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Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville: A Lifelong Passion for Baseball

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  230 ratings  ·  27 reviews
Science meets sport in this vibrant collection of baseball essays by the late evolutionary biologist.Among Stephen Jay Gould's many gifts was his ability to write eloquently about baseball, his great passion. Through the years, the renowned paleontologist published numerous essays on the sport; these have now been collected in a volume alive with the candor and insight ...more
Paperback, 360 pages
Published May 17th 2004 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2003)
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Tommy Carlson
Jan 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Mediocre Baseball

I used to feel bad about giving up on a book, but then I realized that life was too short to waste on mediocre books. Here's one I gave up on two-thirds of the way through.

Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville: A Lifelong Passion for Baseball

So, Stephen Jay Gould is an ace writer when it comes to science. Apparently, he also wrote several essays about baseball. This book is a collection of those essays, published after his death. (Or, y'know, posthumously.) Alas, it's not very good.
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
Though known primarily for his work in various fields of science, Stephen Jay Gould's first love was baseball. In this collection of essays and reviews, wanders through his affection, examining the myths and legends alongside their well-documented statistics. He does not shy away from hard facts, nor allow himself to become mired in a rose-tinted lore recital. Rather, he applies his keen and scientific mind to a discussion of life, love, and baseball, and all the ways they are connected. All in ...more
Aug 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
It's clear that Stephen Jay Gould has a supreme love of baseball, which is why I picked this book up in the first place. The trouble is, this is a posthumous collection of articles published in the Times or various other publications. Small snippets that briefly touch on the topic du jour from when they were written.

The problem here is that many of these articles no longer possess the intensity or passion they once did when the subject was fresh. And worse, some of them lack all credibility and
Jul 26, 2010 rated it it was ok
I love Stephen Jay Gould, and I love baseball. But this haphazard collection of baseball-related clippings from the last two decades didn't do it for me. Gould is a thoughtful and brilliant man, a big fan of the game, and a good writer. But this volume is unsatisfying. I can identify three primary for it.

First and foremost, it's just not his area of expertise. In his lifetime, Gould forgot more about hen's teeth and horse toes than I'll ever know, but baseball is comparatively just a diversion
Norman Metzger
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
True, a Harvard academic but his saving grace is that he played stickball, punchball, and off the stoop in the Bronx (games I was a champ at!), Gould was a paleontologist (major player in the punctuated equilibrium interpretation of evolution)who died much, much too soon. The writing and hence the book is wonderful and even if you're not a baseball nut if only to get a perspective on a national passion that among other things is infused by statistics that Gould happily dissects, interprets and ...more
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great Baseball book!
Charles Moore
Jul 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
All the legends come trotting out at the All-Star break and maybe once in a while a fable gets slightly altered to be closer to the truth. Which would we rather believe?

I don’t recall reading Gould in the recent past but I recall when watching him on Ken Burns’ “Baseball” along with fellow New Yorker/historian Doris Kearns Goodwin talk about being kids in NYC and watching the Yankees or the Dodgers or the Giants win, lose, but never draw, and the best of it all was the fun. When I was younger I
Mar 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: baseball, memoir, sports
Published at the end of his life, Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville is a collection of essays by renowned anthropologist, Stephen Jay Gould. The essays are grouped thematically and offer something for every kind of baseball fan. Love history? He extolls on monumental moments in the past seven decades of baseball. Love memoir? He reflects on his childhood growing up as a Yankees fan in New York City during the golden age of late 40's and 50's baseball and the varied games of stickball played on the ...more
Oct 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: sports, fiction-non
Paleontologist essayist extraordinaire devotes a time to one of his life's passion, baseball.
As most post-war children, especially in New York, baseball was an integral and mythic part of life. The Yankees - DiMaggio, Williams and Mantle were modern day heroes. Ruth, Gehrig and Cobb were gods.

This book will resonate the most with those who followed baseball isn't the 40's and 50's. Some essays touch on more recent baseball events (up to the nineties), but mainly hovers in the era that excited
Brian Carless
Sep 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
This fantastic book is going to stay on my currently reading shelf for a long time. The book is a group of previously published essays on the subject of baseball. They vary greatly in length and purpose. Some are as brief as newspaper columns while others are longer review essays while others still use baseball to illustrate scientific problems for Gould. The book is easily picked up at any point and read. It also stands up well to a long continuous read. I is really just a joy to Gould more ...more
Jun 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebook, ibooks
This book is collection of essays Gould wrote over the years on the subject of baseball. Gould clearly loved the sport. He was born in NYC in the 40s when NY teams ruled the sport and when baseball ruled the sports world. Gould applies his intellect and analytical skills to the game and writes some really wonderful essays. His essay about DiMaggio's unbeatable streak is scientifically enlightening as it betrays Gould's admitted idol worship the Yankee Clipper. Gould's essay about the origin of ...more
Apr 15, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gould's recollections of his personal history with baseball and his passion for the Yankees got a teeny bit repetitive (okay, maybe this is just because I am a rabid Yankee-hater), but overall, I enjoyed this quite a lot. The statistical analyses were a little over my head at times, but interesting, particularly Gould's well-known theory of why there are no more .400 hitters. I also liked the critical pieces that make up the last section of the book, as I am always looking for book ...more
Jul 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: baseball fans, paleontologists
Yes, that Stephen Jay Gould. This book is a collection of the many essays about baseball he wrote during his life, some of which are pure baseball and some of which use the game as a metaphor for his rationalist view of the world, which I admire. All of them are good. Gould was a strange fan, though -- born and raised a Yankees fan, he became a Red Sox sympathizer after he became a professor at Harvard. That justifiably arouses one's suspicions about the strength of the man's convictions, but ...more
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Jay Gould clearly loves baseball, but this is an unfortunate mishmash of essays. The essays are roughly organized by topic, but little care was taken to ensure that the essays weren't repetitive. I learned a few interesting things (e.g., a little bit more about the history of baseball and why hitters don't hit .400 anymore), but the book fell pretty far short of my hopes. It might have been better to read one essay at a time, weeks apart.
Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: baseball, non-fiction
This was one of those books which only a stubborn and possibly pathological determination not to leave things half-read forces me to finish. Pompous, frequently overly misty-eyed and sentimental, and at times just plain stupid. Some of it is quite good - the analysis of why no one hits .400 any more was interesting, but overall... yeah, there are so many better things to read on baseball. Don't bother with this.
Mollie *scoutrmom*
Feb 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: baseball fans
Recommended to Mollie *scoutrmom* by: nobody
This looked interesting so I clicked on "find on Amazon" because my son's birthday is coming up; I sent him a copy. I've read half of Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes by Stephen Jay Gould and loved it, so I figured this was a good bet.
Apr 14, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, sports, 2009
I bought this book for Zach, who's a baseball fan, and started reading it one day when I didn't have any library books available. I don't love baseball, but I found the essays about Gould's childhood especially endearing. This is a great book for lovers of baseball. It's really just a collection of essays, so there's no need to read it all in one sitting.
Aug 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a posthumously published book of baseball essays by biologist Stephen Jay Gould. It's a fun read; Gould clearly loves baseball. The essays range in topic quite widely, from recent games to historical players.
Daniel Ford
Feb 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Great book! Highly recommend! Did you know the last pitch Don Larsen threw in his World Series perfect game in 1956 against the Dodgers was 2" outside the strike zone? Thanks to Gould, now you do! Get the book and read about it and much more!
Oct 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: baseball, non-fiction
Some of the inconsistencies I noted earlier still apply. This was a pretty good collection, but because it was a collection, it felt somewhat disjointed. Gould is at his best when recounting games or events from his childhood.
Aug 30, 2012 rated it liked it
A few really good essays & a few that were just okay.
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What are my favorite talking Hansing Kenberg decorate was Steven to
Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful! Gould combines his two great lives and the effect is pure joy.
May 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Flowery prose, especially for a scientist. Interesting memories of WW2-era ballplayers, good book and film reviews, and some good insights into the nature of memory.
Dec 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An erudite scientist expounds on his experiences with baseball and brings his analytical brain to what makes it the "American sport".
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Baseball geekery at its best.
Jul 20, 2013 rated it did not like it
Not sure what the infatuation with the author is. Very dated material, doesn't acknowledge the use of PED's in some of his essays. Didn't finish the book, and didn't want to.
Michael Glass
rated it liked it
Aug 22, 2009
Chris Lewis
rated it liked it
Apr 04, 2012
rated it really liked it
Dec 06, 2018
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Stephen Jay Gould was a prominent American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation. Gould spent most of his career teaching at Harvard University and working at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Most of Gould's empirical research was on land snails. Gould