Baseball in Europe: a Country by Country History by Josh Chetwynd, (McFarland & Co Inc, 2008), 344 pages.
Baseball in Europe is Josh Chetywnd’s second book on baseball and his first solo effort, following on from British Baseball and the West Ham Club (reviewed here), a book that he co-authored with Brian A Belton.
British Baseball and the West Ham Club provided a history of unparalleled detail for several areas of British baseball, while offering a much briefer overview of other aspects. This was in part down to some of Chetwynd’s central interests lying in the areas that received the main focus, and in part due to the scarcity of information on certain areas simply not permitting a thorough history to be written. The result was a truly fascinating and sorely needed book, but one that may have left some readers hungry for more information on certain parts of British baseball’s history. Of course, a book providing a consistent thoroughness for the whole of Britain’s baseball history was neither Chetwynd’s intention nor a realistic possibility.
With Baseball in Europe, the reader gets the impression of an even more complete work, and one in which each area of Europe’s baseball history (i.e. each country) receives the proportionate attention it deserves. So the dominant forces of European baseball such as The Netherlands and Italy receive two dozen pages, while a minnow like Romania is given two paragraphs.
It is incredibly difficult to find authoritative English-language information on the history of baseball in any European country, so by knitting the histories together Chetwynd provides a book that serves as an invaluable reference resource. The usefulness of the book as a reference resource is enhanced further through the inclusion of a wealth of photographs and the provision of a range of fascinating appendices (as was the case in British Baseball and the West Ham Club). These include reviews of European Championships, details of European club tournaments, and lists of country-by-country national champions and European-born Major Leaguers.
While the book’s usefulness as a reference resource should not be underestimated, it serves equally as a fine read. The carefully researched historical facts are supplemented with wonderful anecdotes that Chetwynd picked up from talking to baseball authorities throughout Europe. Forty European nations are covered in total, and it is arguably the sections on the minnows where the most interesting anecdotes of all can be found.
Finally, the chapter on Great Britain has been fine-tuned from Chetwynd’s previous writing on our own country’s baseball history, and, for me, now represents the foremost summary of the subject available.
In short: buy it, enjoy reading it from cover to cover, and then find it a space on your most easily accessible bookshelf.
Have you read “Baseball in Europe”? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.