GrowS14Congratulations to Nathaniel Grow.

Grow’s UIP book Baseball on Trial: The Origin of Baseball’s Antitrust Exemption is the winner of the David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Legal History/Biography for 2014.

The Prize is awarded to “the best university press book in American legal history or biography that is accessible to the educated general public, rooted in sound scholarship, and with themes that touch upon matters of general concern to the American public, past or present.”

Baseball on Trial has also gained acclaim from baseball historians as well as the legal history field.  The book was a finalist for the Seymour Medal, awarded by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), 2015.

Authors Thomas J. Gradel and Dick Simpson document many colorful and dubious characters in their book Corrupt Illinois.

An example (on page 1 of the book, even) would be former Illinois Secretary of State Paul Powell, who left nearly a million dollars of cash bribes stuffed into shoe boxes to be found after his death.

“He had an estate worth millions and he did it all with a 30 thousand dollar a year salary,” Dick Simpson told Fox 32′s Mike Flannery. “I was very impressed with his thriftiness.”

Corrupt Illinois is about more than just grifting legislators and incarcerated ex-Governors, however. Gradel and Simpson examine the environment of “patronage, cronyism and criminality” to show why Illinois politics are corrupt and how a change in the system is possible and desirable.

We have entered that mid-February time when catchers and pitchers report to spring training to prepare for the baseball season. To don the tools of ignorance. To pretend to run wind sprints in the outfield. To cadge a couple of extra days of downtime with “visa problems.” As one of the foremost academic publishers of sports titles, the UIP has spat on its hands and corked all bats in order to produce a murderer’s row of books that will get you ready for another campaign. Let’s go to the highlights.

pernotAlbert G. Spalding rose from a base ball internship on post-Civil War playing fields to big city stardom. His team, the Chicago White Stockings, was a founding member of the National League. One day, the White Stockings would morph into the Chicago Cubs, for better and (often) for worse.

A former 47 game-winner and a pioneer in wearing a baseball glove, Spalding became president and then co-owner of the White Stockings while using his rep as a star pitcher to simultaneously found a sporting goods empire. As Laurent Pernot chronicles in his crackerjack Cubs history Before the Ivy, the wily Spalding—truly a Chicagoan—found a way to make a buck off spring training:

The club’s only true moment in the sun that season came before the first game when Burns and his men headed to Hudson Springs in New Mexico for a boot camp-like spring training that, the Tribune reported, consisted mostly of “bronco riding, mountain climbing, and long hunting trips” that made the players “hard as rocks.” True to form, Spalding was likely mixing sport and business in organizing the trip; the resort where the team stayed was owned by Chicagoan Andrew Graham, who reportedly had put much effort into growing it at the prodding of Spalding.

In recent history 4 governors and 33 Chicago aldermen have been jailed in Illinois.

No wonder the authors of Corrupt Illinois, Patronage, Cronyism, and Criminality make the dire claims as they recently did on Chicago’s WTTW-TV.

“Chicago is the most corrupt city in the nation,” author Dick Simpson told host Carol Marin on Chicago Tonight. “Every time we convict someone for corruption it’s a good idea. But that just takes care of the rotten apple. We have a rotten apple barrel.”

The authors decry the culture of corruption and offer solutions in Corrupt Illinois. The book offers a history of criminality that extends south of I-80 as well.

It is not all #1 Chicago, however dragging the state down. “Illinois is only the third most corrupt state in the nation,” Simpson says. “It’s not a good position. We should be ashamed at being number three in the nation in corruption.”

Read an excerpt of Corrupt Illinois here.

cattonNot long ago we received word that William R. Catton, Jr. passed away in January.

Catton, known for his influential ecological book Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, was eighty-eight years old.

The Rev. Michael Dowd at the Huffington Post collected tributes to Catton and links to blog posts and articles celebrating Catton’s far-seeing—indeed paradigm-altering—work and thought. As Richard Heinberg said, Overshoot “calls into question the very foundations of industrial civilization in a more radical fashion than Das Kapital.”

Alan Weisman of The World Without Us fame told Dowd: “William Catton was prescient enough to see what was coming from a long way off, and responsible enough to spend his life warning us. Peace on his soul, and heaven help our own.”

Polite and calm, but never a shrinking violet, Catton spent decades forcefully arguing for his ecological beliefs. A 2008 interview archived by YouTube offers a representative sample of the man and his theses, and his book remains available.

Keepers of the FlameWithout Ed Sabol, the Dallas Cowboys might not be known as “America’s Team” and those goofy sports bloopers would not be a staple of rainy weekends.

More importantly, the way Americans remember and watch the NFL might be totally different. With imaginative language and gripping narratives, NFL Films created the modern image of professional football and bolstered the drama of the gridiron.

Sabol, who founded NFL Films, passed away this week at age 98.

In Travis Vogan’s Keepers of the Flame: NFL Films and the Rise of Sports Media, the author writes how Sabol’s influential documentary career started:

The story begins with Ed Sabol—an outsized personality who wore loud suits and boasted the fittingly conspicuous nickname Big Ed. Sabol had long maintained a fascination with the connections between sport and drama. . . . Though the handsome, charismatic, and fast-talking Big Ed was an excellent salesperson, he loathed his job—an experience he likened to “going to see the dentist every day.” One of his favorite hobbies during his fulfilling working life was making home movies and amateur films with an 8mm windup Bell & Howell camera he and his wife received as a wedding present.

Son Steve’s football games were the favorite subject of Ed Sabol’s hobby film making. After 5 years Sabol turned his hobby into a career by founding an independent production company.

The company bid on an contract to make documentaries for the NFL and the rest, as depicted in Keepers of the Flame, is history. The dramatic storytelling of NFL Films built a mythology around the game that influenced all of sports.

Ed Sabol was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

Yesterday, a wondrous headline lit up the Internet:

Diaper-Wearing Service Kangaroo Kicked Out of Wisconsin McDonald’s

You know who else liked kangaroos? P.T. Barnum. You know who publishes his every-word-guaranteed-to-be-true* autobiography? The University of Illinois Press. Without a doubt the Greatest Book on Earth, The Life of P.T. Barnum, Written by Himself, was a pioneer of that most American of genres, the tell-all celebrity biography. The UIP version reprints P.T.’s original 1855 fib fest in its brazen, confessional, and immensely entertaining entirety.

barnum kangarooOne of the surprises of Barnum’s life story is that some of his profit-making escapades enjoyed a certain respectability. New York newspapers, for example, celebrated the educational benefits of his famed American Museum, and indeed it held a natural history collection that, besides being more or less legitimate, was among the largest in the country. Its wonders included live curiosities from the animal kingdom—alligators, anacondas, a platypus, a kangaroo, and many other creatures. On July 13, 1865, a fire swept the premises. Though firefighters reportedly broke open the water tanks holding captive whales (!), the American Museum burned down. The kangaroo did not survive.

* Not legally binding.

For the month of February 2015, to coincide with Black History Month, we have lowered the e-book list price of four titles in the University of Illinois Press catalog to $2.99.

Cover for LaRoche: Free Black Communities and the Underground Railroad: The Geography of Resistance. Click for larger imageFree Black Communities and the Underground Railroad: The Geography of Resistance by Cheryl Janifer LaRoche
In this enlightening study, Cheryl Janifer LaRoche employs the tools of archaeology to uncover a new historical perspective on the Underground Railroad. Unlike previous histories of the Underground Railroad, which have focused on frightened fugitive slaves and their benevolent abolitionist accomplices, LaRoche focuses instead on free African American communities, the crucial help they provided to individuals fleeing slavery, and the terrain where those flights to freedom occurred. This study foregrounds several small, rural hamlets on the treacherous southern edge of the free North. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for Hendricks: Fannie Barrier Williams: Crossing the Borders of Region and Race. Click for larger imageFannie Barrier Williams: Crossing the Borders of Region and Race by Wanda A. Hendricks
Born shortly before the Civil War, activist and reformer Fannie Barrier Williams (1855–1944) became one of the most prominent educated African American women of her generation. In this first biography of Williams, Wanda A. Hendricks focuses on the critical role geography and social position played in Williams’s life, illustrating how the reform activism of Williams and other black women was bound up with place and space. By highlighting how Williams experienced a set of freedoms in the North that were not imaginable in the South, this biography expands how we understand intellectual possibilities, economic success, and social mobility in post-Reconstruction America. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for Foley: Jean Toomer: Race, Repression, and Revolution. Click for larger imageJean Toomer: Race, Repression, and Revolution by Barbara Foley
The 1923 publication of Cane established Jean Toomer as a modernist master and one of the key literary figures of the emerging Harlem Renaissance. Though critics and biographers alike have praised his artistic experimentation and unflinching eyewitness portraits of Jim Crow violence, few seem to recognize how much Toomer’s interest in class struggle, catalyzed by the Russian Revolution and the post–World War One radical upsurge, situate his masterwork in its immediate historical context. In Jean Toomer, Barbara Foley explores Toomer’s political and intellectual connections with socialism, the New Negro movement, and the project of Young America. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for tracy: Writers of the Black Chicago Renaissance. Click for larger imageWriters of the Black Chicago Renaissance
Edited by Steven C. Tracy
Writers of the Black Chicago Renaissance comprehensively explores the contours and content of the Black Chicago Renaissance, a creative movement that emerged from the crucible of rigid segregation in Chicago’s “Black Belt” from the 1930s through the 1960s. Heavily influenced by the Harlem Renaissance and the Chicago Renaissance of white writers, its participants were invested in political activism and social change as much as literature, art, and aesthetics. The revolutionary writing of this era produced some of the first great accolades for African American literature and set up much of the important writing that came to fruition in the Black Arts Movement. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

DowF14In 1970, the big three television networks of ABC, CBS and NBC took notice of the feminist movement. The stories on TV news ranged from a patronizing dismissal of feminists to balanced reports on child care needs and employment discrimination.

“Television news both hurt and helped the feminist movement,” says Bonnie J. Dow, author of Watching Women’s Liberation, 1970.

In the book Dow uses case studies of key media events to delve into the reasons that 1970 was a pivotal year for feminism on the network news. Feminist activists gained broadcast attention as the networks were eager for the story. Some activists were more successful utilizing the media attention than others. Dow chronicles the conditions that precipitated feminism’s new visibility and analyzes the verbal and visual strategies of broadcast news discourses that tried to make sense of the movement.

linklaterLike a lot of Hollywood stars on awards night, we’re a little late to the Golden Globes party. But the subjects of titles in UIP’s Contemporary Film Directors series filled in admirably for us by picking up awards at the annual shindig. David T. Johnson reveals the method behind the genre-hopping madness of Richard Linklater, a Golden Globe winner for Boyhood, in his book of the same name. First coming to notice with Slacker and Dazed and Confused, Linklater has maintained a sense of integrity while working with all levels of budget and subject matter that ranges from Fast Food Nation to School of Rock.

inarrituThe Birdman awards juggernaut included screenwriter Alejandro González Iñárritu. Celestino Deleyto and Maria del Mar Azcona delve into Iñárritu’s landmark directorial efforts, including 21 Grams and Amores perros, in the CFD book Alejandro González Iñárritu, a rare English-language consideration of the Mexican auteur.