Chart baseball’s evolution from English bat-and-ball game to America’s national pastime in America’s Game: The History of Baseball, a new exhibition now on display at Orlando Public Library.
Then, sit back and relax – perhaps with some peanuts and Cracker Jack – to watch some baseball films, available for check out through Orange County Library System.
In 1977, Bill James, a die-hard baseball fan and security guard at a pork and beans cannery, began self-publishing The Bill James Baseball Abstract. The Abstract chronicled James’ proclivity for measuring statistical information that many teams, media outlets and fans overlooked. James called this form of empirical analysis Sabermetrics. Following a disappointing end to the 2001 Major League Baseball season, Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane faced a dilemma: How do you assemble a competitive baseball team in a small-market city when the budget for player salaries is a fraction of what is available in Boston or New York? As a solution, Beane rejected the conventional wisdom of baseball insiders, and turned instead to sabermetrics. Beane’s methodology was immortalized in the 2003 book Moneyball, then adapted to a film of the same name in 2011. Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane in the movie, which received six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Field of Dreams (DVD)
Last month, Major League Baseball held a game between the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox in the middle of a cornfield in rural Iowa. It was the mostwatched regular-season baseball game since 1998. The setting was inspired by the beloved 1989 sports drama Field of Dreams. In it, farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) receives visions urging him to create a ballpark out of his cornfields. In 2017, the film’s legacy and connection to the national pastime earned it a spot in the United States National Film Registry. Field of Dreams also features Ray Liotta as real-life baseball player “Shoeless Joe” Jackson. Jackson was an early baseball star but became infamous after it was discovered that he and seven other White Sox players had taken bribes to throw the 1919 World Series. You can learn more about Shoeless Joe Jackson and the 1919 Black Sox Scandal in the America’s Game exhibition.
For nearly 100 years, owners of America’s largest professional baseball clubs committed themselves to a gentleman’s agreement which excluded African American players from signing for major league teams. This agreement lasted until August 28, 1945, when Branch Rickey, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers broke the color barrier and signed first baseman Jackie Robinson to a major league deal. During his professional career, Robinson was the target of physical and verbal harassment from players and fans alike. But the abuse did nothing but motivate him to be one the best baseball players of his era. Throughout his professional career, Robinson was a six-time All-Star and earned the Most Valuable Player Award in 1949. Jackie Robinson’s impact on both the game and race relations are documented in the 2013 biographical film, 42. Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman plays Robinson, opposite Harrison Ford’s Branch Rickey.
No No: A Dockumentary (Kanopy)
Professional baseball in the 1970s was defined by its larger-than life characters and widespread, unrestricted drug abuse. No one player better embodied both these characteristics than Pittsburgh Pirates Pitcher, Dock Ellis. No No: A Dockumentary, details in stylistic fashion Dock Ellis’ prolific career in Major League Baseball, his lifelong struggle with drug addiction, and perhaps one of baseball’s most infamous events: The no-hitter Ellis threw while under the influence of psychedelics.
Through international conflicts, the great depression, and the civil rights movement, baseball has remained America’s great unifying force. Chart the game’s cultural rise and growing fidelity to national pride with Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns. Burns contributes his trademark meticulousness to this 10-episode, 23-hour miniseries, which pays equal attention to every era of Baseball’s more than 150-year history.