Extra Bases: Reflections on Jackie Robinson, Race, and Baseball History. By Jules Tygiel. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002.
Jules Tygiel, who passed away in 2008, had worked for many years on the history of race relations, baseball, and Jackie Robinson. His book, Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy (1983), was more about the process of integration in the aftermath of World War II than about baseball. It represented the very best in the serious exploration of the history of American sport and its relationship to all manner of issues in the nation. Extra Bases: Reflections on Jackie Robinson, Race, and Baseball History is an example of this same type of exploration.
In Extra Bases Tygiel carries his earlier work farther by reprinting several pieces he had published in a range of periodicals and books. All deal in some measure with the relationship of baseball to American society, especially the issue of race relations. The essays, although available elsewhere, offer a nice retrospective of Tygiel’s work, ranging from discussions of Jackie Robinson to Jim Crow sports to commentary on the nature of baseball in 2000. This will be a book that those interested in sophisticated analysis of baseball will appreciate. Unfortunately, there are not that many readers in that category. For those who would appreciate Tygiel’s in-depth approach, the work is a disjointed collection of seemingly random essays written over some two decades beginning in the 1980s.
Some of these essays are outstanding, especially those about Jackie Robinson and Jim Crow baseball. They are his strong suit and well worth reading. Much of the rest is enjoyable, but less useful.