By Rowly Brucken, Professor of History
In late May, sponsored by Norwich University’s Faculty Development Program, I paid a second visit to the Archive and Collection at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. In response to student interest, I taught a course on baseball history in the spring of 2016. The popularity of the course led me to submit a successful application to the Honors Council to create “inter-disciplinary Adventures in Baseball,” a seminar-type class for honors freshmen in the fall of 2016. I will teach that course again this fall. Using baseball as the central theme, students read poetry and short stories, learned about the game’s physics, statistics, and stadium architecture, played bat-and-ball games that might have evolved into baseball, led discussions on class readings, and wrote research papers.
A year ago, I worked with Ms. Cassidy Lent at the Hall of Fame to examine primary sources for the honors course. I photocopied scrapbooks compiled by the earliest “base ball” clubs in New York City in the 1840s, blueprints and construction records for Ebbets Field in New York and Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, and duplicated old scorecards from famous games. We found letters between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, including the famous “Green Light” letter in which the president approved of continued ball-playing despite WWII rationing restrictions. I utilized these and other archival sources in my honors class.
I returned to the Hall of Fame in May to obtain more historical records in preparation for teaching the history class again. I reviewed the papers of August “Garry” Herrmann (the first Chairman of the National Commission from 1902-1927), A. G. Mills (the first president of the National Association from 1877-1929), Jules Tygiel (the foremost historian of the Negro Leagues), and Landis (Commissioner of baseball, 1921-1944). The archives also possess copies of player contracts and hearings on contract disputes, records of the Official Athletic Almanac of the American Expeditionary Forces (WWI), and issues of Stars and Stripes, the newspaper of the U.S. armed forces (WWII). Given that the honors class investigated the fixing of the 1919 World Series (the infamous “Black Sox” scandal), I also reviewed newspaper articles, records of baseball’s official investigation, and financial records about the players and gamblers involved.