The Empire Strikes Out
How Baseball Sold U.S. Foreign Policy
and Promoted the American Way Abroad
by Robert Elias
A Baseball Book Review
Did you know that Richard Nixon killed Roberto Clemente?
The Empire Strikes Out is a review of two centuries of U.S. foreign policy thru the lens of baseball history. The book explores baseball’s links to American interests overseas, the export of U.S. culture and products, and support for the U.S. military. The fundamental premise of this book is that baseball (read “organized baseball”) has been a willing proponent and partner of American imperialism and militarism. In a not-atypical linkage, the author asserts that “… Nixon’s support for the Nicaraguan dictatorship was substantially responsible for Clemente’s death.”
This book incorporates a lot of research. There are 96 pages of notes, and they’re worth reading as a supplement to each chapter. The author gets most of the baseball facts and history correct, but his interpretation of their interaction is highly skewed by his political views. The book lacks objective balance. American foreign policy, and baseball’s role in it, is consistently presented as self-serving and hypocritical. Even efforts against totalitarianism are viewed with a jaundiced eye. Regarding World War II, the author states: “What ‘everyone knows’ about the war may not be entirely true. Was the Japanese attack really unprovoked? Was the White House really unaware of the impending assault?”
This book will certainly make you think more deeply about baseball’s political efforts and motivation. For those fans that may sometimes be annoyed or offended by organized baseball’s jingoism and flag-waving, Elias presents some reinforcing stories. Others will dismiss his views. Regardless, keep an open mind when reading.
Here are the key statistics:
Book: The Empire Strikes Out – How Baseball Sold U.S. Foreign Policy and Promoted the American Way Abroad
Author: Robert Elias
Author’s Credentials: Author and editor of eight books, most recently Baseball and the American Dream. He teaches law and politics at the University of San Francisco.
Published: 2010, The New Press; ISBN: 978-1-59558-195-2
Length: 418 pages.
Price: Retail list – $27.95; Online – from $6.60 (used) + shipping.