Friday, September 25, 2015
September 25, 2015: September Texts: September Swoon
[With another autumn upon us, a series on presences and representations of the season’s first month in American cultural texts. Share your fall connections in comments, please!]
Three contexts for William Kashatus’ book September Swoon: Richie Allen, the ’64 Phillies, and Racial Integration (2004).
1) Baseball and public scholarship: In this 2013 post on Daniel Okrent’s Nine Innings: The Anatomy of a Baseball Game (1985), I made the case for that great baseball book as also a model of public scholarly writing. That’s even more overtly the case for September Swoon, both because Kashatus is in fact an academic historian and because his book does a masterful job connecting its baseball stories (both the 1964 National League pennant race and the rookie season of African American star player Richie [later Dick] Allen) to multi-layered American histories and debates from the 1960s.
2) Baseball and race: I’ve written a good deal in this space about the intersections between those two worlds, but there’s certainly more to say. That’s particularly true because every team dealt with integration in its own way and because those team and individual histories continued to unfold long after the initial moments of integration. Those realities are reflected in the very title of Kashatus’ book: more than 15 years after Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby’s debuts, Richie Allen experienced a great deal of racism during his 1964 rookie season with the Phillies. In many ways, as Kashatus argues, baseball offered and continues to offer a perfect microcosm of these national issues.
3) Baseball and collective memory: On the other hand, there’s at least one striking difference between baseball and those national histories. I’ve argued many times, in many ways, that we Americans are quite bad at remembering our darkest histories, such as those of racial conflict and oppression. When it comes to sports histories, the opposite is true—we tend not only to remember them well, but to do so with passion, with clear perspectives and ideas. I’m willing to bet most Philadelphians who were alive in 1964 have strong memories of and an opinion on what happened with the Phillies’ September swoon. Which makes for a particularly good starting point for connecting those sports memories to national histories, of course…
September Recap this weekend,
PS. What do you think? Other fall texts you’d highlight?