Home > Book, Genre, historic, nonfiction, Review > Book Review: The Emerald Diamond: How the Irish Transformed America’s Greatest Pastime by Charley Rosen

Book Review: The Emerald Diamond: How the Irish Transformed America’s Greatest Pastime by Charley Rosen

A baseball with green lacings is the backdrop to the book title.Summary:
Did you know baseball has been entwined with Irish-Americans from the very beginning of the sport?  Rosen goes through the history of baseball, focusing in on how Irish-American players, managers, and owners impacted the game.

Review:
I picked this up from my pile of older review copies to read in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.  I’m part Irish myself and was a US History major in undergrad, so the concept of the book definitely appealed to me.  The book addresses the interesting topic of Irish-Americans in baseball but unfortunately presents the history in an only sometimes interesting way and utilizes sloppy research.

The book starts in the 1800s and works its way up through time, ending many chapters with a modern day interview to reflect upon the ideas presented in the chapter.  The earliest chapters are the most interesting.  They take the events and use them to tell the story of how Irish-Americans broke into baseball partly because many careers were closed off to them due to anti-Irish discrimination in America (No Irish Need Apply).  Originally, the game was much less regulated, and the Irish-American players brought with them a willingness to be sly and rough that added an element of excitement to the game that brought out more viewers.  Reading about how the rules slowly changed and how Irish-Americans impacted those changes was definitely fascinating.  It was also disturbing to discover how many players in the early years had serious addiction problems, not to mention the presence of multiple suicides.  Unfortunately, the opportunity to analyze this phenomenon and discuss it in depth is passed by, as is most true historical analysis.

Starting in the early 20th century, the formatting of the book changes so that instead of telling a story, the heading of a year is given and bullet-points of events for that year are listed.  Some of these bullet-points break out to be actual stories, instead of just pure listing of facts, and that is what kept me reading.  But mostly about half the book is just lists of baseball facts.  It reminded me of reading Chronicles in the Bible (so-and-so begat so-and-so).  There are some interesting tidbits in there, but they are few and far between.

I was truly appalled when I flipped back to check the references in the back that almost all of them are secondary sources, and a significant number are Wikipedia.  It’s one thing to start your research at Wikipedia to familiarize yourself with the topic and then broaden out to more scholarly work and primary sources.  It’s another thing entirely to publish an entire book that basically just sums up Wikipedia. A work of historic nonfiction should seek out as many primary sources as possible, read secondary analyses, and provide analysis both of the primary and secondary sources.  What Rosen has done is mostly to regurgitate what Wikipedia and other secondary sources have already said.  The exception to this is the modern day interviews Rosen conducted, but they make up a small portion of the book. Perhaps 15%.  If the book had consisted of interviews with modern Irish-American players and descendants of Irish-American players and managers, complete with analysis and investigation using primary and secondary materials, that would have been a fantastic book.  Instead we get a relisting of information already gathered (and better sourced) in secondary sources spiced up with a few interviews.  If I had bought this book, I would have returned it.

Overall, there are some interesting tidbits about how Irish-Americans impacted the game of baseball.  Unfortunately, large parts of the book are lists of facts, with no analysis or storytelling,  Additionally, Rosen relied primarily on secondary source materials, mostly Wikipedia, to research his book.  The reader could get similar information from Wikipedia themself and have the ability to click through to the source materials.  I would suggest doing that over buying this book.  For those seeking a book on the topic, I recommend The Irish in Baseball: An Early History by David L. Fleitz, a sports historian who clearly consulted primary and secondary sources in his writing.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Print copy from publisher in exchange for my honest review

Buy It

Advertisements
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: