I finished watching the original 9-part Ken Burns Baseball documentary last night. Felt like a fantastic way to close out Thanksgiving. While I felt minorly bereft of footage of the era with which I was most familiar (’70s, ’80s, very early ’90s), I do feel grateful that he spent so much time on the early years, establishing well his primary thesis — that what is so magical about the sport is how constant & unchanged it has remained in its 150+ years, how it ties Americans to a national past they might otherwise feel missing in their ever changing lives.
Watching it made me feel not only more connected to my own past (the countless hours spent with the game in my childhood), but also far more connected with any sense of distinctly American identity than I’ve felt in my life since I first started immersing myself with the Beats (and Dylan to a lesser degree) in high school. Back then all the imagery of driving cross country and diners and yearning made me feel that there really wasn’t so much that separated me from the people on the page, that technology hadn’t driven a wedge between their human experience and mine. It was a marvelous feeling back then, feeling connected with generations past, perhaps something that most people experience daily, but for me it was a very special feeling, a window being opened into another realm, a window which sadly has not remained open to me. Until now. Watching Baseball re-opened that window. It’s my hope that I’m able to get a glimpse into that window every time I partake in the sport moving forward, whether its watching a game or reading and telling stories about it.
This pic of Willie Mays playing stickball on the streets of Harlem in 1954 is a nice overlap of my Beat and baseball windows.
(photo via aconversationoncool)