Cover image for Saying it's so : a cultural history of the Black Sox scandal
Saying it's so : a cultural history of the Black Sox scandal
Nathan, Daniel A.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
viii, 285 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.
Conference Subject:
Electronic Access:
Book review (H-Net)
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV875.C58 N38 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The story of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and his teammates purportedly conspiring with gamblers to throw the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds has lingered in our collective consciousness for more than eighty years. With baseball so closely linked to American values and ideals, the Black Sox Scandal of 1919 disenchanted baseball fans, changed the way Americans felt about the national pastime, and fostered changes in the game.

Daniel A. Nathan's wide-ranging, interdisciplinary cultural history is less concerned with the details of the scandal than with how it has been represented and remembered by journalists, historians, novelists, filmmakers, and baseball fans. Offering insights into what different cultural narratives reveal about their creators and the eras in which they were produced, Saying It's So is a complex study of cultural values, memory, and the ways people make meaning.

Addressing the relationship between cultural narratives and social reality, Nathan considers the media's coverage of scandal -- from front-page attention to scathing commentaries and cartoons -- when the story broke in 1920 and in the following years. He also examines how oral tradition reiterated the scandal before new narratives began to appear at midcentury.

In a series of astute reflections on Bernard Malamud's novel The Natural, Eliot Asinof's popular history Eight Men Out, and the work of the historians David Voigt and Harold Seymour, Nathan sheds light on the ways cultural and historical meaning is produced. Also considered are representations of the scandal in popular fiction and film during the Reagan era, the popular tourist destination and baseball field in Dyersville, Iowa, created for the filmField of Dreams, Ken Burns's television documentary Baseball, and the country's reactions to the 1994-95 Major League Baseball strike.

Author Notes

Daniel A. Nathan is an associate professor of American Studies at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

An anonymous urchin's legendary appeal to Shoeless Joe Jackson--"Say it isn't so, Joe"--is the most memorable response to baseball's most notorious scandal, the 1919 World Series "fixed" by seven bribed Chicago White Sox players (one of the eight players banned for life by Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis was probably innocent). Focusing on the journalists, historians, novelists, poets, playwrights, filmmakers, and ordinary citizens who have interpreted the scandal, Nathan (Skidmore College) tells the tale of the bribery, the trial, and Landis's willful determination to sanitize the "national game" despite the jury's verdict of not guilty. This book is clearly in the American studies myth-and-symbol tradition pioneered by Henry Nash Smith's Virgin Land (1950) and Leo Marx's The Machine in the Garden (CH, Feb'65). What they did with dime novels and the classics of American literature, Nathan does with Bernard Malamud's The Natural (1952), Eliot Asimof's Eight Men Out (1963), W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe (1982), and a staggering number of other titles. Whether the responses to the "Black Sox" were cynical or sentimental, Nathan fields them without an error. Nice work. The book is a treat. Summing Up: Essential. All readers; all levels. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Professionals/Practitioners. Reviewed by A. Guttmann.