Working to Play, Playing to Work: Mexican American Baseball and Labor in Southern California


"I remember traveling to Lake Elsinore, which was a long way in those days," reminisced Zeke Mejia in 1996. "But the only ride we could get was from a friend who hauled fertilizer in his truck, so all the guys crawled inside ... and tried not to breath during the ride. By the time we arrived to play well we all smelled like fertilized fields. We did it because we loved the game." 1 For Mejia and thousands of other Mexican Americans laboring in Southern California during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, baseball served as a means to at once demonstrate belonging in the United States, while simultaneously asserting their own identity. In Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside counties, Mexican … [Read more...]

Diamonds Separated by Oceans: Baseball, Japanese Americans, and Southern California’s Pacific Rim

Baseball game at Manzanar War Relocation Center | Photo: Ansel Adams, courtesy of the Library of Congress

"If California has made any contribution to sport on a national level, it is in the democratization of pursuits that were previously the prerogatives of elites," noted the dean of California history Kevin Starr in 2005. "Most of the champions of the twentieth century who come from California first developed their skills in publicly subsidized circumstances: municipally supported swimming pools, golf courses, and tennis courts in particular, where middle class Californians, thanks to the recreational policies of Progressivism, were introduced to these previously social register sports." 1 Indeed, even under the weight of racism, groups denied equal access to mainstream U.S. society found … [Read more...]

Dear USMNT Fans, It’s Not Easy Being a Contender


[Editor's Note: In the wake of the US's late 2-1 victory over World Cup nemesis Ghana, we reach back to 2010 World Cup with an open letter to USMNT fans from SEMAP's Romeo Guzman, a partisan of the Mexican national team who doles out some advice for dealing with the heartbreak of being supporter of a "mid level" contender.] In 1994 the US hosted the World Cup, a first for the nation and for many Americans an introduction to what the world calls Futbol. Back then the national team was composed of mediocre players and some decent nationalized foreign players. Getting out of the group stages was desired, but by no means expected and keeping the opposing team to a few goals was a … [Read more...]

Filing the Lane, Here and Abroad: Filipino American Identity and Basketball


[Editor's Note: Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! ToM will be bringing forth several articles on Asian American history and culture over the next three weeks. Be sure to check out our previous post on masculinity, femininity, and Asian American basketball in 20th century California here.] "We played in the barrios too and the whole town would come to watch us," fifteen year old Los Angeles native and Filipino American basketball player Gabe Abe Pagtama told journalists in 1992. "The one bad thing over there is the mosquitoes. We had to make small fires in the hotel rooms to drive them out." Pagtama and his Los Angeles-area teammates traveled to the Philippines to take part in a … [Read more...]

Masculinity, Femininity, and Asian American Basketball in 20th Century California


[Editor's Note: Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! ToM will be bringing forth several articles on Asian American history and culture over the next three weeks. Be sure to check out our second post on the transnational role of basketball in Filipino and Fil-Am identity here.] "I'm not particularly proud of it, but over the past two weeks, I've exchanged countless e-mails with my Asian American friends about how the only way the Jeremy Lin story could possibly be better is if he talked like Nas and released a dis track on Tru Warier Records," wrote Jay Caspian Kang in early 2012. Kang, a novelist and editor at Grantland, drafted a series of articles reflecting on Bay Area native … [Read more...]

Los Angeles F.C.: Soccer, Globalization, and Ethnicity


One year ago this month, Major League Soccer (MLS) opened its 18th season with a cacophonous and exciting opening match between the New Jersey Redbulls and the Portland Timbers. Though the game took place in Portland and the match ended in an exciting 3-3 draw, Southern California drew the attention of broadcasters during the game’s halftime intermission. Former MLS stars and U.S. national players Taylor Twellman and Alexi Lalas engaged in a bit of banter regarding the L.A. based Chivas U.S.A. and its increasingly notorious team policy. Both players took offense to Chivas’  pro-Mexican/Latino recruiting model.  While admitting the policy came just short of racism, Lalas asserted that Chivas’ … [Read more...]

Making Analytic Rain in Today’s NBA: The Stat Revolution in Pro Basketball


If you’ve taken a course in the social sciences, you are well aware of the quantitative approaches that now dominate these fields—from political science to economics to sociology. For several decades this emphasis on empiricism has reigned supreme. In some ways, this fetishization of quantitative methodologies seems like a lot of social scientists protesting too much: “Hey! We’re scientists too!” And we all know how prescient and skilled political scientists and economists are at predictions and policy…But, we’ll leave that be for now. While these methodologies are now fundamental building blocks of social science, they have also begun to spread from sports to approaches to governance. … [Read more...]

The Nationalisms of the World Series


Things are set to come to a head all over again. A recent article in NYMag noted that the recent pessimism by fans of a newly fiscally restrained New York Yankees, if misplaced, hasn’t been this dour since 1992. The cover of that week’s New Yorker features the Yanks’ cast of expensive stars with crutches, canes, and wheelchairs. For a different set of fans 1992 also marks a milestone, though one considerably less somber. That was the first year that the “World Series” became even remotely international, as the Commissioner’s Trophy made its way north into Canada. So was 1993, and so—nearly—was 1994, until the baseball strike blew into the MLB fandom everywhere and destroyed the season … [Read more...]

Debating March Madness: ToM Dukes It Out over the Meaning of the NCAA Tournament


ToM headquarters bubbled over with contentious enthusiasm this week, as writers and staffers debated the merits of March Madness. Inspired by the musings of Keith Orejel and the rantings of Clement Lime, ToM scribes raised workplace alienation to new and surprising levels this week. In an effort to stem this tide of negativity, we’ve allotted the two raconteurs at the heart of this dispute, Keith and Clement, one last word regarding their positions.  To paraphrase Tina Turner in Beyond Thunderdome, “Two men enter, one man leaves.” Click for Keith Orejel’s: “American Basketball, American Democracy: The Meaning of March Madness” Click for Clement Lime’s: “The Fallacy of March Madness … [Read more...]

The Fallacy of March Madness or Why I Learned to Love the NBA and Stop Worrying about the NCAAS


I am a sinner, the lowest of the low, a man from the heartland who has abandoned the clarion call of March Madness.  This morning, I awoke to no busted brackets or regretful tears over Wichita State’s massacring of tournament expectations.  When the sound of Florida Gulf Coast alley oops fell silent in the face of a Florida team led by a guy who can’t act his way out of a UPS commercial (say it with me as woodenly as possible, “I-t-’-s a-b-o-u-t l-o-g-i-s-t-i-c-s”), I shed not a single tear.  No, for the first time in my life, I refused to fill out NCAA brackets and to be honest, I feel free, like a bunch of Disney starlets on Spring Break: “Come on y’all why you actin’ … [Read more...]


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