One the traditions at our school is Morning Ex. Originally, the headmaster’s class which met every day and often included calisthenics, it has evolved into a twice a week experience. All of our students and faculty, from Junior Kindergarten through twelfth grade, come together in our theater to have a shared experience.
Each presentation is something special. We will have play and concert previews, presentations on a topic which a member of the community is passionate about, or an experience that a group had. Each experience enriches us and presents possibilities.
With our ISACS visiting team on campus, this year we held our Morning Ex on a topic on which I am passionate, baseball. As a member of the Society of American Baseball Research, I was thrilled when I was asked to help present.
Today’s Morning Ex was presented in nine parts, or innings, we started off with a poem, like we always do, showed clips from The Natural, Field of Dreams, and the Kirk Gibson home run off of Dennis Eckersley in 1988. Teachers read Casey at the Bat and The Girl Wonder, and we were treated to the seventh inning stretch and a rousing rendition of Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
I was responsible for the second inning, which was to talk about how baseball has became the National Pastime. I had all of three minutes to do so. Below is the visual that went along with the conversation:
The gist of the narrative was how the Mills Commision put forth what is now known as the myth that Abner Doubleday “invented” baseball in Coopertown in 1839. In fact, it is now shown that baseball was brought over from England, the same way that cricket and rounders were.
The game evolved regionally in the Northeast United States and Canada with four different sets of rules, stipulating different numbers of players. It wasn’t until 1845 that Alexander Cartwright set forth the Knickerbocker Rules, which seemed to take root.
The grame did not grow as the national pastime until the Civil War, the explosion of transportation, and western migration after the war. It was a game played by amateurs. Oftentimes, cities and companies formed teams and played against each other in heated competition, including the world amateur championship in Cleveland played in 1910 which reportedly had over 100,000 spectators.
As towns and company teams became more competitive, they began to use paid, or professional players. In 1869, the first “professional” team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings was formed. More cities followed and leagues developed over the next 25 years.
From the turn of the century until 1950, major league professional baseball was concentrated in the northeast. Western trips were to Chicago and St. Louis, southern trips were to Cincinnati or Washington D.C. It wasn’t until after the war, with better transportation, that teams moved westward spanning both coasts.
But not all were included. People of color were excluded from 1888 until 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the color line. After that, waves of blacks, led to the inclusion of Latin Americans, which lead to the current growth of Asian and Australian players in the majors.
And the game became international, via the World Baseball Classic and the Olympics. Once again, no longer do Americans hold a monopoly or a position of power in the game.