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Fall 2017 Update

I’m supposed to be cranking out another around of revisions on the dissertation proposal, so this will stay brief.

Junior Fellowship at the Library of Congress was AMAZING. I’m one of three scholars in the U.S. who studies baseball/music intersections, and I got to spend 10 weeks on a baseball music scavenger hunt AT THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS. And they’re planning for a baseball exhibit next summer. Plus all the monuments, museums, and memorials. Amazing really doesn’t cover it.

Successfully finished doctoral comprehensive exams last March, so a dissertation proposal is on the docket for this semester. Looking like an October proposal meeting (*fingers crossed*). More on the dissertation later.

Thanks to the incredible generosity of the Sport Studies Program and C. Pauline Spencer Scholarship fund, I’m also a graduate fellow in the Iowa Women’s Archive this academic year. Looking forward to getting some general archive experience, while also reprocessing the UIowa Department of Physical Education for Women Collection and helping prepare six-on-six women’s basketball materials for the Smithsonian’s summer 2018 Hometown Teams traveling exhibition.

After a summer in Cooperstown as a Library Research Intern and this year’s Library of Congress gig (plus being in the Women’s Archive this year), I figured I should probably make the librarian thing official. Three cheers for a tuition scholarship and an ALA-accredited Library and Information Science graduate program right here at UI. So while the American Studies-Sport Studies side of my brain works on the dissertation, the Libraries/Archives/Museums/Digital Humanities side is taking coursework to complete an MLIS. And thanks to the classes I’ve already taken for the Public Digital Humanities Certificate, I’ll finish the second masters and PhD at the same time. Or something like that. Because nothing could go wrong with this plan.

Speaking of the dissertation ……….

original
When I think about my dissertation                     When I think about my proposal

The short version is back in Fall 2016 I took an Archives & Media course for the Public Digital Humanities Certificate [all hail the wonderful Prof. Lindsay Mattock]. Our semester-long project in the course involved developing a prototype digital humanities (DH) collection using a data set of our choosing. I’d been mulling over ideas related to Minor League Baseball, ideology, and globalization for a while, so I got the crazy idea that it might be interesting to use DH tools and approaches to visualize where American professional baseball players come from and how they move through the Minor League system. Fast forward a year, and I’ve previewed the project at two national conferences [slides here], partnered with UIowa’s Studio for Digital Scholarship and Publishing, and am about a month away from getting approval for a DH dissertation.

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The Umpire Strikes Out: Baseball Music and Labor

This post originally appeared July 31, 2017 on the Library of Congress Blog.


 

This post is by Katherine Walden, a 2017 summer intern with the Junior Fellows Program. Walden is a Ph.D. candidate in American studies and sport studies at the University of Iowa, where she is also completing a master’s degree in library and information science with a focus on digital humanities and archives. She has a bachelor’s degree in music from Vanderbilt University.

This summer, I have been updating the Music Division’s 1991 baseball music bibliography, which identifies over 400 baseball-related titles in the division’s holdings. Much like a scavenger hunt, my internship involves thinking about where baseball songs might be in the collection, as well as what keywords or search terms might lead to copyright deposits for previously unknown baseball songs. My goal is to at least double the bibliography’s size to provide a robust resource for Library staff, academic researchers and anyone who wants to know more about baseball.

Among my many interesting finds, songs about umpires especially stand out for me. I research U.S. popular culture and baseball labor history, and umpire songs offer a fascinating glimpse into both.

Today, the umpire is frequently an object of fan ridicule. But long before instant replay destabilized umpires’ authority, early baseball fans—and Tin Pan Alley songwriters—looked for ways to ridicule “the man behind the plate.” I have yet to find a song written from an umpire’s perspective, which suggests songwriters thought depicting umpires as humorous or pitiful would have better popular culture traction than attempts to rehabilitate the umpire.

The chorus to the 1909 title “Let’s Get the Umpire’s Goat,” written by Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth (a co-writer of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”), shows how fans expressed their frustration with the umpire:

Let’s get the Umpire’s goat, goat, goat

Let’s make him go up in the air

We’ll yell, Oh you robber! Go somewhere and die

Back to the bush, You’ve got mud in your eye

Oh, what an awful decision!

Why don’t you put spectacles on?

Let’s holler like sin, and then our side will win,

When the umpire’s nanny is gone.

The 1905 title “The Umpire Is a Most Unhappy Man” suggests that driving a hearse was the only profession worse than being an umpire. The chorus asks

How’d you like to be an umpire

Work like his is merely play

He don’t even have to ask for

All the things that come his way

When the crowd yells, ‘knock his block off’

‘Soak him good,’ says ev’ry fan

Then who wants to be an umpire

The brickbats whiz when he gets his

For the umpire is a most unhappy man.

Even the famous “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” includes a passing reference to umpires. The song’s main character, Katie Casey, “saw all the games” and “told the umpire he was wrong, all along good and strong.”

Though entertaining, early 20th-century songs about umpires also reflect changes in popular culture and a period in American labor history rife with worker strikes and labor activism.

Early baseball in the United States existed primarily in upscale gentlemen’s clubs, but after the Civil War and into the 20th century, entrepreneurs like Albert Spaulding and Henry Chadwick made strategic efforts to market the game to working class fans, from mass-produced baseball equipment to inexpensive annual baseball guides.

As baseball infiltrated popular culture, labor in professional baseball became a contentious issue, just as it was in other realms. The American Federation of Labor had formed in 1886, the Western Federation of Miners was established in 1893, and the Pullman railway strike took place in 1894. Also occurring were a variety of coal strikes and movements advocating living wages, child labor laws and safe working conditions.

In baseball, it was team owners and league officials who were most often in tension with players in labor debates. But the umpire was an easier target, and composers continued writing songs about umpires past World War II.

Want to see more songs about baseball umpires? Check out umpire-related titles in the Library’s digitized sheet music collections.

To learn more about baseball songs in the era of sheet music, visit the Library’s exhibition “Baseball’s Greatest Hits: The Music of Our National Game.”

 

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Washington Nationals Western Tour

This post originally appeared July 11, 2017 on the Library of Congress’ Performing Arts Division blog, In the Muse.


 

The following is a guest post written by Katherine Walden, one of 37 college students who spent the last two months working at the Library as part of the 2017 Junior Fellows Summer Intern Program. Walden is a PhD Candidate in American Studies and Sport Studies at the University of Iowa, where she is also completing a Masters Degree in Library and Information Science with a focus on Digital Humanities and Archives. Her research explores race/ethnicity and gender in American baseball, as well as baseball’s relationship with American popular culture. She received a Bachelor of Music Degree from Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, where her senior thesis was on Minor League Baseball and “music cities.” Her internship in the Music Division involves updating the Bibliography of Published Baseball Music and Songs in the Collections of the Music Division at the Library of Congress. Her work in the internship has ranged from updating the bibliography format to identifying additional baseball-related titles in the Music Division’s holdings through exploring cataloged materials and copyright registration files.

 

In the 1992 baseball film Field of Dreams, James Earl Jones’ character Terrance Mann delivers an iconic monologue:

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray.  It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.”

Scholar and author Gerald Early also underscored the significance of baseball in American culture and history:

“I think there are only three things that America will be known for 2,000 years from now when they study this civilization: The Constitution, jazz music, and baseball. They’re the three most beautifully designed things this culture has ever produced.”

Because baseball is so deeply rooted in American culture, the sport often functions as a significant historical marker and unifying force in times of national crisis.

Most recently, Congressional staffers and baseball fans turned out at Nationals Park for the annual Congressional Baseball Game, a tradition that dates back to 1909 and has taken place annually since 1956. Raising funds for a number of D.C.-area charities, this event has been a place where, according to the event website, “members of the United States Congress from each party solidify friendships off the floor and on the field.”  This year’s Congressional Game took on heightened significance after the Republican team’s practice was interrupted by gunfire that injured Representative Steve Scalise, members of the Capitol Hill Police, and others.  The game went on as scheduled and after their 11-2 victory, the Democrat team gave the trophy to the Republican team, to be kept in Scalise’s office for the duration of his recovery.

The spirit of bipartisan unity encouraged by the Congressional Game echoes earlier baseball games with added historical meaning: President George W. Bush’s ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium during the 2001 World Series just weeks after the September 11th terrorist attacks; the mantra of “Boston Strong” reverberating in Fenway Park in 2013 after the Boston Marathon Bombing.

Baseball as catharsis in the wake of national trauma is hardly a recent phenomenon.  Take, for example, the Washington Nationals‘ “Great Western Tour” of 1867, one of the earliest official tours that took a dominant East Coast baseball team to parts of the country that were still developing professional baseball markets.  Not only was this one of the earliest documented tours by a baseball team—it also was yet another moment when baseball served as national unifier in the face of partisan tension.

1867 was an eventful year in American politics—the Civil War’s aftermath and uptick in racial violence were the impetus for legislative and legal measures designed to reintegrate Confederate States as part of the larger national body and provide some version of emancipated rights. But, competing political and ideological agendas complicated efforts to unite the country after the War.

In a fraught political climate, with national unity hanging by a thread, baseball began to emerge as “the national pastime.” Having taken root in the New York and East Coast gentlemen’s clubs before the War, troop movement during the War, alongside post-War media and popular culture, identified baseball as a cultural entity that could effectively proselytize for the cause of national unity.

On one hand, Washington’s Western Tour was a financial opportunity—as Albert Spalding, Henry Chadwick, and other baseball entrepreneurs would realize soon after, taking professional talent on the road was an opportunity to build brand recognition and fan engagement, while also scouting potential talent on other rosters. Though Washington outscored the Cincinnati Red Stockings 141-22 in two decisive victories, the team recruited key Cincinnati players for their 1868 season. On July 11, 1867 the Washington Nats launched a twenty-day, ten-stop “grand western tour” covered by baseball journalist Henry Chadwick. In the heat of that summer, the Nat’s bats were on fire as they went on to win nine out of ten matchups, outscoring their opponents 735 to 146.

But as historian Ryan Swanson has argued, baseball’s emergence as a unifying force during the Reconstruction was also a concerted effort to market a predominantly Northern and Midwestern game to other regions of the country. The 1867 trip may have been called a “Grand Western Tour,” but it strategically brought the Washington team to Southern cities like Cincinnati, Louisville, and St. Louis in an attempt to make Washington baseball (and by extension the federal government) palatable to former Confederate or Confederate-leaning states.

Washington’s players, like those on most pre-professional teams, did not earn a living wage solely from baseball.  Nats pitcher Will Williams attended Georgetown’s law school, while catcher Frank Norton, center fielder Harry Berthrong and outfielder Seymour Studley worked at the Treasury Department.  First baseman George Fletcher and right fielder Harry McLean clerked in the Third Auditor’s Office, while second baseman Henry Parker found a home off the baseball diamond in the Internal Revenue Office.  Georgetown College student George H. Fox manned third base, and in the event of injuries or illnesses, Fourth Auditor’s Office clerk Ed Smith was ready as a substitute.  Only shortstop and captain George Wright, one of baseball’s earliest stars, came onto the team with baseball as his main occupation.

While the federal offices represented by the 1867 Washington team were largely non-partisan, the group’s political neutrality made it an effective ambassador for the middle-ground Reconstruction efforts advocated by Presidents Lincoln and Johnson. The significant press generated by the tour included local news reports as well as an entire chapter in Chadwick’s The Game of Base Ball.

 

 

Many historic baseball events have been immortalized in song, and the Nationals Grand Western Tour was no exception. Composed in 1867 by Washingtonian “Mrs. Bodell,” the “Home Run Polka” was published 150 years ago this July. “Dedicated to the National Base Ball Club of Washington, D.C.,” the song is Washington baseball’s first song and one of the earliest songs dedicated to a specific team. The cover illustration depicts a loose interpretation of the Massachusetts Game rules for laying out the grounds: a square field and stakes for bases.

No polkas have yet been written about this year’s Congressional Game, but the larger legacy of Washington’s 1867 tour highlights the significant and complex role baseball has played in promoting a spirit of bipartisan unity. Forty years before Republicans and Democrats took to the baseball diamond to formally inaugurate the Congressional Game, Washington staffers from a range of offices pursued baseball alongside careers in public service. With this year’s Congressional Game in the books, its heightened significance underscores baseball’s long history of political intersections.