Cover of Mexican American Fastpitch by Ben Chappell
Mexican American Fastpitch
Identity at Play in Vernacular Sport
Ben Chappell


216 pages.
from $30.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503609969
Paperback ISBN: 9781503628595
Ebook ISBN: 9781503628601

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Winner of the 2023 Byron Caldwell Smith Book Awards, sponsored by The Hall Center for the Humanities.

In Mexican American communities in the central United States, the modern tradition of playing fastpitch softball has been passed from generation to generation. This ethnic sporting practice is kept alive through annual tournaments, the longest-running of which were founded in the 1940s, when softball was a ubiquitous form of recreation, and the so-called "Mexican American generation" born to immigrant parents was coming of age. Carrying on with fastpitch into the second or third generation of players even as wider interest in the sport has waned, these historically Mexican American tournaments now function as reunions that allow people to maintain ties to a shared past, and to remember the decades of segregation when Mexican Americans' citizenship was unfairly questioned.

In this multi-sited ethnography, Ben Chappell conveys the importance of fastpitch in the ordinary yearly life of Mexican American communities from Kansas City to Houston. Traveling to tournaments, he interviews players and fans, strikes up conversations in the bleachers, takes in the atmosphere in the heat of competition, and combs through local and personal archives. Recognizing fastpitch as a practice of cultural citizenship, Chappell situates the sport within a history marked by migration, marginalization, solidarity, and struggle, through which Mexican Americans have navigated complex negotiations of cultural, national, and local identities.

About the author

Ben Chappell is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Kansas.

"Ben Chappell's Mexican American Fastpitch is among the best ethnographies about Mexican Americans. Documenting the rich story of a community that has been too often overlooked in terms of vernacular tradition and geographic location, he pushes anthropologists and Chicanx Studies scholars to reconsider our academic notions of 'culture' and 'ethnic/racial' identity and performance. Chappell's evocative description made me a fan of a sport that I previously knew little about."

—Michael L. Trujillo, University of New Mexico

"Fast-pitch softball provides a social space unique to Mexican Americans. It supplies elements vital to the community: a place where traditions, language, and culture thrive. It is a vehicle for leyendas who have inspired generations. Ben Chappell's work informs us that local sport is a powerful tool for community uplift and solidarity."

—Jorge Iber, Texas Tech University