We all know the words to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and we are all familiar with hearing the song in stadiums or on TV. But just how many of us know that “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was a song inspired in part by Trixie Friganza, a public supporter of the women’s suffrage movement and mistress of songwriter Jack Norworth? Probably not many, since usually only the chorus is played, omitting the stanzas in which the singer talks about what she wants to do on a date.
This look into a classic baseball tune was just one of many interesting facts about the history of baseball presented to students by Brad “Brooklyn” Shaw on Tuesday, Oct. 22 at the College, an event sponsored by the History Honors Society, Phi Alpha Theta. Shaw spoke to interested students about baseball history while decked out in a traditional baseball uniform.
“Baseball is a constant,” Shaw said. “There is no game that you can actually go back into and compare players from one era to another, quite like you can in baseball.”
It was also the first big sport, Shaw said, and it helped take the public’s mind off the worries of its day.
“People going through anything bad could just use baseball as an outlet, during World War I (or) World War II,” Shaw said.
“Anytime anything bad was happening, you could turn to baseball and just get away from it all.”
Shaw, along with being a baseball history buff, also takes part in something quite special: Vintage Baseball, where players from over 100 teams participate in actual games and tournaments of baseball as it was once played in the late days of the 19th century, complete with historical accuracies such as playing without wearing gloves. It was a pastime that Shaw stumbled into almost by accident.
“I was reading a magazine, and I see this guy with a uniform just like mine, and it was just an epiphany,” Shaw said. “The next year I started my own team … At first I didn’t have all that many players, I just basically pulled from my friends and coworkers, but now after a few years I’ve got 20 players … It took a while, but now we’ve got more than enough to play.”
Shaw mainly discussed the history of early baseball, but he still had to answer one question that drew upon his vast knowledge of baseball history.
“The greatest player of all time was probably Babe Ruth,” Shaw said. “He was just so far ahead of everybody else in his time. He was hitting 50 home runs while everyone else was hitting 10 or 15. There’s just no one else who was so far ahead of his peers.”
Shaw brought with him the tools of a baseball game: a traditional bat and ball, which looked very similar to the ones we know and play with today. Baseball is, after all, a constant.