Richmond, Peter 1953-
Richmond, Peter 1953-
Born April 25, 1953, in Bronxville, NY; son of Harold Thomas Almond and Virginia Lee Richmond; married Melissa Davis, May 1, 1982; children: Maxfield Almond, Hillary Barleau. Education: Yale University, B.A., 1976.
Sportswriter for various newspapers, 1976-91; Miami Herald, Miami, FL, reporter, 1983-89; National Sports Daily, New York City, staff writer, 1989-91; Gentleman's Quarterly, New York City, special correspondent and staff writer, 1992—.
Nieman Fellow in Journalism, Harvard College, 1988-89.
Baseball: The Perfect Game, photographs by Danielle Weil, introduction by David Halberstam, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1992.
Ballpark: Camden Yards and the Building of an American Dream, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1993.
My Father's War: A Son's Journey, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
Contributor to numerous periodicals, including Rolling Stone, New York Times magazine, and Glamour.
Peter Richmond wrote Ballpark: Camden Yards and the Building of an American Dream, which chronicles the genesis of a modern-day baseball stadium. The tale of the Baltimore Orioles' new home, Camden Yards, combines Richmond's love of baseball, interest in urban architecture, and disillusionment with organized sports in America. The volume provides insight on the evolution of baseball from America's "national pastime" to a distinctly commercial enterprise manned by surly millionaire players and an antagonistic, profit-driven cartel of owners. Richmond, who worked as a sportswriter for various newspapers including the now defunct National Sports Daily, was a staff writer for Gentleman's Quarterly at the time of Ballpark's publication in 1993.
In Ballpark, Richmond outlines Camden Yards's attempt to counter the public's jaundiced perception of baseball by evoking the sentiment and nostalgia of the sport's yesteryear. The stadium itself garnered accolades from urban planners and architecture buffs for its incorporation of a 1905 railroad warehouse into part of its design, while sports enthusiasts applauded its vintage ballpark layout. The Orioles' home is unique in its rejection of such modern developments as Astroturf, and its open-air, grass-turfed setting, reminiscent of the extinct Ebbetts Field in New York City, evokes a bygone era of baseball.
Ballpark also discusses the more unsavory elements of Camden Yards's success story. Richmond points out why the Orioles' previous quarters, Memorial Field, were perfectly adequate and discusses the transparent reasons given for the costs of building a new park. He profiles the key participants involved in its development, including Edward Bennett Williams, a wealthy Washington, DC, attorney and power broker who purchased the Orioles in 1979. Urban officials and baseball fans feared the loss of the team to their rival city until another important person in Camden Yards's story—Baltimore's enthusiastic mayor William Donald Schaefer—took control of the situation. Schaefer, who went on to become governor during this period, spearheaded a proposal through community boards and the state legislature that would dissuade Williams from moving the Orioles out of the city with a tempting new ballpark. Maryland lawmakers approved the bill, which allowed the construction of Camden Yards to be financed by proceeds from the sale of lottery tickets. Another key figure was Janet Smith, an architect and urban planner hired to oversee construction. By most accounts Smith earned a legion of enemies in Baltimore through her attempts to take undue credit for every successful facet of the project.
Richmond sketches Camden Yards's development from the planning stages (and subsequent controversies surrounding its location and design) to its full-house opener of the 1992 season, but a subtext of his tale questions the reasons behind the new park. Ballpark suggests that Camden Yards's manifestation represents the current state of baseball: a bit uncomfortable in its modern role as a profit-driven enterprise, seeking to redeem itself by injecting an element of nostalgia that will both reward fans and give credibility to its continued existence.
Ballpark won favorable reviews from critics. Jonathan Yardley, writing in the Washington Post Book World, remarked that given the hype and unequivocal praise surrounding the new playing field, "Richmond has written a considerably more subtle and revealing book about the making of Camden Yards than we had any particular reason to expect." Yardley also noted that "on the subject of Baltimore and its beloved Orioles, Richmond is exceptionally good." Los Angeles Times Book Review writer John Schulian lauded the author's talents as "a stylish, insightful sportswriter," and remarked, "ah yes, sports in the '90s—and what a splendid job Richmond does of depicting them as the corporate fandango they have become."
Richmond once told CA: "The impetus for Ballpark arose from a lifelong affinity for the game of baseball, a fascination with urban architecture and a strong conviction that professional sports in the late twentieth century in the United States has developed into an industry of exploitation, no longer an industry of entertainment. As a sportswriter for half a dozen newspapers from 1976 to 1991, I lost my love for the games themselves and became increasingly dismayed with the greed that permeates the playing fields. It occurred to me, eventually, that our modern equivalent of the Robber Barons of the industrial revolution are the owners of our professional sports teams. I tried, in Ballpark, to cut through the layers of praise that were heaped on the Baltimore Orioles' new ballpark to reveal the inner workings of the process.
"For years, I'd hoped to write a story of the construction of the Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Ohio—my favorite American urban building. For various reasons, it was never feasible. But with Ballpark I was able to dig deeper into my passion for urban architecture. I hope, in future books, to stay on this track—perhaps a study of American passenger rail, its past and future, the inexorable tie between trains and American culture. I'm firmly convinced that our abandonment of rail travel is linked to the decline of the various values which we seem to have lost sight of as we head for the twenty-first century."
While the versatile Richmond has not yet published a book about rail travel, he has since written an introspective book exploring his memories of his father, My Father's War: A Son's Journey. He also wrote a biography, Fever: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee. The book explores the career of a once famous pop star, Peggy Lee, who died in 2002. "Miss Peggy Lee," as her name was always written on the marquees, was a celebrated singer of pop and jazz during the 1940s and 1950s. Her distinctive singing style and well-known persona of being shy but subtly sexual led her to be described as a refined combination of Billie Holliday and Mae West. Lee, born in 1920, was from Jamestown, North Dakota, and was the daughter of an alcoholic railroad laborer. Abused by her stepmother, Lee partly began her singing career in her teens to escape her unhappy home. After going on the road, Lee received her big break when jazz musician Benny Goodman hired her as his lead singer in 1941. The book goes on from there to describe Lee's two arduous years on the road, her first hit with "Why Don't You Do Right?," her troubled love life, and her other career milestones. Richmond also tells readers of Lee's fall from the limelight in the 1960s and 1970s, compounded with her slip into an unhealthy lifestyle.
Reviewers noted that the prose in Fever descends at times to that a fervent fan, but also felt that this is occasionally an asset to the book. Indeed, critics commented that, as a result of his passionate interest, Richmond deeply comprehends the music and presents the reader with a subtle biography. Nevertheless, New York Times Book Review contributor Stephen Holden called Fever "entertaining but gushy." Praising the book in Entertainment Weekly, Chris Willman described it as a "rare bio of a golden-age entertainer." A Kirkus Reviews critic commended Fever as "a vivid montage of American pop at its peak."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Richmond, Peter, My Father's War: A Son's Journey, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
Booklist, March 1, 2006, review of Fever: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee, p. 54.
Entertainment Weekly, April 7, 2006, Chris Willman, review of Fever, p. 67.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2006, review of Fever, p. 125.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 20, 1993, John Schulian, review of Ballpark: Camden Yards and the Building of an American Dream, p. 8.
New York Times Book Review, July 25, 1993, Allen Barra, review of Ballpark, p. 16; April 30, 2006, Stephen Holden, review of Fever, p. 13.
Publishers Weekly, January 30, 2006, review of Fever, p. 48.
Washington Post Book World, May 16, 1993, Jonathan Yardley, review of Ballpark.