.Klein traces the introduction and development of baseball in the Dominican Republic, provides sketches of fans, stadiums, and players, and discusses such issues as the origin of the Dominican baseball academies and the international competition for Dominican players. Throughout, he evokes the enthusiam that Dominicans have for the game and shows how it mirrors the conflict they feel between allowing and resisting American hegemony in their country. Klein relates the efforts of major league teams to seek talent in the Dominican Republic and shape the game to suit their own purposes – efforts that resemble other exploitative enterprises in the Third World. These activities evoke little resentment, because for many Dominican young men baseball is the only way out of a life of unemployment or of hard labour in cities or cane fields. At the same time, their prowess at baseball encourages the Dominicans to oppose further interference from the Americans.
The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris
Kurlansky offers an intriguing look at the history of the Dominican Republic and the role American baseball has played in the impoverished and destitute sugar-growing town of San Pedro de Macoris. Kurlansky’s approach and style make this story accessible even to nonsports fans. Ed Sala’s deep and slightly throaty voice is enjoyable to listen to, though at times he can be a bit halting in his rhythm. Sentences end and begin with some abruptness, and there are mild inconsistencies with Spanish pronunciation. Despite this, Kurlansky’s prose and Salas’s overall performance combine to keep listeners tuned in till the end. A Riverhead hardcover (Reviews, Jan. 25).
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The intriguing, inspiring history of one small, impoverished area in the Dominican Republic that has produced a staggering number of Major League Baseball talent, from an award-winning, bestselling author.
In the town of San Pedro in the Dominican Republic, baseball is not just a way of life. It’s the way of life. By the year 2008, seventy-nine boys and men from San Pedro have gone on to play in the Major Leagues-that means one in six Dominican Republicans who have played in the Majors have come from one tiny, impoverished region. Manny Alexander, Sammy Sosa, Tony Fernandez, and legions of other San Pedro players who came up in the sugar mill teams flocked to the United States, looking for opportunity, wealth, and a better life.
Because of the sugar industry, and the influxes of migrant workers from across the Caribbean to work in the cane fields and factories, San Pedro is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the Dominican Republic. A multitude of languages are spoken there, and a variety of skin colors populate the community; but the one constant is sugar and baseball. The history of players from San Pedro is also a chronicle of racism in baseball, changing social mores in sports and in the Dominican Republic, and the personal stories of the many men who sought freedom from poverty through playing ball. The story of baseball in San Pedro is also that of the Caribbean in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and on a broader level opens a window into our country’s history.
As with Kurlansky’s Cod and Salt, this small story, rich with anecdote and detail, becomes much larger than ever imagined. Kurlansky reveals two countries’ love affair with a sport and the remarkable journey of San Pedro and its baseball players. In his distinctive style, he follows common threads and discovers wider meanings about place, identity, and, above all, baseball.