Saturday, January 30, 2010

Not just any day at the Ballpark

POW Baseball in World War II, The National Pastime behind Barbed Wire by Tim Wolter; 2002; 228 pages; McFarland & Company, Inc, Publishers, Jefferson, NC; 078641186-4; 1/28-1/30; Recommended by my Dad, Interlibrary loan from Phoenix Public Library.

What do Mickey Grasso, Augie Donatelli, Phil Marchildon and Bert Shepherd have in common?

They all appeared in major league games, three as players and one as an umpire.  They also were all POWs' during World War II as prisoners of the German Army. 

Tim Wolter takes a look at how baseball was played in Prison Camps during the war.  In Germany there were a lot of leagues and teams, some even receiving uniforms from the Red Cross and YMCA.  Some of the teams were extensive requiring double and triple headers to be played.  Prisoners in the European theatre had a better chance of playing baseball and surviving than there counterparts in the Pacific.  There seems to have been very little in the way of organized recreation in the Japanese camps.  The majority of the book concentrates on Europe, then Japan and then  the various places the Japanese held prisoners around the Pacific.  There is even a chapter on POWs' that the Americans held and tried to teach baseball. 
The book tries to take on too much and be globally comprehensive.  The section on baseball in Germany is very good as are the biographies of Grasso, et al.  The rest really doesn't contribute to the book, but was research the author had done, so it seemingly had to be included.  Grade C

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