tv American Artifacts Baseball in America - Origins of the Modern Game CSPAN August 7, 2021 5:33am-6:03am EDT
each week american artifacts takes viewers into archives, museums and historic sites around the country. next we visit the baseball exhibit at the library of congress in washington, d.c. to learn about the origins of the modern game, including the birth of several baseball traditions, the impact of immigrants and the increasing importance of statistics. >> welcome to the library of congress. i'm curator of the exhibition baseball americana. this was a collaboration with mlb, espn and the baseball hall of fame in cooperstown. today we will look at baseball fanatically, including the experience at the ballpark, the
business of baseball, how immigrants and immigration have affected baseball and the art and science of winning. so this is our section on at the ballpark. what we have here is an original fire insurance map. and what this shows is that d.c.'s original baseball stadium was really in the heart of the urban community. you can see that it's next to a number of businesses and residences. we have a college of dentistry, a hospital and a lot of row houses here and a lot of fans would often gather late in the day to sit on the roofs and watch a free game of baseball. but what these fire insurance maps do, and we have them for a number of cities here in the library is show that these stadiums are right in the midst of their community. they're not out in some idyllic pasture as we kind of think of that with early baseball. this was updated in the early
20th century. another thing we're talking about here are the customs and the rituals that fans experience at the ballpark. everything from keeping score. here we have a handwritten scorecard from the first game of the world series between the yankees and the giants. keeping score is an unusual aspect of baseball in that fans usually or often will keep score in ways that they don't for other sports. everyone seems to develop their own little style based on a template that they learned. another ritual of course is singing "take me out to the ball game." this is an original sheet music cover from 1908 when the song game out and with the words by jack who claimed he had never seen a baseball game before he started writing it, it captured a lot of sentiment what you do at a baseball game. we only sing a small portion of the song at the games. we only sing the chorus. much of the song is about a
woman who wants to go to a ball game rather than go see a show or do something else with her date. and so she asked to be taken to the game. she's a very feisty character. she wants to lead her friends in the cheers, and she was actually based on this woman here who you see on the left. so he based his character in "take me out to the ball game" on a woman he was seeing. he divorced his wife. he was about to marry her when he abruptly canceled plans and instead ran off and married nor ma bayes here and she co-wrote with him "let's get the umpires goat." so we have a love triangle here associated with it. the song eventually kind of faded into memory. it wasn't until the 1970s that harry caray began singing the number during the 7th inning stretch.
other teams adopted it, and now you will find it at almost every game, major league and minor league. but there was a long period of time where it disappeared and it has a rediscovery many years later. presidents have been associated with baseball for virtually the entire 20th century. go back to 1910 and you have president taft throwing out an opening pitch. he sets off a presidential tradition where every president except for the current occupant has thrown out a first pitch for opening day, all star game, world series, some event like that. it goes back to the 1880s of having celebrities or governors throw out the opening pitch. but the person who probably was the biggest fan in the white house was the first lady. and she became devoted to the washington senators. she got to know the players very well, invited them to events at
the white house and invited the player manager. and her husband, who was didn't know as much as she did, a good example would be in 1924 when the senators are playing in the one world series they want to win. it is game one. the game is tied 2-2 in the 9th inning. that's when president decides it is good to get up and go back to the white house. and she says, no we're not. she sits him back down and they watch the game into extra innings. it went 12 innings. unfortunatelies the senators lost, but they went on to win the series in 7 games. but she continued to be a lifelong fan. she followed games on radio when they moved back to new england. she adopted the boston red sox. into the 1950s was telling friends that baseball was her life. and she might be our biggest fan. people will also associate the second president bush with baseball, having been an owner
of the texas rangers from 1989 to 1998. and the image that we have here in our display is of him throwing out a pitch shortly after 9/11 in the 2001 world series, and he was wearing a new york fire department jacket. and because the country had known of bush's baseball associations, and here he was making this appearance in yankee stadium in new york, which had just suffered from these devastating attacks, it really was a unifying moment and it was probably one of the few times that people outside of new york have actually rooted for the new york yankees to win. hoover, who was not particularly a sports fan, he still recognized the importance of baseball in sport and in american life. and something that he said, a variation on several occasions was next to religion, baseball
has furnished a greater impact on american life than any other institution. and he realizes especially in the early days and the darkest days of the great depression that baseball was something that americans could look to for some relief, could look to for some entertainment during some very difficult times. i think it is interesting that even for someone who was not a sports fan he could recognize the power that sport had as being kind of a national calming effect for people. another feature of being at the ballpark, of course, is having the cuisine, including the hot dog, which is the most popular item sold at ballparks all over the country. the tradition of having hot dogs at the game goes back to the 1880s. we have a picture here that shows a hot dog venture at this field in 1920, but where it really became popular were in cities that were part of the american association.
those teams were located in st. louis, cincinnati. they brought with them a popular handy hand-held treat, the hot dog. it was easy to produce. it was easy to grill. it was easy to carry around. that made it a really popular item to sell at the ballparks. so not only did german immigrants introduce the hot dog to baseball, but waves of immigrants that came to this country adopted baseball as their own sport, used it as a way to become americans. so in this next case, we're going to see more of the immigrant story in baseball. this case is about the promise of baseball, about the immigrant experience, how baseball was a path to prosperity for a lot of immigrant groups. it was a way to find your american identity as a player or as a fan. the idea also is that if you are
a team, whether you are player or not, if you are learning the rules, you are actually taking steps to becoming an american because you are becoming part of the national sport. if you have an understanding of the national sport, how can you not be an american then? we start off actually here with what's considered the first baseball sports autobiography. this was by baseball's first celebrity. and it's a collection of anecdotes and talking about what it is like to actually play in the major leagues, sharing the experience of someone with an irish-american background. and the irish-americans were absolutely prominent among the most dominant players. you also had english and german-american players. lou gehrig is an example of someone who's parents were very opposed to him playing baseball at first. they thought he had gotten educated at columbia to start an
important profession and playing baseball was not what they had in mind. eventually they did warm up to it and realized what a fantastic player and superstar he could be. we have here a song, the original sheet music. "i can't get to first base with you" where the lyrics were cowritten by lou gehrig's wife. this did not sell particularly well. this is just part of our massive song collection. we have probably the largest collection of baseball music in the country. at the time, this is during a period where up to 80 baseball songs a year were being produced. so it is not too surprising that she would take a stab at song writing. we have an example of jewish players here. there were about 47 american indians that played in the
leagues before world war ii. he was perhaps one of the best known. latinos and latin-american immigrants have had a huge impact in baseball. the spaulding guide is that this was a spanish-american edition, spanish-english edition put out and it covers all of the cuban leagues, which was by far the most important league in latin america at the time. up above, we have this image of one of the later wave of cuban players. what had happened in the first wave was that those were all white players. by the time you get to the 1950s after jackie rocken son and the players are looking at the caribbean, they're not only looking for white players. this was taken in 1958 when he returned home to cuba to open up a little league season.
we included this in part because of the title "making his way in the usa." the idea that he's been with the dodgers for five years now, but he's just now settling in. he has a better command of english. he doesn't become a citizen for a number of years later, but he is part of a whole process in 1980s los angeles about immigration reform. there is a large hispanic community the dodgers have had since 1959, a spanish broadcaster. and fernando mania really take over los angeles. you get to the point that now, okay, about a third or so of the dodger fan base is hispanic, and there is just so underestimating
the importance that that's had in major league baseball. some other things that we have here, we've got this really interesting image that an sell adams took in world war ii. he donated these negatives to the library afterwards. he was documents what was happening in the internment camps. here we have an image of these games going on. and we have paired it with a book called baseball saved us, and it shows kids playing in the internment camps. it was written by the son of parents who were interned, and he is talking about how that unity of playing at the national game, of alleviated boredom, of being part of the national life, even though they were incarcerated, was such an important part to their survival. as it turns out, there were a couple of players who were held
in internment camps who had chances to be scouted by the brooklyn dodgers. it is an interesting pairing about how baseball was playing in such an important role in such a difficult time when people who were being suspected of being anti-american could not have been more american. >> in this case we're talking about the business of baseball. and as any fan who has followed the sports pages knows, the business of baseball is just as much a part of the game as the actual scores themselves and the statistics. here we have a contract from the western league, 1892. and this includes the very dense legalese language that players would fight against for the next century. a player bound to his team for leaf. he could not offer his services to another team. he was owned by his club. and the reserve clause is that
his team reserved all rights to him as a player. so the way players challenged the reserve clause, the first big attempt was in 1890 with the players league, which was founded by john montgomery ward. he also made the first serious attempt at a players union. there was another attempt in 1914 and 1915 through the federal league, which was another major league that was established in which players would share in some of the ownership and would receive greater payment that way. here we have an image of teams from the 1914 season celebrating. but they were playing in major league ballparks, and they simply were not able to draw the same numbers of fans as the established american league and national league. and eventually they imploded after two seasons. but the idea was by having these unions, by trying to establish
their own leagues, the players could control their own destiny and how much money they made. what we also have in this case is an agreement that babe ruth signed that in addition to receiving his regular salary, he would receive an extra $5,000 for playing exhibition games and he would get $50 for every home run he hit. by having some of these incentive agreements, players who had marked themselves as superstars or especially valuable to the club could add to their salary in that way. and in babe's case, even though he was making more money than anyone else, at one point $80,000 a year, this was a way to keep him happy on the part of management. and, so, we also have his shoes here. and the reason was we wanted to include something that gave you a little more sense of the person. and it was in these shoes that he trotted around the bases, part of his 714 trips around for home runs.
we also have an image of him here outside the white house all dressed up. he has his fur coat. he has his driving cap on. and this is a guy who is making it in baseball, and he's finding a way around the reserve clause with some bonus money that the yankees are happy to pay him. this book which came out in 1971 told the story of his fight against the reserve clause. what happens with curt flood who is playing for the st. louis cardinals is he is traded to the philadelphia phillies. he's not at all happy about it for several he thinks the phillies are a poor club, he's not crazy about their stadium. he's got a lot of reasons. and so he fights this trade and he takes his case all the way to the supreme court that he should have some say in what happens to him as a player. and the supreme court rules against him. shortly after that, though, there are a couple of loopholes
that occur that allow the free agency system to break wide open, and what you have in 1974 is catfish hunter, who's playing for the oakland a's. his owner violates the contract and that virtually releases him from his obligation. and so instead of playing for $200,000 with the oakland a's, he signs with the new york yankees for $3.5 million. bob dylan then writes a song about this, "catfish," and we have the sheet music here. and what he talks about is how a country boy with a great arm suddenly is making millions of dollars as a professional baseball player. the following year, 1975, there are two pitchers who refuse to sign their contracts. they play the next year with unsigned contracts. they claim at the end of the season that, because they have done that, they are no longer bound to their teams and an arbitrator agrees with them.
and so, what you see happening after that, is with the breakdown of the reserve clause, players' salaries are going to double, triple, quadruple, and eventually the players association agrees to a modest form of the reserve clause. a player has to put in six years as a professional before he can then negotiate as a free agent. and we have a list here showing the highest paid players for various seasons. you can see that after 1975 there is a rapid increase in the amount of money that players were receiving. it took a long time to go from the highest paid player in 1876 making $4,000 until you got to willy mays in 1963 making over $100,000. what happens after 1975 is that rapidly players are becoming multi millionaires. so we move from nolan ryan making $1 million a year in 1980 to mike trout with the los angeles angles making
$34 million in 2018. so in this section on the art and science of baseball, we're looking at the measure of the game, the different ways that people over time have tried to calculate and estimate and figure what kinds of players they needed, where to put them in a lineup, where to put them in the field. so that's all been done by various ways. of course, the scouting report is one of the most traditional ways. we have scouting reports here done in the 1950s and '60s. don drysdale, an 18-year-old young pitching phenom at the time, and there's a five-paragraph analysis here. ricky also did a sort of mid-career report on hank aaron, who was already an established power hitter, so he's only giving him a paragraph on here. but we have at the library more than 1,700 scouting reports that branch ricky did.
these shed some light into what a scout is looking for before they were able to crunch a lot of numbers. another way that baseball has looked at things is through spray charts. probably one of the best examples is whitey herzog, who when he was manager of the cardinals, kept charts for all opposition players. this is eddie murray with the dodgers. what he's done here is every time murray was up at bat against him, he kept notes on the right-hand side, but he also used colored pencils representing each of his pitchers to see how murray did against them. with that, he was able to figure out how to set up his defense and also to figure what pitcher should go against murray. the eddie murray spray chart covers a couple of seasons. this is from '88 to 1990. all of this information, of course, is stuff that kind of comes out in some form through this game strat-o-matic, which
was hugely popular when it first came out in the '60s. it's kind of the forerunner for fantasy baseball, actually, where you're automobile to pick your own players, you're able to pick your own teams based on how they perform. what you had was a game that was updated every year with cards showing statistics of players from the previous year and then you built your own team. with the roll of the dice, the game proceeded. so many players and so many people in the front office of different baseball franchises used strat-o-matic when they were kids to learn the ins and outsov manager -- outs of managering a game, managing a team. during the 1981 baseball strike, a number of newspapers used this to figure out how some of the games might have proceeded that had been cancelled. here we've got from the washington nationals this original lineup card. this is from april 28th, 2012, against the dodgers. it's the first time that bryce harper appears as a rookie.
and you're using statistics, of course, to figure out the best way to line up your players. harper, who nowadays is often seen in the number 3 or number 4 batting slots, was put in at number 7 to take a little pressure off him because it's his first game. what the batting lineup shows you here is the culmination of bringing together all of these statistics and data and figuring out the best way to put your men in lineup. another aspect of keeping track of statistics is that those were the sorts of things that were featured on the backs of baseball cards. so we have over in another case a selection of baseball cards from the 19th century up until recently, and one of the things that i have liked pointing out to people is with these baseball cards, when you look at the early ones from the 19th century, how sparse the statistics are. then as you move along, you get
to the 1965 card of clemente and aaron and mays, all they're looking at there is batting averages. but when you finally get to miguel cabrera, this thing is chock full of statistics. you're seeing through the backs of baseball cards this accumulation of data and this incredible increase in what's being kept track of compared to when baseball was first starting out with those early cards. all of these baseball cards we have here are original, including the one from 1933 with babe ruth. it has a very bland biography of him on the back so you can kind of get the sense that they haven't yet crunched all of the numbers that they're going to eventually put on the back of a baseball card. even as early as the 1850s when box scores were being developed and henry chadwick was popularizing the use of box scores, statistics started to be kept. and there was concern among the owners of a number of teams
later on in the 1800s that players were becoming too obsessed with their own stats. that was already a problem then. and it only continued, of course, to become more of an issue after players earned the right to negotiate their own contracts. and the concern with keeping stats was that players were playing for themselves and not for the team in order to bump up their numbers. one of the big developments, of course, in statistics has been the advent of the society for american baseball research, sabr. they have developed what is now known as sabr metrics, which is a series of very complex and interesting calculations, finding out things like do catchers have a higher or lower batting average after they have appeared on base earlier in the game, and therefore might be more tired. that's an astonishing statistic. allen roth, who worked for branch ricky in the 1940s and
1950s, came up with some incredibly complex statistics. but he anticipated a couple of things, including on base percentage, the importance of that, which billy bean would later take to the nth degree with the oakland a's. and also the idea of wins above replacement, w.a.r. and how valuable is a player over the course of a season, not just what is he doing in each and every game, but how many games is he winning for you or accounting for at the end of the season. with sabr metrics and the work of bill james, who was a pioneer in developing baseball statistics, there are so many categories now that you no longer simply have a batting average next to a player. you now have a slash line in which you feature a number of statistics. one of the things that we see with strat-o-matic, it's no longer just a board game. people are now playing it on their smartphones and they're able to crunch numbers and
they're able to get the latest information right away. so here at the library of congress, we've got more than 167 million items and only a few of those relating to baseball are on display. so if you're in washington, be sure to come by and see what america's library has for you. you can watch this or other american artifacts programs at any time by visitingngs
training, combat experience and reception when they returned home. this event was hosted by the massachusetts historical society, which provided the video. so today we have a great program which we'll explore one of the most popular topics in boston, which is the boston red sox. specifically this evening we'll be looking at the boston red sox and world war ii. we will be joined by a great panel, which will be led by a good friend, gordon eads. this is his fifth program in the last couple of years. so he's been doing a lot of work supporting our organization. gordon is the official historian of the boston red sox, he has been a