01 October 2011

CDOBC: But Didn't We Have Fun Chps 6-8

For more about the book club and books on the agenda click here.

But Didn't We Have Fun? An Informal History of Baseball's Pioneer Era 1843-1870
by Peter Morris

Chapter: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6, 7, 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13

For this post, I am collapsing a few of the chapter where I have not much to add.

Chapter 6: Customs and Rituals

This chapter is about how baseball was involved in courting and other social ceremonies.  Baseball clubs were, in some places, certainly treated as well respected clubs.

Chapter 7: Club Life

One of the major take home points in this chapter is that the history of baseball is limited to those who thought it worthwhile mentioning.  To many, this was a simple game for fun and exercise.  It was not considered more than that.

Chapter 8: Intercity Competition and Civic Pride

In the mid 1800s, many towns were fighting for a larger population to provide manual labor for whatever industries were important in the town.  Many saw baseball clubs as a way to promote their town and encourage others to immigrate.  This was truly a matter of life and death for many places.  The more people you had, the more your town could produce.  The more your town produced, the more money it had.  The more money it had, your needs your more likely represented in state and federal efforts.  If a baseball club could get a town a railroad or a major road coming through, they were going to use it.

It reminds me of an ancestor of mine who held some sway in Virginia.  He was actually able to get the small little road in front of our ancestral estate to be chosen for a section of US 15.  It would be unheard of these days for any home owner to want a major highway be built within a stone's throw of the front door of your mansion and 600 acre home.  Back then, it was a boon.  More business passed through town and more important people on their way to Richmond or Washington DC would have to make its way through.  The town today is no longer very important.  The mills burned down (as did most of the town) and the water diverted, but it still is retained as the county seat.

As peculiar as that seems now, it also seems peculiar for a city to acquire a team for the purpose of promoting the city.  Teams just are not ambassadors anymore.  I think they are solely acquired for the enjoyment of the local city and to try to draw more recreational funds from the greater city and into the inner city.


Stack said...

I hope you take time to write a second post about the last point of your chapter 8 synopsis. I think a lot about what it means to cheer for a team these days. It's often said that we cheer for laundry - that is, we cheer to a trademark or a logo and not as much for a team of players because players move between teams so much these days. The conclusion I've come to is that we are cheering for a sense of community. Sports are something for us to converse about, to have in common and share. This came into stark contrast for me after Flanny's death. A group of friends of mine - also long-time O's fans - started e-mailing back and forth. Teams create a sense of community and we cheer for that. So in a sense, teams, despite their constant flux, are still significant ambassadors for a community, whether geographic or not.

Jon Shepherd said...

I would actually say it is something different.

It is more about shared experience than it is community. Back in the 1850s, both were pretty much one and the same. Now, they are not. The team exists within a patchwork of communities with parts of each community being able to relate to one another.

That does not lessen what teams mean to us now. It just means that the O's are not going to be a solution for lowering unemployment in Baltimore.