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Sat, Dec 20, 2014

Blog: Is baseball still 'America's Pastime'?

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Blog: Is baseball still 'America's Pastime'? | Sports, Voices, Baseball

Huge scoreboards were used at newspaper buildings that were a running play-by-play of important major league games like the World Series. Photo from mentalfloss.com
Baseball ratings are down to their lowest levels in recent history.

The sport has been tainted by the use of performance-enhancing drugs by some of its top players, who shattered record-breaking marks in the past few years, and are in now in trouble.

Salaries keep going higher and higher with some players getting paid more money than entire team payrolls.

Young kids are drifting to other sports, while families cannot afford to attend most games.

The question is: Is Baseball Still America’s Pastime?

If you were on the MTSU campus last Friday, the answer would be yes.s

Scholars and baseball fans from around the world descended to the James Union Building for the 16th annual Conference on Baseball in Literature and Culture.

They talked about how the past, present and future of baseball means to the culture and literature of the world.

No topic was off-limits with anything ranging from how the sport affected the lifestyle of race, class and what was going in the rest of the world at that time.

 Also, a member of the 1979 World Series champion “We Are Family” team of the Pittsburgh Pirates gave a very entertaining speech about his long career and his thoughts on the game today.

French-born American historian, Jacques Barzun once said, “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.” Conference Coordinator and MTSU professor Warren Tormey mentioned this quote during our interview.

Tormey added the reason for the conference is to give people a forum to research the sport, “Baseball is a wonderful prism that tells us about ourselves.

I had a chance to listen to some of the wonderful presentations done by scholars from around the world.

They ranged from the changing media in the sport, how baseball was used as the backdrop for fiction books, how the past and present stadium separate the classes and the way short fences increased home runs and maybe saved the game.

There were many more topics and presentations I wanted to see, but several were going on at the same time.

All of them were well done and thought provoking, but my favorite was one about the changing scoreboards.

I know most of you are going: What is the big deal about the scoreboards?

They are just numbers.

That is not it. It is all about the presentation.

Look at any sport today.

From putting a box on the screen letting the viewer know what is going on while watching on television to attending a game, in which, high-tech graphics are used to give the fan all of the important information and be visually appealing at the same time.

Some of the most famous baseball parks include Fenway Park and Wrigley Field is trying to bend old-school with new school.

They still use the old-fashioned wooded scoreboards, and recently added the enhanced current models of today.

Bob Barrier, from Kennesaw State, and who also gave this presentation also talked and showed old photographs of the huge scoreboards that were used at newspaper buildings that were a running play-by-play of important major league games like the World Series.

Thousands of people would gather at these headquarters to keep track of the game that used the most high-tech equipment at that time.

Today version would be, if you went to your computer and was not able to watch or listen to the game online.

However, the website kept a runner play-by-play of the action.

For example, it would tell the score, the pitchers count, which’s on base and other important information for the baseball fan.

Moving on the main treat of the day was hearing, Jim Rooker, that former World Series champion I was telling you about at the beginning.

Man, did he have some great stories from his playing and broadcasting days in the majors. During his speech, he talked about the mixed feelings he has for today’s game.

“I’m excited the game continues to prosper. To me it’s still American’s game, even thought it’s lost a little respect,” Rooker told me in a sit-down interview and during his speech. “There are a lot of things going in baseball that is hard to swallow.”

Two of those issues included the lack of leadership in terms of the steroid issue and the rising salaries of the players. “This is the greatest time in the world to be a professional athlete, so take your money and be quiet.”

Can baseball survive and improve under the times?

These presenters think so, and so do I.

However, the sport needs to do a better job of getting people young and old back to the game.

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