Art, History, and Baseball: Learning from a Great American Pastime
A springtime standard for many western Massachusetts families, the sport of baseball is certainly one of our country’s favorite pastimes. Certainly the sport has much to offer families in terms of entertainment, but baseball as a topic of study can serve as an entry point into learning about much more than team dynamics and the specifics of the game. Baseball-inspired studies can spark explorations of civil rights, immigration, local and national history, art, design, and more.
While most youth baseball and softball teams play their seasons during the late spring and early summer, baseball as a spectator sport carries on throughout the summer and early fall. Locally, three collegiate summer teams make a summer outing to a baseball game quite accessible for families. The Pittsfield Suns play at Wahconah Park, Holyoke’s Valley Blue Sox‘s home games are at Mackenzie Stadium, and the North Adams SteepleCats play at Joe Wolfe Field.
Additionally, a trip to see the Red Sox play at Boston’s Fenway makes a great summer road trip. Families can attend games not only for the excitement, but to examine how the game works. Young fans can make observations of the patterns in plays that lead either to scoring, making an out, or ending an inning, while older spectators can look more closely at players’ individual mannerisms and their relationship to the resulting plays.
As fun as a trip to the ballpark can be, baseball studies shouldn’t just stop there! For further baseball-inspired studies, first head to the Norman Rockwell Museum where all 323 of Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post Covers are displayed in a permanent exhibit. Many of Rockwell’s covers – drawn in his iconic style – depict exciting moments in baseball. Even the youngest of museum goers can learn from Rockwell’s art, which speaks volumes to American culture during the time period in which it was created.
Further studies of the intersection between baseball and creativity can lead families to discover Odo Bat Company, a local company producing handmade baseball bats. Handcrafted and designed by Pittsfield native Casey O’Donnell, the bats are carefully designed and can be customized to fit customers’ desired specifications. The creation of such products requires the use of industrial design skills – a skillset that combines art and engineering to result in the planning of products that are both fully functional and aesthetically interesting.
In addition to experiencing baseball as we know it today, families can use baseball as a lens with which to examine important periods in American history. Beginning with online resources offered by the National Baseball Hall of Fame, families can explore the ways in which the sport’s history is closely intertwined with the history of women’s rights, civil rights, immigration, and segregation. Studies of baseball history can also reveal the changes that American culture has undergone throughout the past century, as cultural traditions surrounding baseball have changed, as have the players’ uniforms!
To take a deeper look into the ways in which baseball is intertwined with essential pieces of our country’s history, look to the titles below. (For general baseball book suggestions, see our archived Open Sesame post, “12 Baseball Books for Kids.”)
- Bat 6 by Virginia Euwer Wolff
- We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson
- Heat by Mike Lupica
- The Babe & I by David Adler
- Mo’ne Davis: Remember My Name: My Story from First Pitch to Game Changer by Mo’Ne Davis
- Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki
- Teammates by Peter Golenbock
[(cc) Edwin Martinez]