War Fever: Boston, Baseball, and America in the Shadow of the Great War

Basic. Mar. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9781541672666. $30. HIST
Roberts (history, Purdue Univ.), with coauthor Smith (both, Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X), explores World War I, specifically the year 1918, through the stories of three fascinating figures: legendary baseball player Babe Ruth, German-born Boston Symphony conductor Karl Muck, and soldier and Harvard-educated attorney Charles Whittlesey; each of whom were connected to the city of Boston at a time when death was rampant, as the Spanish flu was killing thousands and battles were raging overseas. Skillfully interweaving their subjects’ stories while simultaneously conveying the culture of Boston at the time, the authors deliver a perhaps lesser-known side of Babe Ruth; a concentrated investigation of conductor Muck, who was accused of being a spy for his home country; and insight into Army Medal of Honor recipient Whittlesey, who led the “lost battalion” in the Meuse–Argonne offensive, known as the greatest in U.S. military history. Finally, the authors show how this period of wartime propaganda was not forgiving to some service members, carefully addressing this issue with sensitivity and care.
VERDICT A compelling look at a tumultuous moment in U.S. history through the lives of three extraordinary individuals. Fans of 20th-century American culture as well as Boston and World War I history will rejoice.

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