Expanding the Strike Zone:

Baseball in the Age of Free Agency

By: Daniel A. Gilbert

210 pp



With its iconic stars and gleaming ballparks, baseball has been one of the most captivating forms of modern popular culture. In Expanding the Strike Zone, Daniel A. Gilbert examines the history and meaning of the sport’s tumultuous changes since the mid-twentieth century, amid Major League Baseball’s growing global influence. From the rise of ballplayer unionism to the emergence of new forms of scouting, broadcasting, and stadium development, Gilbert shows that the baseball world has been home to struggles over work and territory that resonate far beyond the playing field.

Readers encounter both legendary and unheralded figures in this sweeping history, which situates Major League Baseball as part of a larger culture industry. The book examines a labor history defined at once by the growing power of big league stars—from Juan Marichal and Curt Flood to Fernando Valenzuela and Ichiro Suzuki—and the collective struggles of players working to make a living throughout the baseball world. It also explores the territorial politics that have defined baseball’s development as a form of transnational popular culture, from the impact of Dominican baseball academies to the organized campaign against stadium development by members of Seattle’s Asian American community.

Based on a rich body of research along with new readings of popular journalism, fiction, and film, Expanding the Strike Zone highlights the ways in which baseball’s players, owners, writers, and fans have shaped and reshaped the sport as a central element of popular culture from the postwar boom to the Great Recession.

Extracts from this title are available to view:

To Purchase: Paper cover HERE.

Editorial Reviews

"An interesting, smart, and informative book. Daniel Gilbert effectively melds a transnational and multicultural approach to understanding broad and important themes in the late twentieth-century baseball world—and by implication the larger world—by focusing on events laden with contested cultural meaning."—Daniel A. Nathan, author of Saying It’s So: A Cultural History of the Black Sox Scandal

"In this deft blend of labor history and cultural studies, Dan Gilbert shows how the history of major league baseball's labor relations policies provide a rich repository of evidence about the full magnitude of the enormous changes that have taken place in the nature of work, consumption, marketing and management in our lifetimes. Carefully researched, engagingly written, and brilliantly conceived, this book shows how the business of baseball is one of those places where the nature of work and reward is learned, legitimated, negotiated and arbitrated."—George Lipsitz, author of How Racism Takes Place

"As that last bit from the book suggests, Expanding the Strike Zone is perhaps not for fans looking for discussions of who should be in the Hall of Fame. Those inclined to be curious about the way various economic, social, and cultural developments have been apparent in baseball’s increasingly complex world will find the book rewarding."—It's Only a Game, NPR

"An admirable and convincing attempt to place pro athletes in the wider context of the international struggle for labor rights."—The Boston Globe

"Professional baseball is more than sport--it's entertainment and a business with a transnational reach. Gilbert's book thoroughly explores both topics and leaves one wonderfin at the end--will there ever be a real 'world' series?"—Grand Prairie Union News

"Expanding the Strike Zone will appeal to scholars who think deeply about baseball's connections to deep cultural trends in American history. Recommended."—Choice