National Pastime: How Americans Play Baseball and the Rest of the World Plays Soccer

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Soccer, or what the world calls football, is indeed the focus of much of the world this month. The World Cup is now upon us and many Americans may wish to read a book that helps improve their appreciation of the most popular sport on earth.

Two fellow sports economists — Stefan Szymanski and Andrew Zimbalist — have penned a very readable book examining the development of baseball and soccer. In National Pastime: How Americans Play Baseball and the Rest of the World Plays Soccer , these two outstanding sports economists examine why baseball developed in the United States but soccer became the sport played around the world.


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And that should get anyone ready to enjoy the World Cup. For more on this book, one can read the very positive review of Phil Miller — a contributor at The Sports Economist.

Henry Chadwick Award: Andrew Zimbalist

Today, he is perhaps the most widely recognized authority on the economics of sport. His father was an attorney who worked in Manhattan and his mother was a nurse and later a librarian. His love for the game continued to evolve as he played through high school. He then headed back east to Harvard, earning his PhD in It took another decade and a half, however, before Zimbalist formally combined his love of baseball and economics.

Zimbalist recognized the opportunity, found a publisher, and Baseball and Billions became a best-selling business book. National Pastime provides a fascinating compare-and-contrast of the evolution of the structure of modern sports leagues, examining the development of baseball leagues in the US and soccer in England and elsewhere.

National Pastime: How Americans Play Baseball and the Rest of the World Plays Soccer

Among his non-baseball related books, Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup , offers fresh insights into the economics of these sporting mega-events. Some notable research influences on Zimbalist include Albert Hirschman, the wide-ranging development and public policy economist; economist Sam Bowles; and Roger Noll, one of the first economists to rigorously study sports.


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  • Over the years Zimbalist has consulted in the sports industry for players' associations, cities, companies, and leagues. Through his wide-ranging consulting assignments and research Zimbalist has acquired a unique, nuanced sympathy for all the various actors in the business of baseball, while at the same time recognizing the various excessive positions that all sides occasionally take.