Best-selling historian Mark Kurlansky discusses his newest book, The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris. In the town of San Pedro, baseball is not just a way of life. It’s the way of life. By the year 2008, 79 boys and men from San Pedro have gone on to play in the Major Leagues–that means one in six Dominican Republicans who have played in the Majors have come from one tiny, impoverished region. Manny Alexander, Sammy Sosa, Tony Fernandez, and legions of other San Pedro players who came up in the sugar mill teams flocked to the US, looking for opportunity, wealth, and a better life. Because of the sugar industry, and the influxes of migrant workers from across the Caribbean to work in the cane fields and factories, San Pedro is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the Dominican Republic. A multitude of languages are spoken there, and a variety of skin colors populate the community; but the one constant is sugar and baseball. The history of players from San Pedro is also a chronicle of racism in baseball, changing social mores in sports and in the Dominican Republic, and the personal stories of the many men who sought freedom from poverty through playing ball. The story of baseball in San Pedro is also that of the Caribbean in the 20th and 21st centuries and on a broader level opens a window into our country’s history.
BIO: Mark Kurlansky
After receiving a BA in Theater from Butler University in 1970, and refusing to serve in the military, Kurlansky worked in New York. He was a playwright, having a number of off-off Broadway productions, and a playwright-in-residence at Brooklyn College. He won the 1972 Earplay award for best radio play of the year.