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American Baseball History – A complete course

I have considered myself a baseball fan from the moment I learned the game…I think I was seven. I played and watched and every once in a great while went to a San Fran Giants or Oakland A’s game. It taught me teamwork, respect, work ethic, fair play, unfair play, passion, heartache, and joy! It also taught me appreciation of “the moment.” That time in every game in which the outcome hinges upon. Some games have one, some have several. More than any other spectator sport baseball is built upon “the moment.”

Recently I had become more and more aware of some gaping holes in my knowledge of the history of the game. Sure I had heard of stories about the game and “moments” of it’s players, but stories have a way of becoming blurry with the truth the more they are told. I wanted to find the truth in all these “fish” tales of the game. My wife got me a book called Storied Stadiums by Curt Smith as a gift. It is a massive volume that highlights all of the greatest tales from every stadium that major league baseball has ever been played in…up to just a few years ago. It has a wealth of knowledge, but is very difficult to follow along. Mr. Smith wrote in a very fragmented style and paid particular detail to the physical characteristics of each park. I thought that this book was at it’s best when delving into the actual game play in each facility. Every park in the history of the game has been witness to incredible feats and unbelievable “moments.”

Hx of all the parks in American Baseball

I used Storied Stadiums as an addition to the true meat and potatoes of my survey which has been Ken Burn’s documentary Baseball. This epic 20+ hour volume starts at the lie that has been passed as the origin of the sport (Doubleday denies having anything to do with the sport, much less inventing it) and last year updated it with a 10th inning that chronicled from the 1994 strike through the now infamous “steroid era.”  The early hours were largely photos and interviews with historians that have studied the game. As the years passed Mr. Burns added video and talks with the people that lived through those times and those games. Special attention was given to the Negro leagues and the treatment of the players that made that league just as competitive and popular (if not more so) than the MLB. The last couple of hours went quickly as it concerned the years that I could remember. I had much more fun reliving those moments, where I was, how old I was, what my world was like at the time, than all that came before. I think that is just in human nature though. Everyone like to hear and see their own stories.

I now feel like I have reasons to call Mays, DiMaggio, Mantle, Johnson, Aaron, and Gehrig my heroes. In addition to the ones I grew up with…Clark, Bonds, Griffey Jr., Ripken, Puckett, Williams, Thomas, and Gwynn. I understand some of the rivalries better (still don’t believe New York/Boston qualifies as a true rivalry…until 2003 anyway.) Mostly I just enjoyed sitting back and hearing and seeing the legends of the game replayed for me. All the Yankee champs, Boston near misses, Giants/Dodgers battles, Cubs heartbreaks, Cardinals champs, Orioles greats, and Braves destroying fans hearts as they moved from city to city.

Lesson learned: The object is always to get back home safe.

I will always love this game. This year has been trying with the Giants free falling in their division and the sweet memories still fresh from the World Series Championship, but that is why I’m a fan. It is a game of emotion, some good, some bad. At the end of the year only one team is happy with how it went. Only one team is shedding tears of joy, the rest are just wiping their tears and prepping from the next run at the title.

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