Join Active Minds as we trace the history of baseball from its disputed origins to the present day.  We will look at the way that “America's Game” is often reflective of the nation itself.  Baseball has often been plagued by scandal, from the 1919 Chicago Black Sox to the "Steroid Era” and the recent revelation of cheating by the Houston Astros.  At the same time, Baseball has also seen transcendent figures such as Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and the man who broke down Baseball’s color line, the heroic Jackie Robinson. Bring your own favorite baseball story to share with the group.

Key Lecture Points

  • Controversy swirls around the story of the origins of “America’s Pastime”.  Some suggest that baseball developed from the British game of rounders.  Others maintain that baseball developed independently as a wholly American sport pointing to a bylaw passed in Pittsfield, MA in 1791 that forbade baseball from being played within 80 yards of the Congregational Church.  The controversy may be seen as a desire, for some, to separate America’s Pastime from the US’ British roots.
  • From the 1919 Chicago White Sox scandal to the Curse of the Bambino, from Jackie Robinson to Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, baseball’s history holds bigger-than-life stories and legendary personalities.  It is no surprise that the game is ‘America’s Pastime,’ perhaps inseparable from the American character itself.  Nearly half of all Americans say they are baseball fans.
  • Baseball’s struggles have often mirrored those of the nation as a whole—for example, with racial discrimination (Negro Leagues and Jackie Robinson), the women’s movement (the All-American Girls Professional Ball League) and governmental corruption (the White Sox Scandal).
  • Over the past several years professional baseball has dealt with many difficult issues, including widespread steroid use.  In 2003, several MLB players, including San Francisco Giant Barry Bonds, were reported to have used steroids. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig appointed former Senator George Mitchell to head an investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
  • The 2010s saw major milestones and changes for MLB, including further steroid questions, the Cubs winning the World Series, and the Astros sign stealing scandal.  

Exploration Questions

  • Why is baseball considered by many to be “America’s Pastime?”
  • Baseball has frequently been caught up in scandal.  In what ways is the steroid scandal similar to scandals of the past, such as the Black Sox scandal of 1919? Is the new Astros’ scandal on a similar level?
  • What is the future of baseball in America? Will it change from what it is today?

Reflective Questions

  • What is your favorite baseball story?
  • Tell about the first time you went to a Major League baseball game. Did you ever see any of the “greats” play?

More to Explore

Books For Further Reading

  • Asinof, Eliot and Stephen Jay Gould. Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. Holt Paperbacks, 2000. 336 pages. First published in 1963, Asinof’s work reconstructs the scandal in which eight Chicago White Sox players arranged with the nation's leading gamblers to fix the World Series in Cincinnati.
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  • Galarraga, Armando, Jim Joyce, Daniel Paisner. Nobody’s Perfect: Two Men, One Call, and a Game for Baseball History. Atlantic Monthly Press, 2011. 240 pages. Tigers pitcher Galarraga and veteran umpire Joyce tell the story of how in 2010 Joyce missed a call that would have given Galarraga a perfect game.
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