It appears that historians also dig the long ball, especially when it comes to the extensive history of baseball in the Valley.
Yesterday's Bill Newman Show featured a conversation with John S. Bowman and Brian Turner, authors of The Hurrah Game: Baseball in Northampton, 1823-1953. (The term "hurrah game" to describe baseball is attributed to Walt Whitman: "That's beautiful: the hurrah game! well — it's our game: that's the chief fact in connection with it: America's game: has the snap, go fling, of the American atmosphere — belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly, as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.")
I was fortunate enough to catch (no pun intended) most of the morning show's rebroadcast last night at 6 p.m., where I was enthralled with tales of baseball's early days, and the indelible connection our nation's pastime has to this region.
Here are a few highlights:
- An official town document in Northampton forbade the playing of baseball near Town Hall. Turns out that even back then, folks were worried about baseballs breaking windows.
- The game of baseball has close ties to utopian society insofar as ardent abolitionists (of whom there were many in the area) routinely played the game with integrated company.
- The baseball rivalry between Boston and New York long precedes the historic Red Sox-Yankees feud. Various versions of baseball were developed by region, with different formats played in New York and Massachusetts. New Yorkers wrote their version down first, prompting those in the Bay State, who scoffed at what they felt was a far inferior style of the game, to write down their version as well. (If I heard correctly, the New York version, in which you were not allowed to repeatedly beam the runner with the ball, won out.)
If you missed the broadcast, I highly suggest you download it. Then grab some cheap beer, or pour yourself a tall glass of lemonade, find a creaky old rocking chair in which to sit, lean back, stretch out your legs and your mind, fire up your internet-savvy playback device, and indulge in the history of baseball in the Pioneer Valley, and beyond. A more perfect mid-summer night's entertainment could not be had.