There are enough coffee table books about baseball to clutter every piece of furniture in every Starbucks in the country. So it's saying something that Baseball Americana is able to stand out. Of course, the book's authors were working with a decided advantage: Their material was culled from the Library of Congress's baseball collection, the world's largest.
Since part of the U.S. copyright registration process involves submitting a copy of a work to the Library of Congress, the institution is home to a vast array of ephemera such as advertisements, posters, comic books and baseball cards. So in addition to that old coffee table standby, the candid photo of the ballplayer, Americana features delightful obscurities such as the sheet music to I Can't Get to First Base with You, cowritten by Eleanor Gehrig for her husband, Lou. On the page following a black-and-white candid shot of Jackie Robinson in the Negro leagues is a bright ad featuring Robinson shilling for Chesterfield cigarettes.
The material is arranged roughly chronologically, but it meanders when appropriate. (A five-page digression on women's baseball is a highlight of the World War II section.) The result is a journey that shows how the game has influenced American culture—pop and otherwise. Co-author Harry Katz, a former Library of Congress curator, said his intention was to have readers "feel the dirt and smell the grass." Mission accomplished: Upon putting the book down, fans will likely be wondering where that grime under their fingernails came from.