Hit a Home Run with Community-Based Learning this Summer through Local Baseball!

Art, History, and Baseball: Learning from a Great American Pastime

Be a part of a great American pastime this summer and head to the ballfield! Families can explore everything from art and design to American history by using baseball as a lens through which to explore local museums, online resources, and fantastic children’s literature.

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.

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Art, History, and Baseball: Learning from a Great American Pastime

African-American Baseball Experience Exhibit at UMass

Pride and Passion:
The African-American Baseball Experience

W.E.B. Du Bois Library at
UMass Amherst through Dec 7, 2012

“Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience,” an exciting new traveling exhibition displayed on the Lower Level of W.E.B. Du Bois Library at UMass Amherst from October 12 to December 7, 2012, examines the challenges faced by African-American baseball players as they sought equal opportunities in their sport beginning in the post-Civil War era. — The traveling exhibition is composed of colorful freestanding panels featuring photographs of teams, players, original documents and artifacts in the collections of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and in other institutions and collections across the U.S.

When segregation was still a part of American life (and legal, too), African-American baseball players were shut out of American League baseball.  As a result, over 200 independent teams were formed, their rosters full of talented players.

Today, many of these players and their teams are remembered in the Baseball Hall of Fame’s traveling exhibit, “Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience.”  Currently being shown at UMass Amherst’s Du Bois Library, the exhibit includes lots of information about the Negro League of Baseball.

Visitors will learn about everything from players’ nicknames to the role that the league played in the desegregation of the American League in 1947.  The exhibit is, of course, exciting for baseball enthusiasts, and it provides a unique and valuable learning opportunity for students, too.  A visit to the exhibit can teach students of all ages about the effects of racism and segregation in America, and fits well with studies of American history from the Civil War to the present. Students will learn about the cultural context in which the players lived, the blatant racism that they were forced to tolerate, and the gaping inequalities between black and white Americans that existed during segregation.

The exhibit is located in the library’s lower level, and is open through December 7th.  For more information, call 413-545-6888 or visit library.umass.edu.

The Library is sponsoring several free programs for the public in connection with the exhibition, including an opening reception on October 25 at 4pm:.

Thursday, Oct. 25, 4pm, Lower Level, Du Bois Library, UMass Amherst: “Raceball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game,” a talk by Rob Ruck PhD, Senior Lecturer in the History Department at the University of Pittsburgh. The event is also an opening reception for the exhibit “Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience.”   Ruck is the author of Sandlot Seasons: Sport in Black Pittsburg;, The Tropic of Baseball: Baseball in the Dominican Republic; Rooney: A Sporting Life and the recently released Raceball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game.  His documentary work includes Kings on the Hill: Baseball’s Forgotten Men, which won an Emmy for Cultural Programming, and The Republic of Baseball: Dominican Giants of the American Game.  He was on the committee that elected eighteen players from the Caribbean and the Negro Leagues to the Hall of Fame in 2006 and recently served as an advisor for Viva Beisbol, the permanent exhibit on Latinos at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Thursday, Nov. 8, 4pm, Lower Level, Du Bois Library: “Effa Manley, the First Woman Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame,” a talk by Doron Goldman.  A former lecturer in the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management at UMass Amherst, Doron “Duke” Goldman is currently a baseball historian and presenter as well as an elder care researcher.  At UMass Amherst, Doron taught a course called “Baseball: Myths and Legends.”  A longtime member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), his interests are the Negro Leagues and baseball’s integration, as well as baseball’s role in the ongoing struggle for social justice in America.

Thursday, Nov. 29, 4pm, Lower Level, Du Bois Library: “Red, Black, and Green: The Red Sox, Race and Pumpsie Green,” a talk by Rob Weir.  Weir has published four books on the American labor movement: The Changing Landscape of Labor (with Michael Jacobson-Hardy); Beyond Labor’s Veil: The Culture of the Knights of Labor; Knights Unhorsed: Internal Conflict in a Gilded Age Social Movement; and The Historical Encyclopedia of American Labor (with James Hanlan).  Weir is a lecturer of history at UMass Amherst and has taught at Bay Path College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and Mount Ida College, and was a senior Fulbright scholar in New Zealand.

12 Baseball Books for Kids

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Take Me Out To The Ball Game:
New Baseball Books for Kids

In this boy-dominated batch of new baseball books, there are picture books and middle grade novels, action packed stories and baseball history, team spirit and individual courage. So, if your in-house sluggers are baseball crazy, try pitching one of these dozen new books to them. They just might hit a home run.


F is for Fenway: America’s Oldest Major League Ballpark written by Jerry Pallotta, illustrated by John S. Dykes
In celebration of Fenway Park’s 100-year anniversary, this A-Z picture book introduces historic and nostalgic facts about America’s oldest major league ballpark. Readers can learn about the green monster, Peskys Pole, the lone red seat, and the long-standing Yankees rivalry. Red Sox fans will want this one in their collection.
Published by Sleeping Bear Press, Ann Arbor, MI, 2012. ISBN 978-1-58536-788-7

Poem Runs: Baseball Poems and Paintings written and illustrated by Douglas Florian
A collection of poems that takes ball lovers through the game and introduces them to the players on the field. From “Warm Up” to “The Season Is Over,” Florian pitches perfect in his newest book of poetry.
Published by Harcourt Children’s Books, New York, 2012. ISBN 978-0-547-68838-1

Brothers at Bat written by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Steven Salerno
The amazing true story of the Acerra family, who had sixteen children, twelve of them boys who all played baseball and who made up their very own baseball team. Set in New Jersey, from the 1920s through the 1950s, this picture book follows the brothers from boys playing ball after school to serious players forming their own semi-pro team to soldiers in World War II to their induction in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Their story exemplifies true team spirit.
Published by Clarion Books, New York, 2012. ISBN 978-0-547-38557-0

Lucky Luis written by Gary Soto, illustrated by Rhode Montijo
Luis, a baseball loving and somewhat superstitious rabbit, believes the free food samples he tries at the market gives him good luck in his games. But when the food samples run out, so does his luck on the baseball field. In the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs, Luis is up to bat. Will he let go of his superstitions and remember what his coach taught him before he strikes out?
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 2012. ISBN 978-0-399-24504-6

Homer written by Diane deGroat, illustrated by Shelley Rotner
In this picture book by local children’s book greats, Diane deGroat and Shelley Rotner, it’s the neighborhood dogs who take to the field. While the humans sleep, the Doggers take on the Hounds for the championship. Can Homer hit it out of the ballpark to lead the Doggers to victory? Short, simple text and photographic images that put an array of canines in uniform will have young sluggers cheering.
Published by Orchard Books, New York, 2012. ISBN 978-0-545-33272-9

Just As Good: How Larry Doby Changed America’s Game written by Chris Crowe, illustrated by Mike Benny
It’s 1948, in Cleveland, Ohio, and Homer and his father are buzzing with excitement. Their team, the Cleveland Indians, has made it to the World Series, and they’re rooting for Larry Doby, the first African-American player in the American League. In this exciting game, Doby not only helps the Indians win their first World Series in 28 years, but breaks the color barrier in baseball and helps lay the foundation for the civil rights movement.
Published by Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA, 2012. ISBN 978-0-7636-5026-1

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