Hogan: Baseball in slavery times

From SABR member Larry Hogan at The National Pastime Museum on February 9, 2015:

The always-provocative and challenging Albert Murray tells us that it is important we understand how we view—actually too frequently miss view—the history of slavery. He holds that the experience of slavery in the United States is far too complex to simply see it as a time when a stigma was attached to its victims that carried into freedom times. Murray notes that

Much is forever being made of the deleterious effects of slavery on the generations of black Americans that followed. But for some curious reason, nothing at all is ever made of the possibility that the legacy left by the enslaved ancestors of blues-oriented contemporary U.S. Negroes includes a disposition to confront the most unpromising circumstances and make the most of what little there is to go on, regardless of the odds—and not without finding delight in the process or forgetting mortality at the height of ecstasy. Still there is a lot of admittedly infectious exuberance, elegance and nonsense to be accounted for.

Part of that accounting for goes back to baseball fields occupied by black players who were present during the creation moments of our National Pastime. Today, a version of that creation game is played by suburban males in New Jersey fascinated with what baseball was when it was first played in America. They have given it a name, “Vintage Baseball,” that smacks of fine wine. In the time of its origins, baseball’s various versions were subsumed under the name “town ball.” Those who play this game get “plugged” out with a thrown ball rather than tagged out. Running to any available base to avoid the plug seems an odd thing to be doing to those who have played baseball for as long as they can remember. If called for, and sometimes even if not, the base runner turns into an outfield runner with a fielder in hot pursuit. The fielder tries to chase down the seemingly errant runner while keeping an eye on the errant one’s teammate, who might be poised to advance a base or two. There are no foul balls—anything that is hit is in play.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/baseball-slavery-times

Originally published: February 9, 2015. Last Updated: February 9, 2015.