Baseball is part of the fabric of American life. It’s our national pasttime. It’s the sport of champions. We have integrated baseball into every corner of pop culture. Baseball in New England and the Northeast carries special weight. Factories and mills scouted people, not for their industrial prowess, but for their ability to add to the mill baseball team. The Blackstone Valley League was a traveling team of mill players that added a bright spot to the dismal lives of the workers–baseball games began to represent community as people rallied around their team, especially in Connecticut and Rhode Island, where mills tended to be small one-stage factories employing entire families. Families worked in the mill, lived in factory housing, went to mill-built churches and schools, and spent their paycheck in factory stories. This form of paternalism (acting as the parent) was the hallmark of the Industrial period.
The history of baseball integration includes many groups, including African-Americans, Cubans, and even women. Everyone knows the story of Jackie Robinson, but not as many are familiar with the women who played on the All-Girls Baseball League which filled in the vacancy left by the men during World War II.
Here in Rhode Island, we hold proud to another piece of baseball history–the longest game ever. Taking place over three days, with the first two being played April 18-19, 1981, and the deciding inning taking place on June 23, 1981. The thirty-three inning game took over eight hours of playing time and left the AAA Pawtucket Redsox victorious over the Rochester Redwings.
Important baseball history themes include:
1. The humble origins of baseball.
2. The role of baseball in industrialism and factory life
3. Baseball’s regional history in the New England mill villages
4. The first traveling teams
5. Segregation and reintegration of baseball
6. “For the love of the game”–How media has changed baseball
7. The economics of MLB today
Study baseball, play baseball, write about baseball–historians do, not only “for the love of the game,” but because it’s real history.