Monday, March 14, 2005

The History of Baseball

A New York Times article this morning discusses a new advertising campaign being launched by Major League Baseball to rejuvenate interest in the game, and presumably, to rehabilitate the game from steroid scandals. Irwin Warren, executive vice president and executive creative director of the ads, defended the new campaign by saying, “Baseball is entertainment, not something you wrap a flag in or have to go to Harvard to take a course in."

Well, Mr. Warren, no disrespect, but clearly you haven’t been to Harvard. We know baseball is entertainment… in fact, sometimes we wondered whether that’s all it was. But we also know it’s something you CAN take a course in. Prior to his passing, the esteemed history professor William Gienapp, a baseball traditionalist, offered a course which many a Crimson baseball player has taken called, “Baseball and American Society, 1840-Present.”

You may be tempted to think only Harvard would be so nutty as to teach a course on baseball, but you’d be wrong. A University of Northern Colorado professor once taught a class also called “Baseball and American Society, 1840-Present.”

So in honor of Professor Gienapp, I thought it might be fitting to post some of his prescriptions to fix the game he loved (this shouldn't be read to be an endorsement of his views):

Gienapp: “The intensity of the fans isn't there any more. The season is too long. It is only in the last month that, for the teams in the race, it seems like life and death. Of course, in Boston, when they play the Yankees, the intensity is there for every game."

Gienapp: "Our society has become a much faster society and baseball is a slow game. That hurts baseball. The owners always talk about the need to speed up the game, but they don't do a damn thing."

Gienapp: "I think the downward trend could be made less steep if the game were regulated better," he says. "The fundamental problems are endemic to the society and beyond the game itself. It has been hurt by television. It doesn't televise well as a game, compared to basketball and football. It is hurt by the fact that it has no time limits. It can go very late into the night, and that discourages parents with young children from going to games. It is hurt by the fact that it's a hard sport that takes an enormous amount of skill to play decently as a young person. If you can't hit the ball or you can't catch it or you throw it away, you're not going to have a great time. Children who don't develop that skill quickly don't continue to play it. The fans have always been people who played it as children."

1 comment:

Cooch said...

Thanks for posting this. I was in the inaugural "Baseball and American Society" class, which Prof. Gienapp first taught as a freshman seminar. Obviously, a great course. I took several other classes from him, probably my favorite professor. RIP.