The Enduring Value of Baseball
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

The Enduring Value of Baseball

Everybody’s talking about the World Series today, and i’m no exception. Despite the fact that I usually don’t watch sports on TV, I was glued to the screen last night from the eighth inning on. And when I finally went to bed, the thought in my mind was: “All is right in the world, at least for this moment.”
 
This morning, as Facebook is overrun with congratulatory  messages and reminders that the Cubs had not won a World Series for 108 years, several people have commented that last night’s win was a “return to the good old days.” My historian’s mindset, however, has been reminding me to think about what the world was really like 108 years ago.
 
Now, as it happens, the book proof I sent off to the publisher this morning deals with exactly that question. My upcoming “Yankee Daughters,” due out in early December, covers the years from 1886 to 1920. And, with an apologetic shrug to the nine real women who inspired the story, it does not paint a pretty picture. Here’s the blurb that appears on the back cover:


 
How do you raise old-fashioned 19-century girls who must face the  challenges of an unstable world:
-- natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes
-- institutional failures that cause economic panic and bank closures
-- the unthinkable disasters of assassination and the sinking of an unsinkable ship
-- worldwide conflict and the horrors of trench warfare
 
And how do you prepare them for the changes they will face in the 20 century:
--from dirt roads and horse-drawn wagons to highways, airplanes, and automobiles
--from political bosses to women’s suffrage and prohibition
--from one-room school houses to state-controlled public education
--from family farms to assembly lines and labor unions
--from geographic isolation to worldwide communications
 
As for the year 1908 itself, here’s what my story has to say about it:
 
"The financial crisis Jamey had been worrying about reared its head early in 1907, and by October and November, there was a massive run on regional banks, as several brokerage firms, including the Knickerbocker Trust, went broke. Jamey now refused to discuss the crisis, but he was distracted, pale, and frightened. In 1908, the local bank foreclosed on the Grenville farm. A sheriff’s deputy nailed the notification to the door early one morning."
 
Of course, the Grenville sisters would not have been following the 1908 World Series. If they had known about it at all, they would probably have been rooting for Detroit. Still, looking back, I can imagine that many baseball fans—then as now—really needed something to make them feel good about themselves for a little while.
 

So, thank you, Chicago Cubs, for once again providing the smiles on our faces.