The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris by Mark Kurlansky (Riverhead Trade, $16.00, 352 pages)
The Eastern Stars, subtitled How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris, by Mark Kurlansky, chronicles the evolution of baseball in this town, the island in general, and – in some cases – the surrounding Caribbean islands.
At its conclusion, the book has a listing of the first 79 players from San Pedro de Macoris that made it into the U.S./Canadian major leagues. Many readers will likely assume this book has more baseball content and less history, and from the middle toward the end, baseball plays a more prominent role in the story. The beginning of the book is a long history lesson, which may prove to be quite frustrating for some readers.
The most interesting parts of the book are the tales of how the local men who did succeed in playing major league baseball viewed their hometown. The decisions they made during and after their careers relating to how they supported the needs of their families and brethren had outcomes ranging from remarkable generosity to outright dismissal.
Extreme poverty is the one common denominator affecting all. The subjects of steroids, scouts, and how MLB organizations handled their affairs in Latin America also permeate throughout.
The book dances between trying to satisfy the history buffs and the baseball fans and, thus, falls short in both areas. However, it does add up to a satisfying story, especially after it manages to leave the ground. Recommended.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. Mark Kurlansky is also the author of the nonfiction books Cod and Salt.
Dave Moyer is an educator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.