Baseball in the Classroom, a student's review

Published on Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

by Kevin Coyne

On Wednesday, September 30, Tufts professor Dr. Sol Gittleman had the students and staff of Becker College hanging off the edge of their seats. Dr. Gittleman delivered an extremely fascinating presentation on America’s national pastime, baseball.

Dr. Gittleman’s knowledge base extends from the very beginning of baseball to present time. In fact, he points out that baseball is the product of two legendary games. In the 16th century, rounders and cricket were two very popular games. These two sports were the basis for the game we now know as baseball.

Baseball has withstood the test of time by changing and advancing into the game we play in the 21st century.  Baseball used to be a sport with limitless possibilities in regards to rules, players, and game time. 

At one point there were up to thirty players in the field. Does anyone know why? Well, you see, there was no foul territory, so you would have to place players to recover the ball no matter where it was hit.

In addition to giving an extremely informative presentation, Dr. Gittleman intrigued the audience by having members of the crowd actively answer questions. Without the aid of PowerPoint, Dr. Gittleman was able to simply state facts and explain, in great detail, the origin of baseball.

While Dr. Gittleman explained the birth of baseball, the most intriguing topic of the night was the evolution of the American pastime.

According to Dr. Gittleman, the rules of baseball were not formal or finalized so there could be two towns playing two completely different games of bat and ball. The game today was highly unknown to early baseball players. It was not until the1840s that a group known as the Knickerbockers wrote down a set of formal rules. These rules were to be followed by everyone, in order to successfully complete a game. 

Dr. Gittleman cited that the major explosion of baseball was due to World War II. The game was widely played in the United States and by American soldiers at war. Once the war ended, the potential for making money by producing bats, balls, and uniforms made baseball the best game in town.

Dr. Gittleman spent a majority of his presentation explaining how even after WWII and the formation of the rules, there were still major hurdles that needed to be jumped. For example, the same ball was used throughout the entirety of the game. As a result, over the course of the game, the ball became black and had the consistency of soft fruit. In addition to using the same ball, the same pitcher was used for the entire game.  

Dr. Gittleman covered every aspect of the game including in-depth explanations about the rules, players, teams, owners, managers, conferences, fields, pitchers mount, equipment, money, scandals, today’s players, steroids, and how the game will evolve nationally and internationally.

Another subject Dr. Gittleman touched on was the segregation of the players and the emergence of a hero in the sport. Until the Supreme Court case of Plessy vs. Ferguson in 1896, there were no African American players playing baseball.

Once things became separate but equal, the Negro Baseball League began. There were no laws preventing African American players from playing in the Major Leagues, but owners had a gentlemen’s agreement that kept the league completely white.  It was Jackie Robinson who ultimately broke the social code and became the first black player to put on a Major League uniform. 

Robinson played for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, not only breaking a strong immoral hindrance but also changing the way the game was played. Robinson was a very fast runner. The traditional baseball players were immensely slow in comparison. The game began to evolve into what it is today, due to Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The presentation concluded with members of the audience naming off the eight National League teams and the eight American League teams. Dr. Gittleman then opened the floor to questions. The professor stepped away from the podium and answered every question thrown at him with pure knowledge.

Questions ranged from those about the international game, to what the future of baseball holds, and even questions about females playing in the MLB. Dr. Gittleman had no problem answering any question the audience asked him. In fact, by the time he was done, your follow up question had been answered as well.  

This presentation filled the Borger Academic Building with knowledge and a refreshing breeze that made everyone think of playing ball. All in attendance left talking about old memories of playing ball, attending a game, or plans to watch an MLB game on television that night. Not only did Dr. Gittleman shed light on the history of baseball, but he also reminded us how we evolve as time goes on. Just like the game of baseball, we all change, grow, and advance as we age. Dr. Gittleman was an absolute wealth of knowledge, and it was a pleasure to sit through his presentation. For those in attendance, I can assure, there was not an unsatisfied person in the audience.