Although other sports may get more viewers on television or fare better in straw polls about popularity, make no mistake about it, baseball is the National Pastime and an integral part of the history of the United States. The game has impacted countless regions of the country and its people over the years. It is through careful record keeping and the collection of pictures and other primary documents that we are able to preserve what that has truly meant. A recent contribution to the effort is New Mexico’s Pueblo Baseball League by James D. Baker, Herbert Howell and Marie A. Cordero (from Arcadia Publishing’s Images of Baseball series).
When one thinks of baseball an initial image that may come to mind is the lush green grass of the diamond. However, that isn’t necessary to foster a raging baseball fever, as evidenced by how the game has flourished in New Mexico’s pueblos with their Native Americans residents for more than a century. Each summer, games dot the landscape of the Land of Enchantment and have become an integral part of Native culture.
New Mexico’s Pueblo Baseball League offers 128 pages of black and white photographs documenting the history of the game and the league. Brief descriptions provides context to give a little better understanding of who the Pueblo people are and why baseball has become part of their DNA.
Some of the highlights are the photos of teams and individuals of note from bygone times in the league. Additionally, the Pueblo/Navajo All Star Game is a significant event celebrating the passion for baseball while simultaneously serving as a well-attended fund raiser played at the home park for the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Triple-A minor league affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.
Most books on baseball history enhance their material by including pictures and anecdotes of nationally recognized Hall-of-Fame players and moments. There is none of that here, as this is regional baseball at its best. Additional photos or information on the most famous Pueblo players and games would have been welcome but it is understandable that such material may not have been readily available. Along similar lines there could have also been a bit more emphasis on the actual game action, as many of the photos are scenic or people who are out of uniform.
It’s refreshing to see the way that the community embraces baseball in the Pueblos. From playing to umpiring to being a spectator, there is something for everyone. In many ways it mirrors the role the game played nationally earlier last century, when it was the end-all, be-all of American leisure time.
As a historian of baseball, a primary goal is finding something that you have not seen before, or at the least, held little knowledge. New Mexico’s Pueblo Baseball League is a revelation in that regard. It serves as a good reminder of how important baseball can still be to community and that there is no need for million dollar salaries and the bright lights of prime time television broadcasts to serve as validation. This is an intriguing chapter of baseball history, and one that is a welcome addition to the genre.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book, but received no payment or other consideration for this review.
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