"The best seats in the house," writes Robert Smith in his new history of baseball, "were all sold on a season basis to business firms. The Stadium Club was invented to provide mediocre food and drink at first-class prices to season subscribers. And the top brass of the Yankees hid itself in a small luxury apartment behind the stands that looked as if it had been built for the country's President."
If Mr. Smith's descriptions of the New York Yankees and their Stadium seem irreverent, then make the most of it; they are. In fact, some may find Baseball in America (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 278 pages, $10) slightly irreverent throughout, because Smith is a baseball fan who has examined the game from its beginnings, included only believable anecdotes in his work and touched on what various people—good and bad—have meant to baseball throughout the years. Near the end Smith makes a perfectly valid statement, which will cause hackles to rise on the necks of Ford Frick and others of his set: "Of watching big-league baseball, apparently there is no end, even though the game itself is no longer as close to the lives of the people as it was long ago or as it sometimes supposes itself to be."
Smith, without actually saying so, nominates three personalities of recent years as men who have done the most for baseball: Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams and Bill Veeck. His description of Robinson is nearly perfect: "Any time he stood on third base he threatened to come all the way, and he brought back into baseball a thrill that had been almost forgotten—the headlong steal of home." Of Williams: "Ted took criticism no more lightly than any honest artist ever did. And his attitude toward hitting was that of an artist toward his work. He had his full heart in it. It was his very own, his beloved creation, and he was better at it than 98% of those who had ever tried it before." Of Veeck: "He revived, in his own manner, the theory first tested by Chris von der Ahe—that baseball is an entertainment and that baseball business is a part of show business."
Baseball in America is excellently illustrated with photographs and line drawings selected and arranged by Ralph Miller, the director of the Museum of the City of New York. It is probably the best baseball history ever compiled.
YEAR OF THE YEAR
All college bands performing at half time during this college football season can make things easier on themselves by swinging right into the numbers that make up 1961. The formation is readable from both sides of the field and enables the band to avoid making those frustrating and clumsy about-faces. Best do it this year, boys, because you won't get another such easy formation until 6009.
THE SIN OF EXCELLENCE
The superintendents of the eight high schools in the Suburban League—an outskirts-of- Chicago conference that is nationally recognized for academic and athletic excellence—have set a curious example for their students. They have voted to put New Trier High on probation because its swimmers continued to practice after their regular season had ended in order to stay in shape for the National AAU Championships. The boys swam on their own time and went to the Nationals, in New Haven, with their parents. Calling themselves the New Trier Swim Club, they swam so well they whipped all but three of the nation's best college teams, and one of the group, Fred Schmidt, went on to break the world record in the 100-meter butterfly. The superintendents rapped New Trier and proposed these rules:
?Varsity athletes may not use school facilities in sports in which they compete except during the competitive season.
?No coach may supervise recreational periods of the sport he is paid to coach.