(c) 2010-2024 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

The New York Game: A Baseball Tale Steeped in Labor Struggles

Kevin Baker's "The New York Game" isn't just a love letter to baseball and the Big Apple. It's a rich tapestry that weaves the evolution of America's pastime with the burgeoning organized labor movement and the fight for workplace safety. While baseball takes center stage, Baker doesn't shy away from the harsh realities early ballplayers face.
The book delves into the lives of these athletes, many of whom were working-class men. They toiled not just on the diamond but also in factories and shops. Baker highlights the grueling schedules and meager pay that fueled the desire for collective bargaining. The rise of the National Association of Professional Baseball Players (NA) is a fascinating subplot, showcasing the early struggles of athletes to gain a voice against influential team owners.

The book discusses the birth of the labor movement in 1911, including The Dreamland Fire on Conney Island and The Triangle Shirt Waist Factory fire in Greenwich Village, where 146 women and children died in a matter of 15 minutes. Some victims jumped from the 9-story building while the NY Fire Department ladders only reached 6 stories. The book reflects on the Uprising of the Twenty Thousand, where the women garment workers protested in the streets of New York City. Finally, the political machine of Tammany Hall, run by Big Tim Sullivan and Al Smith, passed legislation advocated by Frances Perkins, a labor safety leader.

However, "The New York Game" doesn't paint a simplistic picture. The story acknowledges the internal conflicts within the NA and the challenges of uniting a disparate group of players. It sheds light on the dangers inherent in the early days of baseball before protective equipment became commonplace. Accounts of players succumbing to injuries, some even fatal, serve as a stark reminder of the fight for safer working conditions that went hand-in-hand with the fight for fair pay.

Baker's prose is engaging, bringing the early days of baseball and New York City to life. He breathes personality into historical figures, from flamboyant owners to tenacious union leaders. While baseball fans will undoubtedly relish the tales of legendary players, the book's exploration of labor struggles offers a valuable historical context.

Overall, "The New York Game" is more than just a baseball book. It's a social commentary, reminding us that the sports we love are built on the shoulders of those who fought for better treatment. By weaving the story of organized labor into the narrative, Baker offers a well-rounded look at a pivotal time in American history

Recommended Citation: Gelman, Jon L.,  The New York Game: A Baseball Tale Steeped in Labor Struggles, (03/21/2024)



*Jon L. Gelman of Wayne, NJ, is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). For over five decades, the Law Offices of Jon Gelman  1.973.696.7900 
 has represented injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational illnesses and diseases.

Blog: Workers' Compensation

LinkedIn: JonGelman

LinkedIn Group: Injured Workers Law & Advocacy Group

Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" West-Thomson-Reuters

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© 2024 Jon L Gelman. All rights reserved.

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