The Quality of Home Runs

The Passion, Politics, and Language of Cuban Baseball

The Quality of Home Runs

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 6 photographs Published: November 2008

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Latin American Studies, Sociology

In parks and cafes, homes and stadium stands, Cubans talk baseball. Thomas F. Carter contends that when they are analyzing and debating plays, games, teams, and athletes, Cubans are exchanging ideas not just about baseball but also about Cuba and cubanidad, or what it means to be Cuban. The Quality of Home Runs is Carter’s lively ethnographic exploration of the interconnections between baseball and Cuban identity. Suggesting that baseball is in many ways an apt metaphor for cubanidad, Carter points out aspects of the sport that resonate with Cuban social and political life: the perpetual tension between risk and security, the interplay between individual style and collective regulation, and the risky journeys undertaken with the intention, but not the guarantee, of returning home.

As an avid baseball fan, Carter draws on his experiences listening to and participating in discussions of baseball in Cuba (particularly in Havana) and among Cubans living abroad to describe how baseball provides the ground for negotiations of national, masculine, and class identities wherever Cubans gather. He considers the elaborate spectacle of Cuban baseball as well as the relationship between the socialist state and the enormously popular sport. Carter provides a detailed history of baseball in Cuba, analyzing players, policies, rivalries, and fans, and he describes how the sport has forged connections (or reinforced divisions) between Cuba and other nations. Drawing on insights from cultural studies, political theory, and anthropology, he maintains that sport and other forms of play should be taken seriously as crucibles of social and cultural experience.


“[The Quality of Home Runs] could only have been written by someone with a deep love for the game. . . . Carter's work proves just how illuminating it can be when sport's pleasures—and its inevitable links with politics and real life—are taken as seriously as they deserve to be.” — Matthew Reisz, Times Higher Education

“A labour of love written, it would appear, despite the political sensitivity of the game on the island and its own inner politics, The Quality of Home Runs uses baseball as a tool with which to provide an engaging and interesting perspective on Cuban identity.” — Gavin O’Toole, Latin American Review of Books

“An ethnographer, Carter. . . has a serious passion for Cuban baseball, and here he combines that love of the Cuban game with his academic discipline. . . . Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers.” — S. Gittleman, Choice

“Carter’s superb account highlights the paucity of similar studies of sports. . . . Unfortunately, many in the academic community don’t have the necessary passion for sports. For those who do, this account is an ideal model.” — Thomas B. Stevenson, Journal of Anthropological Research

“For baseball fans, it is a treat to watch the game in Cuba. Carter’s book, The Quality of Home Runs, provides some insight into why. It addresses the particular attributes of the fans and the unusual role they play in the live experience of the game. With a keen eye to the intricacies of the sport as well as Cuban culture, history and politics, Carter, an ethnographer, examines what is Cuban about Cuban baseball, and how and why Cubans experience baseball the way they do.” — Katherine Baird, Journal of Latin American Studies

“The book’s strength lies in Carter’s persistence in interpreting the heart and soul of what it means to be Cuban. Differing from other noteworthy scholarship produced in the last decade, The Quality of Home Runs is uniquely balanced as it uses a number of tools found in the disciplines of history, anthropology, political theory, and literature. Savvy and peppered with timely secondary source material, Carter’s work will be immensely stimulating to all interested in understanding cubanidad and the Hispanic Caribbean world’s long-standing tradition of baseball as a way of life.” — Darius V. Echeverría, NINE

The Quality of Home Runs offers engaging and provocative perspectives on socialism, nationalism, masculinity, and the embodiment and poetics of sport in Cuba, all seen from the vantage point of the stadium stands and the streets of Havana. Thomas F. Carter’s emphasis on themes such as spectacle, social drama, struggle, and discipline of both players and fans, on and off the field, builds a persuasive analysis of changing notions of what it means to be Cuban.” — Thomas M. Wilson, Binghamton University


Availability: In stock
Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Thomas F. Carter, an anthropologist, is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Brighton, Chelsea School.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface: Entering the Field vii

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction. The Theoretical "Stretching:" of Sport and the State 1

1. Baseball and the Language of Contention 17

2. Circling the Base Paths: Baseball, Migration, and the Cuban Nation 36

3. The Spectacle of and for Cuba 63

4. The State in Play: The Politics of Cuba's National Sport 89

5. Fans, Rivalries, and the Play of Cuba 111

6. Talking a Good Game 136

7. The Qualities of Cubanidad: Calidad and Lucha in Baseball 159

Conclusion: Touching 'Em All: Recalling and Recounting Home Runs 183

Notes 203

Works Cited 213

Index 231

Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, 2009 Outstanding Book Award, North American Society for the Sociology of Sport

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4276-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4253-3
Publicity material