Barry and History: For Teachers

So Barry Bonds is baseball’s new all-time home run king. What do your students think? What kind of questions will they ask? How do you respond? Baseball for the Classroom sat down with Larry Moore, a retired teacher at Central Berkshire Regional School District in Dalton, Massachusetts for 37 years and asked him how teachers respond to curious students about the change at the top of the record books.

BC: Why do you think baseball is held to a standard than other professional sports
as far as…let’s call it "extra-curricular activity?"

LM: It’s definitely because of the tradition baseball enjoys.
Some of those traditions are myths, like Abner Doubleday and Alexander Cartwright but
even as we look at them all we do is find more history. They were great
gentlemen in their own eras, and maybe they don’t have the grass roots
connection to baseball. The Babe Ruths, the Lou Gehrigs, the Ty Cobbs. They
played the game and everybody looked up to them. The early roots of baseball
show that, back in the early 1900s, baseball players were looked at as partyers
and so forth. All of a sudden, we have the legends growing out of that, that’s why
baseball is put on a higher pedestal. Look what they have to do to get in the
Hall of Fame. 75% of voting is hard to get. We haven’t had presidents get 75%
of the vote.

BC: As a lifelong educator, what do you feel is the historical significance of Barry
Bonds’ breaking Hank Aaron’s home run record?

LM: Any time a record like the home run record is broken, there has to be
historical significance. If you take performance-enhancing substances – which
has not been proven yet – you’re supposed to be stronger and faster, but so far studies have
not shown that steroids increase your bat speed and your hand-eye coordination.
Barry was a 5-tool athlete when he joined the Majors, he had great ability. I
don’t think we can take that away from him. Obviously he can hit the ball further
because of his strength, but you still have to get the bat there. Look at the
people we suspect who took steroids. Some of them strike out a lot. Like Jose
Canseco – he hit some long home runs, but he wasn’t one of the greatest home
run hitters of all time.

BC: How do you respond to a student who asks about steroids?

LM: To the student, they believe that something should be done
about steroids. They don’t have the answer – just like we don’t have the answer. If
you start putting asterisks on records, you’re just creating more trouble than
you want to get into. Students feel very strongly that you shouldn’t be putting
something in your body that harm them. There are obvious cases of steroids
having long-term effects on people’s bodies.

BC: What advice do you have for teachers with baseball fans in the classroom who
might have to deal with questions about the legitimacy of

LM: If we saw baseball turning their back on any of the problems
they’ve had – gambling in the past and now steroids – that would be one thing, but they do not investigate much differently than anything else is investigated in our society. Some
people call it to the best of their ability, others call it a cover-up. Will we
ever find the truth? I don’t know, and I don’t think anybody does. I reflect
back a little bit to how a family takes care of their own, and I don’t think
baseball is different. There is tradition in the game, as there
is in our families. I think baseball takes care of their own, much like
families do. Look at football veterans who just came out about how they’re not
taken care of. How long has baseball been taking care of their retired players?
Baseball is a well-organized family. Baseball isn’t sweeping the dirt under the
carpet, but more like protecting their family tree.


July 7, 1948

CivilrightsOn July 7, 1948 innovative owner Bill Veeck signed 42-year old Satchel Paige to pitch for the Cleveland Indians. Veeck was ridiculed for what was perceived to have signed Paige simply for publicity.

Paige, born exactly 42 years earlier in Mobile, Alabama, brought wisdom and leadership for the club’s new outfielder and guidance for the first African-American in the American League – Larry Doby. But Satchel wasn’t there just for moral support. Aiding a rotation featuring 20-game winners Bob Lemon and Gene Bearden and 19-game winner (and future Hall of Famer) Bob Feller, Paige went 6-1 in his 1948 campaign with a 2.48 ERA in 21 games for the AL pennant-winning Indians. Paige pitched 2/3 of an inning for the Indians in Game 5 of the 1948 World Series against the Boston Braves – a game the Indians lost 11-5, though they won the Series four games to two.

Paige debuted some fifteen months after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Within three months of Robinson’s debut, Larry Doby debuted with the Indians and the integration of baseball had begun – though the Boston Red Sox became the last team to integrate in 1959 after signing Pumpsie Green.

To learn more about the African-American experience in society and baseball, along with segregation and Jim Crow, click here to go to the online thematic unit for "Before You Could Say ‘Jackie Robinson," and schedule an on-site visit or a videoconference with the Baseball Hall of Fame’s award-winning education program!

5 Questions with Curtis Granderson

Granderson_1_1We’re on a roll here at the Baseball for the Classroom blog. It’s refreshing, not to mention rewarding, when major leaguers will take time in the middle of the season to talk about baseball and its applications to education. With an off-day between interleague series with the Nationals and the Braves, Detroit Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson was good enough to answer a few questions we had…

BC: You write a very good and interesting blog for ESPN. How did you get involved in blogging and what purpose do you think it serves for your fan base?

CG: It started with just being on MySpace and ESPN picked up as well after Spring Training. The fans of both the Tigers and of other teams have made a lot of comments about the blog and they seem to enjoy reading it. It has been interesting how many people with another team’s shirt will come up to me and mention that they read or have read the blog.

BC: You mentioned in a previous post that your father just retired from teaching in the last few weeks. What did it mean for you to grow up in a teacher’s house, and how important is/was education to your family?

CG: Education was always the most important thing no matter what. If my grades slacked, I wasn’t able to participate in my sport or other activities.

BC: We have an education program called "The Business of Baseball" focusing on economics. Graduating from Illinois-Chicago with degrees in business marketing and business management, how did your educational background prepare you for life as a major leaguer?

CG: Learning how to organize was the most important thing that my educational background has helped me with my baseball life. Being a major leaguer, you have to be well prepared and organized every single day and every single at-bat.

BC: Detroit’s New York-Penn League team is in Oneonta, just south of Cooperstown, where you spent part of your early professional career. What did you think of your time in upstate New York, and did you ever have a chance to come to the Hall of Fame?

CG: Oneonta is a very small town and it was interesting playing there. The good thing about the NYPL was that we played in Staten Island and Brooklyn, so I was able to head back to what I was comfortable with, and that’s the big city. I did get a chance to visit Cooperstown and I was surprised how small that city was, too (ed. note: Cooperstown has a population of about 2,000, swelling to 50,000 for Induction weekend). You see so much about it when the Hall of Fame induction is done each year, you assume it would be this big city, and it’s not that big, either. It was exciting to see all the stuff in the Hall of Fame and the thing I remember most are all the championship rings from each team. I hope to one day have my own.

BC: Baseball has a funny way of working itself into the larger issue of what’s happening in American society and history. What do you appreciate most – from a philosophical point of view – about baseball?

CG: The diversity of the game is the part I really enjoy about it. You have people from all over the world who can and do play this game. The thing I also like is that there really isn’t a certain physical body type needed to play, either. In basketball you need to be tall. In football you need to be really big. In baseball, everybody has a chance to play.

Happy Birthday, Hall of Fame

If you had been outside of the Library Atrium of the Baseball Hall of Fame around 10:30 this morning, you would have heard 60 students from Hughes Elementary in New Hartford, NY singing Happy Birthday to a building.

1939firstinductionYep, the Baseball Hall of Fame is 68 years old today! Opening June 12, 1939 in Cooperstown all 11 living Hall of Famers were present for the opening and induction of the 1936-1939 classes. To send the Hall of Fame a birthday wish, simply respond to this post!

Q&A with Jerry Crasnick

Last week "Baseball for the Classroom" was able to do a little e-mailing with ESPN writer and author Jerry Crasnick, who covers baseball for ESPN Insider, and has written the fantastic book "License to Deal: A Season on the Run with a Maverick Baseball Agent." As Baseball for the Classroom will be in Albany on Saturday, May 19 for the "Teaching Labor History" symposium hosted by NYSUT, we thought it would be helpful to ask Mr. Crasnick a few questions about the state of the labor of baseball today. We e-mailed questions, and he e-mailed answers…

BC: What kind of impact will the televising of the MLB June draft have on the business side of baseball?

JC: I don’t expect the televising of the MLB draft to have a significant impact.
There’s such a fundamental difference between baseball and the other two major
sports — where fans are so familiar with the draft picks and many of the kids
will have an immediate impact in the NBA or NFL. I’m sure some diehards will
tune in out of curiosity, but I wouldn’t expect a groundswell of interest.
(Although I think my Baseball America buddy, John Manuel, would make a great Mel
Kiper Jr. The guy is an encyclopedia).

BC: Obviously Marvin Miller’s leadership of the MLBPA changed baseball dramatically. From your perspective as a columnist and author who wrote about the world of the baseball agent for  "License to Deal," has the balance of power between clubs and players shifted with the rise of agents in the game?

JC: The balance of power shifted due to changes in the basic agreement through
collective bargaining, and the agents have taken advantage of that to build
lucrative practices and become power brokers in the game. They owe everything to
Marvin Miller, and I think more of the young agents need to realize Scottboras
Nevertheless, a guy like Scott Boras has had a significant impact on the way the
game conducts its business. He’s had a huge influence on the draft, and just
look at events of last winter and this coming winter — when the "opt out”
clauses for J.D. Drew and now Alex Rodriguez are helping to drive the market.
Boras is very innovative at outsmarting clubs and sticking clauses into deals
that will come back and work to his advantage down the road. Now, with Daisuke
, he’s extended his reach into Japan, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he
takes aim at the Japanese "posting” system. Love him or hate him, the guy is
brilliant at what he does.

BC: Is baseball better off without the reserve clause and with free agency?

JC: I think baseball is better off without the reserve system and unfettered free
agency. First of all, if you’ve read "Ball Four” and some other accounts from
the 1960s, there’s something unsettling and un-American about the way owners
used to treat players like cattle and lie to them routinely while pocketing all
the money. So we have the matter of principle. And it’s hard to argue with the
state of the game today: Attendance is at an all-time high, baseball has gone
from generating $1.2 billion in revenue in the early ’90s to $5-6 billion today,
and we’ve had seven different World Series winners since 2000. Sure, big
spenders such as the Yankees have an advantage because of their revenue, but
there’s still room for a smart, enterprising GM to build a contending club. It
all starts with developing players on the farm, and you supplement that through
free agency.

BC: When it’s all said and done, do you think the strike of 1994, and any strike or lockout, is good for the game – or business – of baseball?

JC: A strike or lockout can have a positive effect at times, if there are enough
sweeping changes and a "cleansing” effect to overcome the short-term pain. The
1994 shutdown wasn’t one of those cases, because the revenue sharing and luxury
tax system weren’t introduced until later. But it was such a 050511_bud_selig_hmed_7phmedium
difficult ordeal
for baseball, I think Bud Selig, the other owners and the Players Association
vowed to do everything in their power to prevent it from happening again.
They’ve smarted up and realized that an imperfect system is preferable to a
stoppage that could set the game back years. In that respect, I think the
cancellation of the 1994 World Series served a valuable purpose.

BC: The biggest story of the season so far is Roger Clemens’ signing with the Yankees after three seasons (or 2 1/2) with the Houston Astros. Do you think the Clemens contracts of the past few years will mark a new trend for superstars: the half-season, benefit-laden, flexible contracts? Or is this an isolated, tailor-made situation for a future Hall of Famer?

JC: Maybe someone will piggyback on the Clemens arrangement and try it out, but I
don’t think it’s the start of a trend. Just look at recent comments from guys
like David Wells and Greg Maddux, who say they enjoy being part of the clubhouse
cameraderie and have no desire to parachute in every five days like the Rocket.
Clemens is a novel case: He might be the greatest pitcher in major league
history. He’s still an impact guy at 44, but chances are he wouldn’t be nearly
as effective if subjected to the eight-month grind. And this year, the Yankees
were flat out desperate to sign him. Clemens is still good enough — and teams
are sufficiently desperate for pitching — that he can make $4.5 million a
month. But if he goes 6-8 with a 4.75 ERA, the press is going to start ripping
his arrangement, and his sweetheart deal will be seen in a whole new, more
negative light.

To read more words written by Jerry Crasnick, check out his archive at ESPN by clicking here. And for the education program offered by the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Education Department on labor history, "Hardball & Handshakes," click here.

Happy Birthday, Tony Gwynn!

On May 9, 1960, a baby boy named Anthony Keith Gwynn was born to parents
Charles and Vendella in Los Angeles, California. "Tony" Gwynn would go on to win
eight batting titles, matching a National League record. This July 29, Gwynn
will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Cal Ripken
Jr., as part of Hall of Fame
Induction Weekend

Spending his entire career with the San Diego Padres, Gwynn was a hitting
machine, producing 3,141 hits in a 20-year career that stretched from 1982-2001.
In only one season – his rookie year – did Tony fail to hit .300 or better. He
batted a career-best .394 during the 1994 season, the highest batting average in
the major leagues since Ted
topped .400 in 1941.

Gwynn’s eight batting titles tied the NL mark held by Honus
, and his .338 career batting average was the highest posted by a
player since Williams. In addition to being a tremendous hitter, Gwynn earned
five Gold Glove Awards for his play in right field, and swiped 319 bases,
pilfering as many as 56 in a season. Gwynn also produced in the clutch, batting
.352 with runners on base during his career, and .349 with runners in scoring
position. Amazingly, Gwynn, who was a magician with the bat, was even effective
when he was behind in the count – posting a career average of .313 in those
situations. In two World Series, the sweet-swinging left-hander hit .371 with
one home run.

Gwynn and Ripken will be center stage during Hall of Fame Induction Weekend
at the end of July. Make your plans
to join them
and be a part of history in Cooperstown.

Want to incorporate Tony Gwynn into your curriculum? Sign up for the Education Department’s "Batter Up: Tony Gwynn" program. All math content relates to Tony’s Hall of Fame career in a fun, interactive educational program (available via videoconferencing only, and no, Tony will not be present for your program. Sorry.)

The Iron Horse Wears Down

Gehrig_lou_3On this day in 1939 Lou Gehrig, the legendary Iron Horse, voluntarily pulled himself out of the lineup at Tiger Stadium in Detroit after a string of 2,130 consecutive games. His replacement, Babe Dahlgren, had a home run and a double in a 22-2 victory over the Tigers. Did you know, in order to go to school in as many consecutive days as Lou Gehrig played for the Yankees, you would not be able to miss a day of school from Kindergarten through your high school graduation?

Not only was Lou Gehrig a great baseball player, but he was a great person as well. Click here to view the online thematic unit for integrating character education into the classroom, as we do with our educational program "Lou Gehrig: The Iron Horse."

And of course the man who broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak, Cal Ripken Jr, will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 29, 2007 here in Cooperstown. To schedule an educational program about Lou Gehrig with the Hall of Fame’s Education Department, simply e-mail us or call 607.547.0347 today.

Four Questions with…

Chris_youngToday we post the transcript of a very special event – a milestone, if you will – for the blog. On Friday night, April 13 Baseball in the Classroom had the opportunity to speak to San Diego Padres’ pitcher Chris Young. Graduating from Princeton University and wrote his senior thesis on "The Impact of Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball on Racial
Stereotypes in America: A Quantitative Content Analysis of Stories
about Race in the New York Times," studying six months’ worth of the New York Times to measure how race was covered nationally.

(For an excellent story on Chris, see this ESPN piece by Jeff Bradley)

This interview took place shortly before the Padres took on the Dodgers in Chavez Ravine. Chris also had the honor of pitching for the Padres on Jackie Robinson Day on Sunday night.

Baseball in the Classroom: You’re the first baseball player that we’ve interviewed for the blog, so it’s kind of a landmark for us.

Chris Young: I appreciate you taking the time to do it.

BC: We have 13 educational modules that we offer and they all use baseball as a platform for teaching subjects that teachers use in the curriculum, and obviously one of our more popular ones is our Civil Rights module. Looking at your background not just as someone who is Ivy League educated but also a baseball player, you probably have some special insight that kids and teachers would find interesting. You wrote your senior thesis on Jackie Robinson and brought a much different perspective to the subject not just because of the color of your skin but also because you play baseball, what about your research stood out to you the most?

CY: Jackie Robinson was a variable for the paper, the subject was how the media shapes attitudes and stereotypes for the general public. The premise would then be if there was a shift in attitude and stereotype in the media then there would be the same shift among the general population. The data I collected provided evidence that it was true. The thing that jumped out to me the most I guess was just how influential the media can be.

BC: You are pitching on Sunday night against the Dodgers – obviously Jackie’s old team – on Jackie Robinson Day. What impact does that have on you as a player and with your background?

CY: It’s a great honor, and I think it’s great that they are honoring Jackie Robinson with the tribute, but once the game starts – and even before the game I’ll be focused on what I need to do. I would almost appreciate it more if I wasn’t pitching that night, I could step back and enjoy the ceremonies and celebrations. For me it’s a normal game and I’m going to treat it as such.

BC: Attending an Ivy League school, clearly education is important to you. What advice can you give students, and specifically student-athletes, as they balance school and athletics or other extra-curricular activities?

CY: There are a lot of life lessons that can be learned on the athletic field or the playing court and that your character doesn’t change off the court. The same character that you show on the athletic field is the same character that you will show in the classroom. Just because you’re a good athlete doesn’t mean you can slack off in school. Just because you’re smart doesn’t mean you can’t be a good athlete. The academic and the athletic arenas transcend and it’s important to do your best in both.

BC: One of the most interesting characters in baseball history is Moe Berg, who also attended Princeton. Did you hear any cool Moe Berg stories while you were in school?

CY: No, not really at school, but I have read the book "The Catcher Was a Spy."

BC: That’s a great book.

CY: Yeah, it’s great, and certainly interesting to know who Moe Berg is and what he did – and the fact that he went to Princeton makes him all the more intriguing.

BC: Chris, thanks very much – I certainly appreciate it, and good luck Sunday night.

CY: Thanks very much.

First female MLB umpire in almost 20 years

Ump_53912The Classroom was busy on Thursday and Friday, so this newsworthy item had to go untouched on this blog until today. Thursday night, umpire Ria Cortesio became the first woman since Pam Postema in 1989 to umpire a Major League exhibition game when she called the Cubs/Diamondbacks spring training game from first and third bases. Cortesio, currently a minor league umpire in the Double-A Southern League, is the only female umpire in professional baseball. "As soon as a spot opens up at Triple-A, it’s mine," Cortesio said.

You can learn about the womens’ struggle for equality in baseball with the Hall of Fame’s education program "Dirt on Their Skirts." Schedule a program by calling 607-547-0347 today!

Desert Diamonds Behind Barbed Wire – Electronic Field Trip

123Imagine being forcibly relocated from your home, your school or yourfamily to a bleak prison surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.
This was not a nightmare from wartime Germany but an injustice
endured by nearly 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry living in the
United States following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Thousands of
innocent Japanese Americans were forced into isolated internment camps
because of racial prejudice and wartime hysteria. Remarkably, they
created courageous communities where patriotism prospered, loyalty to
the U.S. did not falter, and they played baseball to sustain their
pride and morale.

Join the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Ball State University, and the
National Park Service for a sobering visit to the Manzanar War
Relocation Center. This National Historic Site provides a compelling
classroom to relive the experience of Japanese Americans held captive
during World War II, as well as the plight of countless nationalities
who face discrimination and intolerance still today. This is a tale of
the indomitable Issei and Nisei generations. Learn through the
emotional memories of survivors, and the invincible cheers of
detainees’ baseball games that still echo across the desert valley.

To view the archived Electronic Field Trip, follow this link