Sunday, November 13, 2022

Review of "Class A Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere," by Lucas Mann

 Review of

Class A Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere, by Lucas Mann, ISBN 9780307907547

Five out of five stars

The year 2010 in Clinton, Iowa

 In the 1880’s and 1890’s, Clinton, Iowa was considered the lumber capital of the world. Trees were felled in Minnesota and Wisconsin and floated down the Mississippi river to be processed into lumber in Clinton. That lumber was then shipped to the many locations where people were rapidly building and expanding towns. At that time, Clinton had the highest per capita number of millionaires of any city in the United States.

 However, the forests were eventually exhausted, so the city turned to other manufacturing for its economic lifeline. Those factories continued for some time, but by the time the twenty-first century arrived, most of those factories were empty shells. There was one major production plant in the city that turned corn into ethanol. Like most towns with one major employer, that company dictated a great deal of the city political decisions.

 In the year 2010, Clinton was still home to the Class A LumberKings of the Midwest League. This book is a chronicle of that baseball season, a team of young aspirants led by men that have been in baseball for decades. While the players were working on their dream of playing in the major leagues, their coaches had often spent at least some time in the majors, so they knew what it was like.

 Mann does an excellent job in describing all facets of the city, the team and the small cadre of loyal fans. He chronicles the history of Clinton, from the time of great wealth down to one whose manufacturing was sent elsewhere. He gives the reader a sense of how the players feel as they toil in a depression era stadium, exist on very low pay, ride in a bus that is well past its prime and live in crowded conditions. Life is especially hard for the players from Latin America that have few support resources as they struggle in what is for them an alien environment.

 The fans that Mann describes are certainly described by the term “characters.” Loyal to the max, they overcome personal difficulties to make sure that their voices are heard when the LumberKings are on their home field.

 A classic book on minor league baseball in a city struggling to survive economically, this is a book about more than baseball. It is about how a city can go from being an economic powerhouse to one that barely manages to maintain basic services.

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