The Empire Strikes Out

How Baseball Sold U.S. Foreign Policy and Promoted the American Way Abroad

Mixing sharp political analysis and compelling lore, an eye-opening look at baseball’s relationship to American empire, from the revolutionary era to the present

The Empire Strikes Out is a rare and wonderful combination of splendid scholarship and lively writing. Robert Elias’s affection for baseball illuminates its pages even when he is unearthing episodes of organized baseball’s racism, jingoism, unbridled militarism, and insensitivity to other cultures. A truly fine work.” —Roger Kahn, author of The Boys of Summer, The Era, and October Men

Is the face of American baseball throughout the world that of goodwill ambassador or ugly American? Has baseball crafted its own image or instead been at the mercy of broader forces shaping our society and the globe? The Empire Strikes Out gives us the sweeping story of how baseball and America are intertwined in the export of “the American way.”

From the Civil War to George W. Bush and the Iraq War, we see baseball’s role in developing the American empire, first at home and then beyond our shores. And from Albert Spalding and baseball’s first World Tour to Bud Selig and the World Baseball Classic, we witness the globalization of America’s national pastime and baseball’s role in spreading the American dream. Besides describing baseball’s frequent and often surprising connections to America’s presence around the world, Elias assesses the effects of this relationship both on our foreign policies and on the sport itself and asks whether baseball can play a positive role or rather only reinforce America’s dominance around the globe. Like Franklin Foer in How Soccer Explains the World, Elias is driven by compelling stories, unusual events, and unique individuals. His seamless integration of original research and compelling analysis makes this a baseball book that’s about more than just sports.



The Empire Strikes Out should be required reading for anyone who considers themselves a baseball fan, or for anyone who has opposed the military misadventures of the past decade. It is an unqualified triumph.”
—Dave Zirin, author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States
“Lively and provocative, this is a ‘big picture’ look at the extangled, and sometime nefarious, relationship between our national pastime and U.S. foreign policy. Well crafted, it is, at once, nuanced, imaginative, and provocative.”
—George Gmelch, author of Baseball Without Borders and In the Ballpark

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