Tag: baseball

Historian Jerald Podair’s book on Dodger Stadium recognized with pair of national honors

The “hits” keep coming for Lawrence University historian Jerald Podair’s 2017 book “City of Dreams: Dodger Stadium and the Birth of Modern Los Angeles.”

“City of Dreams” has been named the winner of the Society for American Baseball Research‘s (SABR) 2018 Seymour Medal as the best book on baseball history or biography published in the preceding year. Podair will be honored March 3 at the SABR banquet in Tempe, Ariz.Lawrece Professor Jerald Podair with a copy of his latest book "City of Dreams"

Previously longlisted as one of 10 semifinalists for a 2018 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing, “City of Dreams” also has been shortlisted and is now one of five finalists for the award, which will be announced Feb. 20 at the PEN America awards dinner in New York City.

Podair learned of the PEN/ESPN finalist selection and the SABR award on the same day only hours apart.

“I received the PEN/ESPN news in the morning, told my wife and went to school. I heard about SABR later that day. I came home and said, ‘you’re not going to believe this,’” said Podair, the Robert S. French Professor of American Studies at Lawrence. “Both of the honors came as very gratifying surprises. I don’t write books to win awards, but it’s wonderful to know what I’m writing is having an impact.”

The Seymour Medal Selection Committee hailed the book as “a superb historical monograph based on extensive, original research and brilliantly written. Podair delineates clearly the connection between the decision to build Dodger Stadium and the intricate machinations and alliances of urban politics.”

“City of Dreams” was selected over four other finalists: “Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character” by Marty Appel: “The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken Jr., and Baseball’s Most Historic Record” by John Eisenberg; “Home Team: The Turbulent History of the San Francisco Giants” by Robert Garratt and “Bloomer Girls: Women Baseball Pioneers” by Debra Shattuck.

Awarded annually since 1996, the Seymour Medal recognizes a book that significantly advances knowledge of baseball and is characterized by understanding, factual accuracy, profound insight and distinguished writing.

Joining “City of Dreams” as a finalist are “Ali: A Life” by Jonathan Eig; “The Arena: Inside the Tailgating, Ticket-Scalping, Mascot-Racing, Dubiously Funded, and Possibly Haunted Monuments of American Sport” by Rafi Kohan; “Sting like a Bee: Muhammad Ali vs. the United States of America, 1966–1971” by Leigh Montville and “Bones: Brothers, Horses, Cartels, and the Borderland Dream,” by Joe Tone.

The PEN America awards honors writers and translators whose exceptional literary works were published in 2017. Categories include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, biography, essays, science writing, sports writing and translation. The winner in the sports-writing category receives a $5,000 prize.

In “City of Dreams,” Podair explores one of the earliest owner-city new ballpark negotiations and the subsequent economic and cultural impact. He wrote the book to provide a window into the complex choices cities face as they seek to balance the values of entertainment and culture against those of fiscal responsibility, of private gain against public good.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

City of Dreams: Lawrence historian Jerald Podair chronicles the battle over Dodger Stadium in new book

Wealthy owners of major sports franchises like to speak of private-public partnerships when seeking new and improved ballparks, stadiums and arenas for their teams. Taxpayers, who often are asked to foot part or most of the construction or renovation bill, may view the arrangements more akin to hostage situations.

Lawrece Professor Jerald Podair with a copy of his latest book "City of Dreams"
Historian Jerald Podair

Lawrence University historian and life-long baseball fan Jerald Podair explores one of the earliest owner-city new ballpark negotiations and the subsequent economic and cultural impact in the book “City of Dreams: Dodger Stadium and the Birth of Modern Los Angeles” (Princeton University Press).

Podair wrote “City of Dreams” to provide a window into the complex choices cities face as they seek to balance the values of entertainment and culture against those of fiscal responsibility, of private gain against public good.

“The goal for cities seeking to build stadiums – easier said than done, of course – should be to get as much private money in the deal as possible,” says Podair, Robert S. French Professor of American Studies and professor of history at Lawrence.

In 1957, Walter O’Malley, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team, moved his team to Los Angeles, where he planned to build a new ballpark in the Chavez Ravine neighborhood adjacent to downtown.

In “City of Dreams,” Podair dissects the story behind the construction of Dodger Stadium and the bitter arguments it ignited over the direction and identity of modern Los Angeles.

Questions of whether, where and how to build Dodger Stadium convulsed Los Angeles between 1957 and 1962. The debate back then — much like many today — pitted those who argued government assistance for O’Malley, in the form of a favorable deal for the acquisition of the land, was a proper means of growing the local economy and thus an appropriate “public purpose,” against those who opposed that assistance as an inappropriate “gift” of public resources to a private businessman.

 

“The goal for cities seeking to build stadiums – easier said than done, of course – should be to get as much private money in the deal as possible.”
— Jerald Podair

The arguments for and against also raised the issue of the relative worth of a revitalized downtown core, since Dodger Stadium would be the first of a series of planned cultural and entertainment venues that would brand Los Angeles as a national and global city in the images of New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

O’Malley’s vision prevailed and his privately constructed Dodger Stadium opened April 10, 1962. In the 50-plus years since, Dodger Stadium has contributed substantially to the civic and financial well-being of Los Angeles. But the aid O’Malley received from the city in building the stadium raised questions of when and under what circumstances public resources could legitimately be used for private goals and which constitute a true “public purpose?”The front cover of the book "City of Dreams: Dodger Stadium and the Birth of Modern Los Angeles

“The battle over Dodger Stadium still has profound implications today for all American cities, especially those like Milwaukee, that seek to attract or retain major league sports teams with the promise of new stadiums financed with public money,” said Podair, a native New Yorker and die-hard Mets fan. “How much public assistance to private entrepreneurs — in the form of bond debt, tax increases and the like — is too much?”

Podair, who joined the Lawrence faculty in 1998, watched the Mets win Game Seven and the 1986 World Series over the Boston Red Sox from the upper deck of the since torn-down Shea Stadium.

A specialist in 20th-century history, especially presidential history and race relations, is the author of two previous books, “The Strike that Changed New York” (Yale University Press) and “Bayard Rustin: American Dreamer” (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers).

He also co-authored, with 1975 Lawrence graduate James Merrell, “American Conversations: From the Centennial Through the Millennium” (Pearson, 2012) and was co-editor of “The Struggle for Equality” (University of Virginia Press, 2011).

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.