DATE October 25, 2000 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Elaine Sciolino talks about Iranian politics, culture
and society, as well as her experiences as a journalist in Iran
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
Journalist Elaine Sciolino first arrived in Iran at one of the most dramatic
moments in the country's recent life. She was on the plane with Ayatollah
Khomeini in 1979 as he flew from Paris, where he'd been living in exile, to
Iran, where he assumed leadership of the revolutionary government. Sciolino
was a foreign correspondent for Newsweek at the time. After covering the
Iranian revolution, she continued to report from Iran on and off for the next
In her new book, "Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran," she writes
about the contradictions of daily life in the world's only modern theocracy, a
country combining elements of democracy with Islam. She's a senior writer at
the Washington bureau of The New York Times and has also served as the paper's
chief diplomatic correspondent, intelligence correspondent and UN bureau
I asked Elaine Sciolino about the connection between Iran and the current
conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Ms. ELAINE SCIOLINO: Iran still plays a big role in the Middle East conflict,
even though, geographically, it's very distant. Now one of the initial goals
of Iran's revolution--of Ayatollah Khomeini when he came to power was the
exportation of revolution around the entire Muslim world. This plan failed
miserably, except, to a certain extent, in Lebanon, where Iran still has a
playing field. Iran still provides material, support and weapons to Hezbollah
and material support and, perhaps, weapons to the Palestinian rejectionist
groups and is still interested in sabotaging or, at least, preventing any kind
of settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
GROSS: So do you think that this new conflict opens the door for Iran to
become even more active in trying to prevent any further peace process?
Ms. SCIOLINO: Well, it's a tricky question, Terry, because since Israel's
withdrawal from Lebanon, the landscape has changed. And even though Iran has
turned up the volume rhetorically, there is no evidence, at least in terms of
what US intelligence can see, that it has increased its weapon supplies or
its material support. So this is very much a policy and a process in flux
that American intelligence agencies are watching very carefully to see
whether this stepped-up rhetoric is matched by increased support.
GROSS: How has the rhetoric been stepped up? What are Iran's leaders saying
about Israel and the Palestinians?
Ms. SCIOLINO: There have been statements by some Iranian clerics that there
should be a holy war and that there should be some kind of real, material
support. But, you know, we should keep in mind that Iran's spiritual leader,
Ayatollah Khamenei, who wields more power than the elected president, has
called Yasser Arafat a simpleton and a traitor. You know, there is no love
between Iran's Shiite ayatollahs and the PLO. So this complicates matters
because, on the one hand, Iran, you know, would like to see, you know, Israel
neutralized or weakened, but on the other hand, Arafat is not widely
respected. The spiritual leader has said so, and Iran's president--the
elected president, Khatami, has said that any settlement that would be
acceptable to the Palestinians would be acceptable to Iran.
GROSS: Why is Arafat looked down on by these Iranian leaders? Is it because
he's participating in the peace process, or is it for other reasons?
Ms. SCIOLINO: It's, in part, because he's participating in the peace process,
but, you know, Arafat was never regarded as a leading figure of the Islamic
world. And right from the beginning, there was suspicion of Arafat, and even
though there were always embraces between Ayatollah Khomeini and Arafat,
there's never been a close, close relationship.
GROSS: Let's talk about the current leadership in Iran before we move on to
some of your experiences reporting from the country. The current president,
Mohammad Khatami--you describe him as a reformer. In what ways has he been a
Ms. SCIOLINO: Well, this is a guy who came from nowhere. For five years he
was the head of Iran's national library, and he certainly wasn't a figure on
Iran's political scene. He wasn't supposed to win the election in 1997.
Another cleric who was the darling of the clerical establishment was supposed
to. And Khatami was sort of allowed into the race because, you know, he wore
the turban of a cleric and he was one of them. But, surprise, surprise, he
ran on a platform of tolerance, of creating the rule of law and creating a
civil society for Iran. He appealed to Iran's women. He appealed to Iran's
youth. You know, young people make up 65 percent of the population; 65
percent of the population is under the age of 25. And he won with an enormous
mandate, and the mandate was one of change.
GROSS: At the same time, though, there's the Ayatollah Khamenei, not to be
confused with Ayatollah Khomeini.
Ms. SCIOLINO: I know. They all start with K. It's really quite confusing.
GROSS: And he's not a reformer at all, from what I've read. So is the
ayatollah at odds with the president?
Ms. SCIOLINO: They have an interesting relationship of cohabitation. They
need each other. They're both clerics. They both believe in the Islamic
republic. But they have very different world views. But they can't live
without each other. Khamenei knows that Khatami, the president, has the
mandate of the people, and Khatami knows that Khamenei has the constitution
behind him. It's an interesting kind of guerrilla battle that's going on in
Iranian politics today.
GROSS: Are Iranian-US relations warming any, and is the Palestinian-Israeli
crisis affecting the possible warming of relations?
Ms. SCIOLINO: Iranian-US relations have warmed very little in the last year
or so. The Clinton administration has made a concerted effort to try to
change the rhetoric, tone down the rhetoric. Iran technically is no longer an
international outlaw. It's no longer a rogue state. It's what they call a
state of concern. There has been a minor lifting of some of the peripheral
sanctions, economic sanctions, on both sides.
But Clinton's running out of time, and he can't take any bold gestures between
now and the end of his time in office because the Iranians haven't done
themselves any favors. The closure of the newspapers, a ruling by Ayatollah
Khamenei, the supreme leader, that banned an elected Parliament from
considering a controversial press law was an anti-democratic act. And the
trial of the Jews in Shiraz sometime ago together just have a chilling effect
on the administration.
In terms of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, the fact that the Iranian
foreign minister was in Lebanon, was in Syria underscoring Iran's support for
Hezbollah and the Palestinian rejectionist groups doesn't help matters. So
I'm not very optimistic that we're going to see a change in the short run.
GROSS: My guest is Elaine Sciolino of The New York Times. Her new book,
"Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran," is based on the approximately 20
years she spent reporting from Iran.
As you've said, there's a bulge in the population in Iran of people under 25.
Sixty-five percent of the population...
Ms. SCIOLINO: Mm-hmm, yes.
GROSS: ...is under 25. So those people didn't grow up with the revolution.
They don't remember the shah.
Ms. SCIOLINO: Right.
GROSS: What do they want that they don't have, the young people in Iran?
Ms. SCIOLINO: Well, you make a very, very critical point, which is these
young people, they don't know the shah, they don't know Ayatollah Khomeini.
They don't know the sacrifices of the eight-year war with Iraq. But they do
know the Internet, and many of them know satellite television. Even though
it's illegal, many people have satellite dishes and can watch CNN or the BBC
or "Monday Night Football." There's even a lively illegal satellite
dish-producing industry in Iran. It used to be the Internet was very, very
expensive. Now it's getting much more accessible because you no longer have
to make a long-distance call to log on to the Internet.
So as society changes and as information about the rest of the world becomes
more immediate, young peoples want change. You know, young people want to go
to university. At the moment, only one out of 10 Iranians who apply to
university can get in. They want jobs. There is such a huge influx into the
labor force every year that Iran needs to create hundreds of thousands of
jobs, which it just can't create given its economic problems. They want to be
able to get married. They want to have enough money to set up a household.
And, you know, they want more freedom. They just want the right to be, in a
way, just on the streets so that they're not hassled or harassed by morals
police who come down on them from time to time.
GROSS: What's behind this baby boom in Iran, this 65 percent of the
population being under 25?
Ms. SCIOLINO: Well, early in the revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini announced
that those who made the revolution should breed and should create a generation
of warriors for Islam. You know, this was part of the whole battle and whole
campaign to export Iranian revolution throughout the entire Islamic world.
Well, it backfired, and by about 1987, Iran had one of the largest population
rates in the entire world. And so the policy was quickly changed so that it
not only became OK to use birth control, but it became preferable to use birth
control. And now one can get a free vasectomy in Teheran. There are huge
billboards advertising vasectomies. Young people have to go to birth control
training classes before they can get married, sort of like what Catholics do
with pre-cana. There are penalties for having too many children.
GROSS: My guest is Elaine Sciolino of The New York Times. Her new book is
called "Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran." We'll talk more after a
break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guest is Elaine Sciolino of The New York Times. She's the author
of the new book "Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran," and it's based
on her 20 years of traveling to and reporting from Iran.
What are some of the rights women don't have in Iran that they seem to want
Ms. SCIOLINO: I've got to answer that question first by saying what rights
women in Iran do have because they have a lot of rights that women in other
parts of the Muslim world in the Middle East don't have. They work, they
vote, they run for office, they run their own businesses, they go to
university. They're lawyers, they're prostitutes, they're teachers.
But there is a very strict penal code that is anti-women, frankly. A woman's
testimony in court is only worth half of a man's. A woman can only inherit
half of what a man can. A woman has a very difficult time divorcing her
husband if her husband opposes the divorce, unless she can prove in a public
court such crimes as impotence or mental illness or drug addiction. The man,
the husband, always gets custody of the children when the children reach a
certain age. And it's interesting, one of the things that war widows did
during the war with Iraq is they pushed through Parliament a bill that allowed
them to get their children back when their husbands were killed in the war and
the children didn't automatically go to their husband's families.
GROSS: Well, getting back to rights women don't have that they seem to want
most, what have you learned about that?
Ms. SCIOLINO: Well, women also want the right to wear what they want on the
street. It sounds like a trivial thing, but when it's a hundred degrees and
you've got to wear a scarf on your head and a long robe, whether you're 90
years old or you're 12 years old, it can be a bit oppressive. Even the most
religious women who wear the full black chador that they would hold under
their chin to keep it secure want the right to walk on the street without a
strange man having the ability to come up to them and tell them that their
head covering or their body covering isn't quite enough. You know, it's very
simple, basic rights. You know, women can go to university, so they have won
that battle, but yet whether you're a man or a woman, if you don't pass a
morality test as well as an academic test, you don't get in.
GROSS: You know, there's a photograph in your book of women at a cosmetic
shop in Teheran...
Ms. SCIOLINO: Yes.
GROSS: ...and they're all wearing, you know, like black headdresses and black
robes, trying on lipstick. And the person selling it to them is also wearing,
you know, a long black robe and a black headdress. Look at this picture and
you wonder: How does the lipstick match...
Ms. SCIOLINO: How does it compute?
GROSS: Yeah. How does that compute? Where do the women wear the lipstick?
Ms. SCIOLINO: Makeup is basically acceptable now, at least in certain parts,
in certain cities. Again, it's an episodic kind of experiments. The streets
is one of the battlefields, so you will see women made up like clowns because
it's semi-forbidden, so you always want to do what's forbidden. But at home,
women certainly can wear makeup. You know, I've interviewed the mother of
President Khatami, and she was wearing enormous amounts of eyeliner and a lot
of foundation and blush and even a little bit of lipstick. In fact, the
president got furious with his mother for talking to me about, you know, the
question of beauty and just how important it was for Iranian women to look
GROSS: I think a couple of Iranian movies have recently won--in the past
couple of years won big awards at a couple of the film festivals.
Ms. SCIOLINO: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
GROSS: Tell us more about this--you know, what's happening in the Iranian
film industry now.
Ms. SCIOLINO: The Iranian film industry is one of the guerrilla battlefields
where you've got an explosion of creativity and, really, where really
filmmakers are testing the limits of the system. What one sees on the screen
is all sorts of ordinary problems of Iranians: their tragedies, their
dilemmas. Issues that they might not even talk about in their living rooms
are on the screen, issues like suicide, polygamy, unemployment, the lack of
places for young people at university, divorce, spousal abuse, child abuse,
murder. You know, all of these--drug addiction. All of these issues are
there for everybody to see.
And what it is to a certain extent is testing the limit. There are films that
are screened for just once or maybe for two weeks to kind of see whether or
not they'll pass the censors. There are films that might be edited for
internal consumption but might be shipped out differently for foreign
It's in the interests of the Iranian government to portray Iran in its--as a
human country, and I think that all of the attention and acclaim that has been
paid to Iranian films has helped improve the image of Iran. This is
happening, despite the fact that many Iranian films capture that dark side of
GROSS: Your new book, "Persian Mirrors," is based on the 20 years that you've
spent reporting from Iran. Not all those 20 years, but you've been back and
forth there many times and reported from there off and on for 20 years. Your
first trip there, I believe, was when you traveled there with the Ayatollah
Khomeini at the time of the Iranian revolution. How did you get to be on the
plane with him?
Ms. SCIOLINO: I'm not an Iran expert. I was never an Iran expert by
training. I studied the French Revolution and 18th century France in graduate
school, and that's why I was a correspondent in France for Newsweek magazine.
And I was the junior person in a bureau with four other people, and so when I
volunteered to go out and cover an obscure cleric who had just landed outside
of Paris, there were no objections from the senior members of the bureau and
to Newsweek. And when it came time to put someone on that plane, you know, I
went on that plane with more than a hundred other journalists. And Khomeini
knew it was a dangerous trip. He banned all Iranian women from going on the
plane. In fact, the plane carried enough fuel that in case there was any
difficulty on the ground, that we could've turned around and gone to Paris.
And later I discovered--much later in researching the book--that there
actually was a plan by the head of the Iranian air force to blow up the plane
that was presented to President Carter.
GROSS: Wow. Did you feel apprehensive on this plane?
Ms. SCIOLINO: I was young and foolish and single. In retrospect, I suppose I
could've said I wouldn't have gone on the plane, but it didn't occur to me at
the time. Although when we were circling Teheran's international airport for
the third time and I could see a sea of the shah's troops on the tarmac, I did
pause for a minute and wonder if this had been the right thing to do.
GROSS: What happened when you landed?
Ms. SCIOLINO: Well, there were more than a million people on the streets of
Teheran that day greeting the ayatollah, and I remember driving into Teheran,
there was a sign in four languages that said `Welcome to the journalists
covering the ayatollah.' And we were welcomed with sweets and kisses because
we had helped bring the ayatollah into the country. The revolution happened
and it was a very dangerous time, a time when all of the weapons that had been
in the shah's arsenals were, quote, unquote, "liberated," and young people
were driving around with weapons much too big for them and that they didn't
know how to use on the streets and using them. There were executions of the
shah's generals and a revolution was made.
GROSS: Did you expect that the Ayatollah Khomeini would be as strict a
fundamentalist ruler and as dogmatic as he turned out to be, as repressive as
he turned out to be?
Ms. SCIOLINO: I think Ayatollah Khomeini duped a lot of people. When he was
in Paris, he talked about creating an Islamic democracy, a democratic Islamic
republic. As soon as he got back to Teheran, he said, `Don't use the word
democratic. There's no place for it.' But not only were foreign journalists
duped, Iranian revolutionaries were duped as well. And you see what's playing
out now is really the unfinished business of the early revolution. And right
now some of the most diehard reformers were some of the most diehard
revolutionaries, and they're saying, `Hey, you know what? Our revolution got
hijacked. We fought to overthrow the shah to create a democratic society, not
one where a supreme leader, where one man has too much power.'
GROSS: Well, I want to thank you so much for talking with us.
Ms. SCIOLINO: Well, this has really been fun, and thank you very, very much.
GROSS: Elaine Sciolino is a senior writer at the Washington bureau of The New
York Times. Her new book is called "Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of
I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: This is NPR, National Public Radio.
Coming up, how baseball fans followed the World Series in the days before
radio. We talk with baseball historian Jules Tygiel. And Maureen Corrigan
reviews "The Complete Short Stories of Evelyn Waugh."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Interview: Professor Jules Tygiel discusses his new book "Past
Time: Baseball as History"
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
(Soundbite of baseball game)
Mr. RUSS HODGES (Announcer): There's the throw. There's a long drive! It's
gonna be, I believe--the Giants won the pennant! The Giants won the pennant!
The Giants won the pennant! The Giants won the pennant! Bobby Thompson hits
into the lower deck of the left-field stands! The Giants won the pennant and
they're going crazy! They're going crazy!
GROSS: That's Russ Hodges announcing what may be the most famous home run in
baseball history. Bobby Thompson's homer was the final play that led to the
defeat of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the playoffs and sent the New York Giants to
face the Yankees in the Subway Series of 1951. A Subway Series wasn't quite
as surprising then as it is today. There were only 16 Major League teams and
four of them were in New York. Tonight is game four of the current Subway
Series with the Yankees ahead of the Mets by one game. My guest is baseball
historian Jules Tygiel. He's the author of a book about Jackie Robinson. His
latest book is called "Past Time: Baseball as History." He lives in San
Francisco, but he grew up in New York and remembers the Subway Series of 1956.
I asked him to take us back to the early days of baseball when the World
Series first became popular.
Professor JULES TYGIEL (Author, "Past Time: Baseball as History"): It
catches on quite early. The first series is in 1903. Certainly by about 1910
this has become a major feature on the public landscape. And in those days
the way that most people received their information, because this was before
radio, is that each town and each city would set up large scoreboards in which
crowds of people, hundreds of people, sometimes thousands of people, sometimes
in the big cities tens of thousands of people would gather to watch the game.
And what they were watching was a re-creation, where on either side of the
score--you had a diamond in the middle, on either side of the scoreboard you
had the lineups from one team or the other team. If somebody got a hit, you
would see the runner move to first base. They would keep track of balls and
strikes, and people really--for people who lived thousands of miles away or
hundreds of miles away and had no way of really seeing a baseball game, this
was a moment of high drama. And this remained the way most Americans watched
the World Series and received the World Series until the 1920s when radio came
into being. And one of...
GROSS: So in the telegraph era, there were actual theatrical re-enactments of
the game through the telegraph messages that were conveyed about the game as
Prof. TYGIEL: That's right. And in some theaters they actually did have
people who ran the bases for you, but other--they had these very complex
magnetic scoreboards where you can sometimes see the players coming to the
plate or see the runners running around the base. But the usual thing was
much more a--the usual re-creation was a very simple, basic re-creation of the
lineups, the action and people really would stand there just waiting with
bated breath to see what would happen next. And the telegraph allowed them to
know instantaneously as it was happening at the stadium what was happening
wherever they were, and to most people this was a miraculous experience, to
actually be at an event that was taking place thousands of miles away.
GROSS: Have you read any of the telegraph messages from early baseball? And
is there anything you can tell us about what the language was like before we
had, you know, baseball announcers and colorcasters?
Prof. TYGIEL: The language on the telegraphs--I haven't read them, but I
know they were very strictly factual. And, in fact, the telegraph operator
really prided himself on not putting any of himself into it. He was not a
fan. He was not trying to embellish the game reports. He was just trying to
get the facts straight so that people could receive those facts quickly and
accurately. And that's one of the great changes that occurs in the 1920s with
radio. When they first began to experiment with radio--for example, in the
1922 World Series, when they hired Grantland Rice to broadcast the game--and
Rice really had no idea what to do. He really didn't know what a radio
announcer should do, and he was like the telegraph operator.
The next year Graham McNamee, who was a trained opera singer and had just
gotten into radio announcing, became the announcer for the World Series, but
McNamee, who was an entertainer, who was a performer, understood that on the
radio people wanted to hear description. They wanted to hear more than the
facts. They wanted to be caught up into the excitement of the game. They
wanted to hear the sound of the crowd. And this is something that he was able
to convey just instinctively. He realized that this is what you needed on
radio and, in essence, he was inventing modern broadcasting, modern
sportscasting, which hadn't existed just a few years earlier.
GROSS: What can you tell us about the first World Series broadcast on radio
Prof. TYGIEL: It was very tinny. They had very poor lines. It was very
dull in many ways because Rice really was not a very good announcer. On the
other hand, people who listened to it thought it was the most exciting thing
that they ever heard. I think to capture--one of the things I try to do in my
book is to capture different moments when the game changes for people, game
changes for the fans, and that's one of the key moments. The notion that fans
could actually be in the ballpark, hear what is going on, there's this
vicarious sensation of being at the scene or being part of something, and I
think it's hard for us to imagine the excitement that radio generated in the
1920s, the true miracle of radio, that these people were coming in to your
home and were telling you or sharing the game with you and were re-creating
Radio in the 1920s was really a groundbreaking technology, and baseball was
one of the main vehicles. It was one of the main things that people enjoyed,
particularly that World Series. People waited every year for McNamee to come
on and deliver the World Series, and they gathered around their radios much in
the way we might gather around our televisions. Or they would put radio
speakers up in the streets and people would gather in groups to enjoy the
game. It was a revolutionary undertaking, and baseball really was in the
forefront of that radio revolution.
GROSS: When was the World Series first broadcast on TV?
Prof. TYGIEL: In, I believe it was, 1947. Very quickly after World War II,
but it was only broadcast in the New York area. I think it was very fortunate
for television that all of those World Series between '47 to '56 were in New
York, were Subway Series, with one exception, because in the early days of
television, television existed primarily in the big cities. And, for example,
out on the West Coast or in a place like Denver, they had no way of
broadcasting or telecasting live events up until 1951. So the primary
audience for the World Series on television was originally in New York, then
on the East Coast, so it was quite a good coincidence for early TV that all of
those games were played in New York.
GROSS: What are some of the ways you think that television has changed
Prof. TYGIEL: Well, I think, you know, in many ways it's democratized it.
It enables us to see far more games. And we--I think when people talk about
the golden age of baseball in the 1920s, most people never got to see a Major
League baseball game. Most people didn't get to see these Major League
players. They began to see them in newsreels in the theaters, which was
another major breakthrough at that time. But they never really saw them in
person except--maybe in the post-season, players would barnstorm around the
nation. Babe Ruth would take an all-star team, and that was a very popular
attraction. But, of course, with television we all can see games. We all can
see more games than we ever dreamed of seeing and probably more games than
it's good for us to see in the course of a season. And so I think one of the
key contributions is to democratize the game.
GROSS: Let's go back to very early baseball history, to 1860 when there was a
Currier & Ives illustration that had the caption `The National Game.'
Describe this illustration for us.
Prof. TYGIEL: It's a wonderful illustration. It's an illustration about
what was, at that time, the most important presidential election in the
nation's history, and that was the election where Lincoln came to office. And
it shows the four presidential candidates of the time, and all of their
respective positions. But they're all dressed as baseball players. And so
on--Lincoln is for non-extension of slavery, and he's carrying a big--actually
it's not a bat, but a rail, because he was the rail splitter. And Stephen
Douglas is there advocating his position. And they're all talking as if this
was not a political election but a baseball game. They talk about being
struck out and hitting a home run.
And what's striking to me about this cartoon, and I use this to really start
"Past Time," is that here we are in 1860 just really a few years after
baseball begins to spread in popularity. It really is in 1855 that the game
begins to take off, and it's primarily at that time a New York game. And yet
Currier & Ives, which has a national clientele, is very confident that people
will understand the baseball imagery and they also are using the term that's
increasingly used to describe baseball, the national game. And, of course,
it's also being called the national pastime at that time. So the puzzle is:
Why did baseball appeal to the people of that era? Here is where baseball
suddenly is becoming an integral part of American culture, of American
society, and that cartoon, I think, captured that puzzle.
GROSS: Well, what was baseball like in 1860 at the time of this illustration?
Prof. TYGIEL: Well, it was not a professional game, although we do have at
that time some of the clubs that are organizing the game. Clubs like the
Knickerbocker Club or the Excelsiors of Brooklyn. Some of these clubs are
beginning to sort of pay people under the table or hire people in a certain
job, but their real job is to play baseball. So professionalization is
creeping in. And many of the rules are the same that we have today.
Certainly you play for balls and strikes, although the numbers of balls and
strikes varied from place to place. They played a nine-inning structure which
was different than earlier versions where you might play the first team to get
a hundred runs. They played games that the pitching was underhand and the
batters could tell a pitcher if they wanted a high pitch or a low pitch or a
pitch in the middle. So the game was still evolving, but it's a game that I
think we would still recognize in most of its respects.
GROSS: You credit Henry Chadwick as being, you know, one of the men who
actually created modern baseball. And it was during this era that we're
talking about, in the mid-1800s. You say his goal was to create a national
game so he needed uniform rules, scoring. What are some of the things that he
Prof. TYGIEL: Well, he invents the box score which, of course, is integral
for our understanding the game. He popularizes the batting average, which is
not necessarily a good thing because it's not the best measure of hitting
prowess. But Chadwick thought it was and many people still think that it is.
What Chadwick really did--Chadwick was not a player, although he was a good
athlete himself, but he was a sports writer, and he recognized that this game
was something that Americans could like and would like, but that we needed
was--some sort of a uniform scoring structure. We needed a statistical basis
for comparison. How can you tell really just by watching a game who was a
good player, who was not a good player? You might see somebody hit a home run
in one game and think he's terrific, but it turns out that it's the only home
run he hit.
And so Chadwick emphasized record keeping, scorekeeping, developing ways to
measure player productivity. He developed the concept of earned runs and
unearned runs, which he saw as a batting statistic. He didn't want players to
get credit for doing something good when the real contribution was on the
negative defense side. So he believed in something really being accounted on
a very highly moral--he lived in a very highly moral universe, very structured
by pre-Civil War reform movements. And so he integrated all of this into
baseball's statistical universe. And many of the statistics, many of the
measures that he developed are still the ones that we use to keep track of
GROSS: My guest is Jules Tygiel. He's the author of "Past Time: Baseball as
History." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guest is Jules Tygiel, who has written several books about baseball
history. His latest is called "Past Time: Baseball as History."
You see the 1980s as the start of baseball nostalgia. Do you think we're
still in that phase of baseball nostalgia?
Prof. TYGIEL: To a lesser extent, but I think what, of course, happened in
the 1980s is my generation, the baby boom generation, came of age, and this
is--I do believe this may be the last great baseball generation in that we
were raised at a time when baseball was the central sport in America, where
America really saw itself coming of age in baseball. We lived through the
Jackie Robinson experience, which was such a formative experience for us as a
nation, for us as people. And so baseball really means something to my
generation, and as we became old--and there are a lot of us, too. That's the
other thing, you know. Part of the reason baseball has its popularity is
among people, I think, age 45 and over more so than among the younger
And, of course, as we've come of age, there are a lot of us. We have a good
amount of money in an affluent society and we're able to indulge our baseball
fantasies. And in the 1980s we indulged them through rotisserie leagues where
we sort of managed our own teams, fantasy camps in which you could go and play
with the heroes of your youth, academics like myself were writing books about
baseball, taking it seriously as a scholarly endeavor, the great baseball
movies of the 1980s like "Bull Durham" and "Field of Dreams." I think much of
this was a generational thing and, you know, we're still--that generation is
still there, and so we still have that sense of nostalgia, but I think it's
not quite as heated. It's cooled off a bit in the 1990s and in the 21st
century from the way that it was in the 1980s.
GROSS: The Yankees have won two consecutive World Series. They win this year
it'll be their third. Some people downplay the achievements of the Yankees
saying that, you know, George Steinbrenner has deep pockets. He just goes out
and buys the best players so, of course they have a good team. What do you
think of that?
Prof. TYGIEL: I think you still have to make the right decisions. Very
clearly there is an economic imbalance in baseball. I'm not sure it's any
different than it always has been, because don't forget in the golden age of
baseball that people want to harken back to, the Yankees won the pennant
almost every year and one of the main reasons for that is they had the money
to buy the best players, to scout the best players, to have an extensive
developmental farm system. So there was an imbalance historically in
The imbalance that's taking place in the '90s may be a momentary thing. After
all, this year in the playoffs you had low payroll teams like Oakland, like
Chicago White Sox, like Seattle who made it into the playoffs. That's true
that two of the higher payroll teams have made it to the World Series. But
even when you have a high payroll you an look at a team like the Baltimore
Orioles, like the Los Angeles Dodgers, who seem to make all the wrong
decisions. So even when you have a lot of money, you have to have good
management. You have to choose the right players. You have to nurture those
players and make sure they perform on the field. So I think this remains a
tremendous achievement to have won three World Series in four years. And
certainly if they win another one, they can rank there among baseball's great
GROSS: Well, what are some of your memories of the Subway Series in New York
when you were a kid?
Prof. TYGIEL: I really remember that--you know, this notion that--people
talking about that you could walk through the streets and virtually hear every
inning. That's sort of my recollection, too. Everybody seemed to be
listening on the radio to the games if they were not inside watching them on
television. I think that we sort of saw it as a right. I mean, this was not
something that was a surprise the way it is now that comes once every four
decades. We had it every year and we expected it every year. At least one
team from New York area would be in the World Series and, of course, many
years several teams--or both of the teams in the World Series would be there.
So it seemed--you know, I was seven years old in 1956 and I was already a very
big baseball fan and already going to baseball games, though not the World
Series, and it just seemed something like I expected to happen and I could've
never envisioned that within a couple of years not only wouldn't there be a
Subway Series, but there would only be--the Dodgers, the Giants would have
fled to California, and that era really had come to an end.
GROSS: You wrote a book about Jackie Robinson. And in writing about
Robinson, you wrote about race and baseball. How do you see race as coming
into play now in the game?
Prof. TYGIEL: There's a much more complex racial configuration of the game,
because we now have so many more Latino players coming from such a wide range
of countries in the Caribbean. And many teams can have players from five,
six, seven countries in the Western Hemisphere that have to mix and come
together. And, of course, there's also been an influx now of Asian players,
particularly Japanese, but also Korean players. And then players from
Australia. In many ways this is a much more international game, and I think
that the--like American society, again this is reflective of the fact that we
used to think of race in terms of black and white, but we live in a much more
multi-cultural society. Baseball is a much more multi-cultural game. And I
think this has added to the allure of baseball. I think certainly the quality
of the players, being able to tap into that richer international pool, has
improved the game.
But it also, in many ways, like the--when Jackie Robinson, of course, made
people think about race relations, I think the international nature of the
game makes people think more about the nature of the multi-cultural society we
live in. So once again, baseball has the potential to be a humanizing, to be
a democratizing force in American life.
GROSS: Jules Tygiel is the author of "Past Time: Baseball as History." He's
a professor of history at San Francisco State University.
Coming up, book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews "The Complete Short Stories of
Evelyn Waugh." This is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Review: New book, "The Complete Short Stories of Evelyn Waugh"
TERRY GROSS, host:
Evelyn Waugh has been hailed as the greatest satirical writer of the 20th
century. He died in 1966. Everyman's Library has just brought out an edition
of "The Complete Short Stories of Evelyn Waugh," and book critic Maureen
Corrigan says that this massive dose of Waugh has her wishing for more.
MAUREEN CORRIGAN reporting:
I haven't read Evelyn Waugh for years. A mistake, I admit. Waugh's take on
human nature is so acid, so bracing, that his great comic novels, like "A
Handful of Dust," "Vile Bodies," "Brideshead Revisited" and "Love Among the
Ruins," should be read and reread every few years just as a tonic for the
intellect. I picked up the new Everyman's Library edition of Waugh's complete
short stories because I thought his wit would provide just the right literary
inoculation against the stammering and yammering of the recent presidential
debates. I also thought it would be fun to lose myself in Waugh's world of
the 1920s and '30s, a twilight of the British empire place, awash in pink gin
and populated by bright young things and dozing Colonel Mustards.
What I'd forgotten about Waugh, and what the short stories vividly reminded me
of, was his taste for the grotesque, even the grisly. He's not only the
perfect writer to read for relief from political cant, he's also seasonably
suitable for Halloween. His stories are filled with lunatics, severed limbs,
crumbling ancestral mansions, the wicked and the damned, all rendered with
Waugh's inimitable light touch. The Everyman's edition unearths 38 stories in
all, lots of wonderful, long out-of-print pieces, as well as some of Waugh's
juvenilia and satirical cartoons.
There are also two chapters here of an unfinished novel which goes by the
title "Work Suspended," that Waugh began in the fateful month of September
1939. In a letter to Alexander Wolcott, dated summer 1942, Waugh explains why
he abandoned the book. `It is now clear to me that even if I were again to
have the leisure and will to finish it, the work would be in vain, for the
world in which and for which it was designed has ceased to exist.' That novel
fragment is almost as hard to read as Waugh's giggly juvenilia, but for a far
different reason. It's so atmospheric, so rich with character and plot
possibilities, that you just wish Waugh, in this instance, had had less
The narrator, John Plante(ph), is a detective fiction writer who's in Fes,
Morocco, writing in a cheap hotel whose clientele consists of elderly couples
of small means withering in the sun. Plante receives word that his father, an
artist and a forger, has just died and left him the dismal family pile. So he
returns to England, falls in love with a married woman, and that's about all
Waugh wrote. Blast him.
To get a sense of what was lost to the treasure house of satire when Waugh
abandoned this novel, just listen to this bit of conversation between Plante
and his publisher. Plante feels he's turning into a hack and he's announced
that he wants to try something new in his writing. `You've not been writing
any poetry in Morocco,' says the publisher. `No, no.' `Sooner or later,
almost all my novelists come in to me and say they've written poetry. I can't
think why. It does them infinite harm. Only last week Roger Simons(ph) was
here with a kind of a play. You never saw such a thing. All the characters
were parts of a motor car, Magnetto(ph) and Sparking Plugs(ph) and Cam
Shaft(ph), all talking in verse about communism.'
Alas, we can assume there would've been plenty of O'Henryish plot twists in
the novel, because Waugh loved that kind of thing. Many of the best short
stories here end with wallops, whose effect I won't ruin by revealing.
Instead, there's plenty else to enthuse about in Waugh's writing. His
language is like some smoothed, aged whiskey laced with delayed-reaction
poison. It takes a few seconds before you feel its lethal intent.
The short story "Incident in Azania(ph)," for instance, takes place in
colonial Africa and features an eligible young woman named Prunella
Brooks(ph), whom Waugh slyly describes as `an iridescent blond with a fresh
skin with rubbery, puppyish limbs and a face which lit up with amusement at
the most barren pleasantries.'
"The Man Who Loved Dickens" is a short story that Waugh wrote in 1933 that
became the germ of his masterpiece "A Handful of Dust." Reading this earlier
incarnation of that novel's famous ending, it seemed to me the most awful
aspect of Paul Hinty's(ph) fate is certainly not that he's forced to read
Dickens aloud for the rest of his life, or even that he's being held captive
in the jungle. No, it's that Hinty is doomed to reading Dickens aloud to a
menacing audience of one, Mr. McMaster(ph), who doesn't really get Dickens.
Waugh notes how McMaster often asks the wrong questions and laughs at the
Surely this is the writer's nightmare, that the reader just won't understand
the story. It's a nightmare that Waugh, as so many of these brilliantly
absurd, eccentric and touching stories confirmed, worked very hard to
GROSS: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University. She
reviewed "The Complete Short Stories of Evelyn Waugh."
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.