Sunday, August 30, 2015

Landlord, Fill the Flowing Bowl

Landlord, fill the flowing bowl until it doth run over
Landlord, fill the flowing bowl until it doth run over
For tonight we'll merry be, for tonight we'll merry be,
For tonight we'll merry be -
Tomorrow we'll be sober

Friday, August 28, 2015

Five Moments in Baseball Culture

Going into the bottom half of the eighth inning of the seventh game of the 1946 World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals were tied at three runs with the visiting Boston Red Sox. The first batter for the Cardinals was Enos Slaughter, who hit a single. This was followed by a pair of outs, and it looked like the game would be decided in its final inning - but the clean-up hitter, Harry Walker, hit a single. Slaughter, who had led off from first base substantially, rounded second and continued on to third. Then, knowing the game was down to the wire and the entire World Series was on the line, he kept going, narrowly sliding safely into home plate just before Boston's catcher had a chance to tag him out. Slaughter's "Mad Dash," as it has come to be known, would prove to be the winning run. There's now a cast bronze sculpture of Slaughter sliding into home in the North Carolina Baseball Museum, and he's been inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

Folklorists often look at the origins and development of games, and the customs of precisely how they are played, but in a world where the most important sports are those where the participants are vastly outnumbered by the spectators, the most important folklore spreads outside the field of play. Anthropologists who study ritual have likened sports fandom to religion so many times the observation is regarded as a cliche, and it's certainly true that the attachment to a single team and the powerful emotional bond a fan feels with the rest of the crowd, the players on the field, and the team colors can border on the mystical. When a film opens with Susan Sarandon's voice saying that "I believe in the Church of Baseball," the non-fan can take it as a wry moment at the start of what's going to be a comedy, while the die-hard sports fan will nod knowingly, and follow along with the entire monologue. And like any religion, baseball has its stories, its customs, and its expectations.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Development of American Safe-Haven Games

It's commonly related how baseball derives from the English sport of Rounders, or from some specific early American game such as Old Cat, but the truth is rather more complex. America has a long tradition of safe-haven games, and baseball as we know it today is not simply a product of a single branch of the family. These games, collectively, were our national pastime before we had standardized the rules in a single form, and even before we could call ourselves a nation.