The names Sammy Sosa, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Vladimir Guerrero are well-known among Major League Baseball fans. What these players all have in common besides astronomical talent and millions of fans (and dollars) is the fact that they all hail from the same tiny Latin-American country, the Dominican Republic. Dominicans by far outstrip any other foreign nationalities represented in the Major Leagues, exceeding representatives from other baseball-crazy countries such as Mexico, Canada, Venezuela, and Japan. So what accounts for this tiny, economically challenged Caribbean nation having such an incredible impact on "our" game? This is the question Mark Kurlansky attempts to answer in his book, The Eastern Stars.
Kurlansky, the author of Cod and Salt, turns his keen investigative eye towards this phenomenon by studying the impact of baseball on the Dominican city San Pedro de Macorís, a remote, sleepy community that alone has produced 79 Major League ballplayers in its history (including the aforementioned Sosa). Kurlansky looks into the city's history and multiethnic culture and provides insights from the players, coaches, managers, and veterans who oversee the tough and highly disciplined player development structures built into the culture of the town. He also discusses how baseball, to a lot of these kids, is seen as the only way of climbing out of the wretched poverty they experience. This book will be of interest not only to baseball fans but anyone interested in Dominican and Latin American culture and history. If you enjoy this book, I highly recommend checking out the 2008 movie Sugar, also available at the Milwaukee Public Library.
Submitted by Brett @ Washington Park