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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. 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 , seventy-nine boys and men from San Ped 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.

By the year , 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. Hardcover , pages. Published April 15th by Riverhead Books first published To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

To ask other readers questions about The Eastern Stars , please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. May 18, N-rose rated it it was ok. I can't believe just how bad this was. It was an aimless look at baseball in the Dominican Republic town of San Pedro. That's what Kurlansky tells me this is about.

There is some information on how the town came to be - and the role of the sugar markets. But the books drifts from topic to topic, often repeating itself in a way that reads like bad editing and hasty first-draft writing. And perhaps there are readers who know nothing about baseball, but this is written as if to explain baseb I can't believe just how bad this was.

And perhaps there are readers who know nothing about baseball, but this is written as if to explain baseball to a three-year old from Venus. At times, a reader feels that she or he is following a writer who keeps reaching interview dead ends, and so describes those dead ends. There's not much personality to the people and he hints that the Dominican simply has no culture of its own, which is an interesting statement. The book feels uninspired, and doesn't answer the question in the title very effectively.

It gets a second star for occasionally catching up with the Julio Francos of baseball, for mentioning some of Sammy Sosa's conflicted relationship with where he is from. But in the end, Kurlansky half-asks a question and answers it in a line; the rest feels like a fluff job to get over words and make a saleable book.

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I really like a lot of Mark Kurlansky's other work, and was shocked at how disappointing this was; I almost put it down, but had made a pact with myself to finish the book. Sep 22, Matt rated it liked it. This book badly needed to be written. May it please be put on library shelves, replacing dull histories of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Brooklyn Dodgers.

EASTERN STARS by New York Times-bestselling author Mark Kurlansky

Mark Kurlansky, meanwhile, ain't Walt Whitman, and no disrespect to Whitman, but that's a good thing. Baseball lovers will be disproportionately attracted to the book, but it notably is not about baseball, and it's not geared toward baseball fans. It's more about the surrounding society and the history of how this small island has changed and been This book badly needed to be written. It's more about the surrounding society and the history of how this small island has changed and been impacted by global forces.


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I've personally been fascinated with the Dominican Republic since I was baseball-obsessed and three apples tall, a time when the only Latinos I'd ever seen were on big league rosters. Eastern Stars offers a portrait of the Dominican Republic, and San Pedro de Macoris in particular, and its evolution in becoming the cradle of baseball stars. I'm not sure Kurlansky is the ideal writer for this subject, but he is an excellent historian and his perspective is very sober and balanced, good with big-picture perspective.

And given that he is someone who is clearly more at home thinking about political economy matters than sports, he's probably written a book that's a lot more interesting than whatever Mike Lupica or Rob Neyer might have put together. I also am not sure if Kurlansky has ever written a book that doesn't include a few recipes.

The man must love to eat, and that can't be a bad thing. I read somewhere that the book doesn't effectively humanize the people of San Pedro, and that's a fair criticism. But from his emotional distance we are nonetheless given what I take is probably a pretty accurate perspective on the country and on baseball's role in the community. Apr 20, Nancy rated it liked it Shelves: Not as enthralling as Kurlansky's best works, nor as thorough. I don't think that the book was as much about HOW baseball changed San Pedro as it was about WHY San Pedro produces so many Major League players, so if you're expecting more of a "baseball and all its money came to town, here's what happened" story, that's not what you'll be getting.

It's more of a "why baseball and all its money came to San Pedro in the first place" kind of story. One isn't better than the other, but they are Mmmm. One isn't better than the other, but they are not the same. The book not unlike this review was disjointed, in part because it was trying to solve both of those questions in pages. I think also because Kurlansky doesn't seem fluent in baseball, his descriptions of certain statistics or players would fall flat and would lead him away from any narrative flow he had going.


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Recommended if you want a brief course in the history of baseball in the Dominican Republic, but it'll probably leave you wanting more. Apr 12, Valerie rated it really liked it Recommends it for: Once again, the moral of the story is that practice, the willingness to devote your time, energy and focus to something, will result in making you better at it. The rules that make it cheaper to sign a 16 year old Dominican, instead of an 18 year old US citizen are both part of the problem of the decline of baseball, and a logical response to that decline in the US. In places the stuff about rules and fans and how teams find talent, reminded me of the wistfulness of Fever Pitch.

It seems like tea Once again, the moral of the story is that practice, the willingness to devote your time, energy and focus to something, will result in making you better at it. It seems like team sports are locked in a downward spiral with their fans. There was a lot to think about here, and there is no better reason to read a book. Dec 23, Barney rated it it was ok. Kurlansky specializes in bringing together the most varied strings of information to produce an overall history of a single item. I was very excited for this book, as: I am a baseball nut. I love the other three books of his that I have read.

Alas, it was not to be. Kurlansky breaks down the book into two sections, Sugar and Dollars. Sugar "For those who don't make it, ark Kurlansky wrote one of my favorite books Salt and one book I used for summer reading for my European History class Cod. Sugar "For those who don't make it, there is sugarcane.

The first half is by far the more compelling section of the book, as Kurlansky uses his experience as a correspondent in the Caribbean for the Chicago Tribune to excellent effect. The great number of Spanish sources helps in this area. I was astounded by the racial attitudes surrounding the Domincan Republic, down to a law "that imposed restrictions on bringing in workers who were not white.

I did not know that San Pedro de Macoris was famous for its poets long before it was called "The Cradle of Shortstops" and will look for works by Pedro Mir, whose poems are quoted throughout. Dollars The second section is where the book falls apart. In his short discussion of baseball and race, Kurlansky trots out the old chestnut that Cap Anson was nearly single-handedly responsible for the banning of blacks in organized baseball. As Bill James pointed out in The Historical Baseball Abstract, it is downright foolish to think one person could do that, much less enforce his will on club owners.

Sure, Anson was a racist, but I would guess In another bit, he writes that in Alfredo Griffin posted a. Then I thought wait a minute, how many times did he hit? Four times in five games. That's just silly and sort of lazy, but it typifies the attitude of the book towards the research on the sport.

The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris

In discussing "San Pedro's Black Eye" Kurlansky opines "in America the idea that there is something less than proper about all these foreign and wild "Latins" getting into baseball has considerable resonance. I call bull shit on that. He bases this on more than letters he received after his article for Parade magazine about San Pedro de Macoris in , many from African Americans. I think this is bull shit for several reasons, but the most reasonable is historical development. After the integration of baseball in , black players were dominant throughout the s and s. In the s, baseball featured a good mix of ethnicites, with the exception of Asian players.

By the late s and early s, Latin players began to dominate: As baseball becomes the way out, it stands to reason that there will be more "Latin" players. Sure, Gary Sheffield may complain about the academy system, but to insist that the idea that most fans do not want to see "wild Latins" on the field is bull shit. Kurlansky is correct in writing that baseball is playing second fiddle to football has been since the late s and this is one reason why teams are scouring the Caribbean, South America, Australia, Japan and South Korea for players.

This is not news; using the views of one player Gary Sheffield to support a wrong headed assessment is incorrect. The most famous son of San Pedro is probably Sammy Sosa. The tone is ambiguous. I just am confused by the "fickle Judgment from the peanut gallery" chapter title.

Kurlansky writes "Heroics is a lot to expect for someone snatched away without education at 16 and handed fame and wealth" ; while I agree, I do not think that it is incorrect to expect it. Sosa got in trouble for pointing out all he does for the town while really not doing very much. America loves to catch people acting like big mouthed hypocrites, regardless of whether or not they are athletes. Not at all; it becomes wrong when it is unwarranted. Some ballplayers do a lot for their hometown, some don't.

"The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedr" by Mark Kurlansky

Sosa's big sin was lying about his contributions to charity and hurricane relief. The first half of the book is great. I'll probably check out a few books on Caribbean history because of it. Dec 03, Joel rated it it was ok Shelves: It's been justly described as the richest hotbed of baseball talent in the world. This book delves into the history of the city; its nation; and the players themselves, investigati San Pedro de Macoris is a city in the Dominican Republic population nearly , as of which is famous for producing numerous major league baseball players over the past 50 years, including stars such as Rico Carty, Pedro Guerrero, Joaquin Andujar, Julio Franco, Sammy Sosa, Alfonso Soriano, and Robinson Cano.

This book delves into the history of the city; its nation; and the players themselves, investigating how this came to be, and what the impact has been on the city. That last aspect makes the most interesting reading; it's hard to begrudge these players their multi-million-dollar salaries after reading about what a huge difference that money makes in the lives of the players, their families, and their community.

When Kurlansky writes about baseball, though, the text is riddled with factual errors and other subtle clues that his understanding of the sport isn't very thorough. He describes Charlie Dressen as a "legendary Hall of Fame manager"; Dressen hasn't been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and it's not likely that he ever will be. Writing about the slow process of integration in baseball, Kurlansky says: Santana said he "reminded me of Tony Fernandez, the way he used his glove.

Then he asked him to show him how he swung the bat. The boy went into a batting stance and did a few swings for him. The age limit had been established in Before that, it sometimes seemed that scouts were snatching children from their homes. Epy Guerrero boasted of signing thirteen-year-olds. Not that this was a good way to treat children, but on the other hand, it took a scout of rare skill to recognize a player's potential at the age of thirteen. In it was recounted in The Washington Post that a terrified family reported their son missing and the Dominican commissioner of baseball located him hidden away by a scout in the training camp of a major-league team.

It is part of the tradition of Dominican kleptocracy, this idea that Major League Baseball could come here as did the Spanish, as did the sugar companies and do whatever they wanted to do. It is an image that neither the Dominican government nor Major League Baseball wants. And so, periodically, regulations are made.

The age-sixteen-and-a-half rule helped lessen the unfair treatment of teenagers. A better minimum age would have been eighteen so that prospects finished high school education before leaving. But most baseball players, except big hitters, have their best years when they are in their twenties. This is when they have the most speed running bases, the most agility for fielding, and the best arms for throwing and especially pitching. Most players take about four years to develop for the majors. Few Dominican players had finished high school when they went off to their professional baseball careers, but for that matter fewer than one in three Dominicans had a high school education anyway.

When a sixteen-year-old boy signed with a major league organization, he had little education and no other skills: An occasional Rafael Vasquez did it in much less time, but then he washed out in one season. A few, like Jose Reyes, did it in only three years and went on to be stars. But when Major League Baseball signed a prospect, they calculated that it would take four years to get him into a major-league game. Some players, like Alfredo Griffin, find their rhythm that first year.

Others take a year or two more to start realizing their full potential. So signing a player at sixteen meant that he would probably hit his athletic stride at about the age of twenty-two. Physically they might be ready to reach full potential at age twenty if they could be signed at age fourteen, but sixteen was still workable. Another factor in the equation was the widespread and unproven belief, both by Dominican and American baseball people, that Dominican boys took longer to mature.

These teenagers who gambled everything on Major League Baseball signed a contract, got a signing bonus, and appeared to be on their way. But statistically their complete success remained very unlikely. A few hundred Dominicans are signed in a year, and probably only about three percent, maybe a dozen players, will ever play in a major-league stadium.

And there is very little money in baseball between the signing bonus and the first major-league season. First they are taken to the club's training ground in the Dominican Republic: It's the way of life.

How Baseball Changed Life In A Dominican Town

By the year , 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.