Book Review: Las Estrellas Orientales

Las Estrellas Orientales

The Eastern Stars – How Baseball Changed
the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris
by Mark Kurlansky
A Baseball Book Review
Monte Cely
(512) 310-9777
            “What do Rico Carty, Alfredo Griffin, Pedro Guerrero, George Bell, Julio Franco, Juan Samuel, Sammy Sosa, Alfonso Soriano, and Robinson Cano all have in common? They all come from the small sugar-mill town of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. Coincidence? Hardly.”   — NPR
            Las Estrellas Orientales (in English, The Eastern Stars), is a story about baseball in the Dominican Republic, and much more. The title is taken from the name of San Pedro’s professional baseball team in the Dominican Winter League, but the story is really about the history of this Dominican town and how it has come to pass that 86 major-leaguers have come from this small city.
            The book has a good dose of Dominican history, from pre-Columbian settlement through Spanish colonization, the Trujillo dictatorship, and up to the 21st Century. San Pedro’s development as a sugar mill center in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and its subsequent economic decline, set the stage for a baseball boom fueled by the drive of destitute Macorisanos to escape a life of poverty. Coupled with MLB’s search for cheaper and more plentiful labor, baseball becomes a “be-all-end-all” for a better life for ball-playing youngsters and their families.
         This book is an interesting cultural and economic history with a baseball theme. It’s also a very current look at Latin American baseball, having been just recently published. SABR members should enjoy it, especially if you’ll be following the Caribbean World Series in 2012 from Santo Domingo (just an hour to the west of San Pedro de Macoris).
Here are the key statistics:
Book: Las Estrellas Orientales (the Eastern Stars) – How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris
Author:  Mark Kurlansky
Author’s Credentials: Kurlansky has written extensively on history, food, and culture. He was a Chicago Tribune reporter on Caribbean topics for seven years.
Published: 2010, Riverhead Books; ISBN: 978-1-59448-505-3
Length: 332 pages.
Price: Retail list – $16.00; Online – from $1.00 (used) + shipping.

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