By ERIN ALLEN
The Library of Congress hit a homerun with the publication of “Baseball Americana,” which was reviewed by a variety of top-tier media outlets. (See story on page 224.) Highlighting the world’s largest baseball-related collection, the book was published in September in association with Smithsonian Books/Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
“The Library, which surely is the world’s most beguiling place not named Cooperstown, has compiled this banquet of baseball artifacts and photographs that illustrates, among many other things, how old baseball is, and how old some of us are,” writes Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and baseball enthusiast George F. Will in the preface.
Dick Heller of The Washington Times observed, “A longtime fan who lives in my house did something quite unexpected to the other night—he chose baseball’s past over its present by skipping the baseball playoffs on TV to read a book.”
In a separate review, Heller’s colleague, James C. Roberts, added, “This is a stunning book—lovingly illustrated with images and documents from the library’s matchless collection. The Library of Congress is the world’s largest repository of printed materials on baseball and the authors and former and present curators of the collection have culled the best of this vast reservoir to document the long history of our national pastime.”
The Chicago Sun-Times dubbed “Baseball Americana” a “worthwhile read.” USA Today Magazine and The New York Times featured the book in their holiday gift guides. Coverage of the book appeared in The New York Times Book Review. In his review, Ihsan Taylor described the book as “a trove of artifacts and photographs that skillfully conveys the evolution of the game and how it has been chronicled and embraced …These photographs, like baseball’s history, have a cumulative power.”
Sports Illustrated reported, “There are enough coffee table books about baseball to clutter every piece of furniture in every Starbucks in the country. So it’s saying something that ‘Baseball Americana’ is able to stand out.”
In his review of several new sports books in the online Bloomberg News Service, David M. Shribman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, “The best book of all comes from the Library of Congress, not ordinarily regarded as a formidable redoubt of sport legend and lore. ‘Baseball Americana’ might be the greatest collection of baseball ephemera ever produced—treasure upon treasure from the big vaults up on Capitol Hill.”
Several writers from Creators Syndicate chimed in for an article about the book. In summation they said, “This book brings baseball history to multifaceted life and reminds us that baseball is the sport that celebrates its history more than any other. This book itself is a form of time-traveling—a pleasurable, often surprising and aesthetic trip.”
Melissa Block of National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” interviewed several of the book’s authors, Susan Reyburn and Phil Michel. Block pointed out “baseball Americana right there on the ceiling of the Great Hall in the Library of Congress, referring to a depiction of a naked 19th-century baseball team. “It’s a way of looking at the modern American athlete in baseball as if he was this heroic classical competitor in Ancient Greece,” Reyburn explained.
Other features and reviews about “Baseball Americana” came from around the country, both broadcast and print, including those from Kansas, Indiana, Massachusetts, Colorado, California, Florida, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Ohio and Oklahoma.
Erin Allen is a writer-editor in the Library’s Public Affairs Office.