For all the information, misinformation, and controversy surrounding the origin of the game of baseball, one piece of trivia is rarely mentioned. Whether Abner Doubleday or Alexander Cartwright should be credited as the father of America’s pastime, it seems to me that the more pressing question–the question that nobody is asking–is, “Where would the game of baseball be without second base?”
What you have to understand is baseball began as a competition, similar to cricket, which involved balls and bats and home plate and base. Initially, there were not four bases, mind you, just one. The player would hit the ball and run back and forth between two points in space–home plate and base. What most people don’t bother wondering about is how home plate and this single base (just called ‘base’ as there wasn’t, at that time, another base which necessitated the distinctions “first” and “second”) multiplied into the modern baseball diamond comprised of home plate, first base, second base and third base.
As you are no doubt realizing, the addition of a second base was no trivial matter. Without adding a second base, there would have never been a reason to add a third base, and without third base, there is no baseball diamond. So, we must ask how second base came to be. More to the point, we should want to know who to credit for the addition of a second base. As fate would have it, it was none other than than “father of American music” himself–Stephen Foster.
Having recently penned such classics as “Oh, Susanna” and “Camptown Races”, Foster was a veritable celebrity. He was the man of the hour in the mid-1800s. And he happened to be a bit of a sports nut. No one knows for certain how it happened, but after some light reflection it should be no surprise to anyone that Foster, who became known for writing songs with special emphasis on the refrain, was the man who suggested adding another base to the playing field. After all, it was the addition of second base that gave baseball what some might call musicality.
Think about it. A game where men simply run back and forth between two designated spots offers no real distinguishing excitement, no real flow. But, as we all know and love, if a player makes it to second base on the diamond of today, he is in “scoring” position. Reaching scoring position, then, is similar to the unique characteristic of Foster’s own music. That being, the emphasis on the refrain. As a verse of Foster’s music concludes, everyone knows the refrain is coming, and still everyone can’t wait for it to happen. Regardless the amount of listeners singing the verses, everyone in earshot contributes their own voice to “Oh, Susanna, oh don’t you cry for me!” Is it not the same when the runner reaches second base? Maybe the inning is dragging on, maybe it seems all hope is lost, maybe you are lost in thought trying to remember when they stop serving beer–it doesn’t matter. The minute the runner makes it to second, he might score a run. And if he does, his crossing home plate triggers another batter and extends the offensive strike; in other words, it acts as a refrain. Is there anyone who would attempt to argue that there is any quantifiable difference between crowds cheering upon their team scoring a run and crowds singing “Oh, Susanna, oh don’t you cry for me. Well I come from Alabama with my banjo on my knee”?
I don’t know why I feel its important to bring this to your attention. Not forgetting the little man is just in my nature. Blame my dad. The point is, next time you’re feeling a profound love of the game, toss some of it to Stephen Foster; for who knows where America’s pastime would be if it wasn’t for the “father of American music.”
Happy Birthday Dad. Thanks for the memories.
I don’t like President Obama. Can I still admit that even though in doing so I might offend a “sizable group of people?”
Here in the purple state of Colorado, expressing this opinion–my opinion–gives me pause. It can be difficult to tell if I am speaking to someone who agrees or vehemently disagrees. Discovering the answer is always an adventure.
Here’s why I don’t like the president: The president pretends to not know his own influence.
From the moment he took office, it was made known that he would be a very accessible president. “Ask him anything and he’ll tell you,” they said. The unthinking American loved his openness. His openness surely attracted positive popular sentiment. But make no mistake, it is a very calculated move on the president’s part. Think about it. What would happen if your boss started voicing that he or she really liked a particular camera…right around Christmas time? What would happen if your boss started describing how much he or she disliked the color blue? In my experience, in the first situation the boss would likely be given that camera as a gift at the company party; in the second, the color blue would be avoided in the office where possible.
The credible boss, the boss with high character understands the economics of his or her language. He or she understands that there are only so many hours in a day and many things have to be attended to. The boss knows, therefore, that he or she cannot afford to communicate for forever. They have to offer their guiding leadership eloquently, and rely on an able-bodied workforce to carry out the plan. This happens every day. Even the most micro-managing boss has limited time–thankfully–to communicate all that he or she wants to.
Likewise, when a president offers his opinion on something, it starts a chain reaction. Decisions are made based on the opinion. Take this together with the way our country’s political sphere has unfolded–the president being viewed as newsworthy celebrity rather than public servant–and there is a problem.
Bob Costas attempted to use his power to persuade the Washington Redskins owner to act. So far, it has been ineffective. Bob Costas is a virtual nobody. He is a talking head. Generally a pleasant to listen to talking head, but he is as effectually powerless over another man’s actions as the next man. The same is not true for the president. No matter what he’d like us to believe, it is not just “his opinion.” And he knows it. But he pretends not to. He pretends like he really is one of us. He isn’t. It’s categorically impossible. The us he is attempting to fit in with know their place.
For example, I know that this blog will have no appreciable effect beyond providing momentary pleasure for no more than 10 people. It’ll receive 1-2 ‘likes’, if that. More likely, it will irritate some people and be a stumbling block to my professional possibilities as I’m publishing it on LinkedIn.
Don’t buy this argument? Just wait. History will prove my point. Like the boss receiving a camera for Christmas, the Redskins will change their name. When they do, to deny the president’s influence will strain even American credulity.
In the end, I really don’t wonder what President Obama thinks about me. I just want him to stop pretending that his opinions are inconsequential. I want him to stop using his limited time to weigh-in on ridiculously un-presidential matters. I want “more work, less talk.” Is that too much to ask for?