Thursday, April 26, 2007

History lesson

Many of my friends will count today among the low marks in the American education system.

Mike Summers isn’t one of them, but he’s the cause, dadgumit. Summers teaches history at Alabama Christian and reached a special place on his sophomore-level American history classes this week.

He’s teaching about spectator sports in our nation, how they grew and developed and what part they’ve played building the American fabric.

Today, his classes heard about the history of baseball from a poor, poor source -- me.

If you know an ACA sophomore, consider their pain. (They did ask some great questions, though.)

Hopefully, they now know a little about Abner Doubleday and Alexander Cartwright, the first World Series, the 1919 Black Sox and the Curse of the Bambino (1920-2004).

I told them about President Franklin Roosevelt’s request that baseball continue for the country’s morale while the United States fought in World War II. I told them how the teams filled their rosters with players not able to go to war. The students are mostly 16 years old and seemed awed over Joe Nuxhall, who was 15 at his major-league debut in 1944.

I touched on Jackie Robinson and how his success may have helped spark the civil rights movement.

The boring stuff for them had to be the antitrust exemption, which I think a valuable explanation of baseball’s place in our society, and how the labor movement moved forward after Curt Flood.

They laughed at Montgomery’s team name in 1892 (the Lambs). I, of course, followed with the 1903-04 team name (the Pretzels).

I ended with a slew of numbers. Last year's major-league attendance was almost 75 million and the minors drew more than 41 million. Last week, Forbes Magazine estimated the Yankees’ value at $1.2 billion and gave the major leagues’ operating income at $496 million.

Hopefully, they’re all awake by now.

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