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Professor Baseball

Searching for Redemption and the Perfect Lineup on the Softball Diamonds of Central Park

It happens every summer: packs of beer-bellied men with gloves and aluminum bats, putting their middle-aged bodies to the test on the softball diamond. For some, this yearly ritual is driven by a simple desire to enjoy a good ballgame; for others, it’s a way to forge friendships—and rivalries. But for one short, wild-haired, bespectacled professor, playing softball in New York’s Central Park means a whole lot more. It’s one last chance to heal the nagging wounds of Little League trauma before the rust of decline and the relentless responsibilities of fatherhood set in.

Professor Baseball is the coming-of-middle-age story of New York University professor and Little League benchwarmer Edwin Amenta. As rookie manager of the Performing Arts Softball League’s doormat Sharkeys, he reverses softball’s usual brawn-over-brains formula. He coaxes his skeptical teammates to follow his sabermetric and sociological approach, based equally on Bill James and Max Weber, which in the heady days of early success he dubs “Eddy Ball.” But Amenta soon learns that his teammates’ attachments to favorite positions and time-honored (if ineffective) strategies are hard to break—especially when the team begins losing. And though he rejects the baseball-as-life metaphor, life keeps intruding on his softball season. Amenta here comes to grips with the humiliation of assisted reproduction, suffers mysterious ailments, and finds himself lingering at the sponsor’s bar, while his partner, a beautiful but baseball-challenged professor, second-guesses his book in the making. Can he turn his team—and his life—around?

Packed with colorful personalities, dramatic games, and the bustle of New York life, Professor Baseball will charm anyone who has ever root, root, rooted for the underdog.

Read an excerpt.

242 pages | 44 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2007

Biography and Letters

Sociology: Urban and Rural Sociology

Sport and Recreation


"At one level, Professor Baseball is a straightforward diary of Amenta’s successes and failures over one summer season in the several teams on which he plays and the one of which he is player-manager. At another, the book is a narrative account of one person’s lived-through obsession. It is a coming-of-middle-age tale of a forty-something man, with fatherhood imminent, trying to come to terms with changing fortunes in his professional and personal life. Above all, it is about his forlorn and ultimately doomed quest for redemption. . . . The academic community might have had to wait a little longer for Amernta’s quantitative study of pension funds in Depression-era America because of it, but I for one found Professor Baseball a more than worthwhile diversion."

John Sugden | Times Higher Education Supplement

"This is pretty funny stuff. . . . Can serious softball and the daily grind of life survive together? Good question; good pursuit of the answer."

Blue Ridge Business Journal

Table of Contents

Early Season
Midseason and Dog Days
Hot Stove
Bibliography and Acknowledgments

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