SABR

Thorn: Whitman, Melville and baseball

From SABR member John Thorn at Our Game on June 15, 2012:

I have been thinking about these two literary giants of late and thought I’d share with you their slim but interesting connections with baseball. Walt Whitman’s words on the hurrah game are better known, so let’s begin with him. ”In our sun-down perambulations of late, through the outer parts of Brooklyn,” he declared in the Brooklyn Eagle of July 3, 1846, “we have observed several parties of youngsters playing ‘base,’ a certain game of ball…. Let us go forth awhile, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms….The game of ball is glorious.” This obscure editorial became famous as the opening words, recited by Garrison Keillor, to Ken Burns’s Baseball, the PBS film in which I played a part.

He followed baseball offhandedly in the following years, mentioning the game in Leaves of Grass in 1855 (“upon the race-course, or enjoying picnics or jigs, or a good game of base-ball”). He even reported on at least one contest for the Brooklyn Daily Times, when he was its editor, on June 18, 1858. “The game played yesterday afternoon between the Atlantic and Putnam Clubs,” the Good Gray Poet began rather prosaically, “on the grounds of the latter club, was one of the finest and most exciting games we ever witnessed.” He lost interest as the professional leagues formed in the 1870s. By the next decade, however, his “certain game of ball” had become for Whitman the lone institution that could assure the great American democratic experiment. In 1888 he became caught up in the baseball fervor of the impending overseas tour (whose 125th anniversary next year will also be marked by the World Baseball Classic).

Read the full article here: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/06/15/whitman-melville-and-baseball/

This page was last updated June 15, 2012 at 10:34 am MST.

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