If you’re a sports fan with a social conscience, you’ve probably had that moment where you realize that sports, professional and collegiate, are a labor-exploiting racist racket. It’s comparable to being a kid and realizing Santa Claus isn’t real. I’ve had those moments too, long before the backlash to Colin Kaepernick’s protest or seeing the words “Black Lives Matter” on a basketball court.
Eric Nusbaum, a sports fan like me, had it when he was a kid, when an octogenarian former activist and HUAC victim Frank Wilkinson told him in his class that Dodger Stadium should never have been built. Like me with the Baltimore Orioles, young Eric worshipped the Los Angeles Dodgers; their stadium a cathedral for his fandom. To hear that was painful.
Fortunately, adult Eric turned his pain into storytelling by giving an excellent account on the lives and events that comprised the controversial building of Dodger Stadium, which wiped out three distinct communities in what is now referred to as Chavez Ravine. Following the lives of the Arechiga family, as well as Wilkinson and other bit players in and around Los Angeles, Nusbaum tells a story that covers baseball, politics, history, immigration and so much more.
Using a short chapter technique (most of the 70+ chapters are 2-3 pages) helped balance the story and prevent run ons and tangents. The reader feels fully invested in what’s happening and realizes that the tragedy of Dodger Stadium is part of a bigger problem with the country, with finances, with racism and colonization, with so many things.
The story is thoroughly Los Angeles and thoroughly American. And told in a way that is teachable, digestible, and accessible. Bravo, Eric Nusbaum. One of the best pieces of non-fiction I’ve read the last few years.