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baseball

Several nights ago, I was doing some rapid-fire channel-surfing and happened upon the documentary Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, a great film about actress/writer Gertrude Berg.  Her groundbreaking radio and television show The Goldbergs was before my time but the story of her life and times had me glued to channel 30 in a way that I hadn’t been in ages or, at least, in a way I hadn’t been since almost a week before. I believe it was the previous Sunday when I’d flipped to channel 30 and landed on the Ken Burns documentary on baseball. It’s in these two instances that I am reminded of the wonders of PBS.

I remember spending many hours with family or on my own soaking in the quality programming of PBS. Whether I was watching the classic 1980s miniseries adaptation of Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, catching episodes of Sesame Street before and after school or avidly following the early 90s tween show Ghostwriter (I could go into detail about this wonderful show but that’s kind of a whole separate blog post), PBS was the center of my childhood television viewing. Well, it was as long as we didn’t have cable.

In the age of 500 satellite or cable channels, internet and Netflix, it’s pretty easy to drift away from the classy, wholesome, enjoyable if unassuming Public Broadcasting Service. It keeps chugging away, bringing us magnificent programs like Downton Abbey, Antiques Roadshow and NOVA for free (even though they remain ever grateful to “Viewers Like You” for contributions).

So my hat remains doffed and my television remains set to PBS. Below is just a brief list of some of my favorite recent PBS documentaries, available for borrowing from the Library:

Black In Latin America: I was crestfallen for nearly a week as this fascinating series was airing first run on PBS. At the time I was living in an evil apartment complex that, for whatever reason, had the worst signal for PBA 30 and no signal at all for GPB Channel 8.  Several months later, I was able to borrow this series from the Library. The series follows as host Henry Louis Gates Jr. explores the African roots of several Latin American nations like Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

The Jewish Americans: This is an incredibly informative and insightful series that I intend to borrow again but next time with a pen and pad at the ready. Narrated by actor Liev Schreiber, this film follows the Jewish American experience and the community’s contributions to American history and culture. I highly recommend it.

Ken Burns…well, anything really: There isn’t a Ken Burns documentary that I’ve seen that I haven’t been hopelessly in the thrall of. I’ve spent six hours on a lazy Saturday glued to my computer screen watching the advent, the unfolding and unraveling of prohibition. I’ve watched the birth and growth of jazz as an American musical form. I watched a whole lot more of his documentary on the history and dominance of baseball than I’d intended to and I’m not even a casual fan of the game. Burns’ work is the gold standard of documentary series filmmaking.

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Apr 30 2012

The Fenway Way

by Greg H

This April marked the 1ooth anniversary of the opening of Boston’s Fenway Park.  Plenty has been said and written about this landmark’s centennial and I can’t think of much to add except by way of a juxtaposition. Here in Atlanta we’re talking about demolishing a perfectly serviceable twenty year old stadium to build a new facility with that most fashionable of all features: a retractable roof. The cost is projected to be in the neighborhood of one billion dollars.  Readers can take sides over which number is the more outrageous; the one billion dollars for the new structure or the mere 20 years in age of the old.

We have always been a disposable society, but there must have been a time when, at the very least, a twenty year old, multimillion dollar building was not considered something suitable only for the wrecking ball.  Fenway Park, then maybe only ninety years old, was once thought to be ready for demolition.  That was, however,  before three and four generations of Red Sox fans, and baseball fans everywhere, considered the memories and history that Fenway embodied and decided it needed to be restored, not replaced.

Comparing Fenway Park to the Georgia Dome is an apples and oranges type of exercise.  And I’m not suggesting that  Bostonians  have a more cultivated sense of history than Georgians do. (After all, look at the lengths to which Atlanta went to preserve the Margaret Mitchell House.)  It’s just that places become special precisely because they’ve been given time to become special. If the Georgia Dome’s days are numbered,  here’s hoping that maybe Turner Field can, someday,  be like Fenway.

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Oct 3 2011

The Artistry of Charles M. Conlon

Post image for The Artistry of Charles M. Conlon

by Greg H

In 1993, a collection of baseball photographs was published. The artist was the prolific Charles M. Conlon, a long-time photographer for The Sporting News whose work had only recently been rediscovered.  The result was Baseball’s Golden Age: The Photographs of Charles M. Conlon.  The black and white pictures, some portraits and some action shots, were remarkable for the detail and insight they provided into the game and its players in the first half of the 20th century.

One of my favorites is the the shot of Pirates great shortstop, Honus Wagner, featured above.  His face is not shown but the picture captures the strength of the man, both in the rough, meaty aspect of his hands on the handle of the bat, and in the impressive striations in the muscles of his forearms.  His woolen uniform is dirty and the viewer can almost feel the coarseness of the fabric.

Anyone who loved the first collection will be pleased to know that a second cache of Conlon’s negatives was found recently. Prints from those negatives have been compiled in the new release The Big Show: Charles M. Conlon’s Golden Age Baseball Photographs.

Baseball’s Golden Age: The Photographs of Charles M. Conlon is available thorough the DeKalb Library.  If you like those photographs, look into The Big Show for glimpses into the early days of baseball.

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Apr 15 2011

The House That Ruth Built

by Greg H

Most baseball fans run hot or cold on the subject of the New York Yankees.They either love the Yankee pedigree and the history inherent in those classy pinstripe uniforms or they hate the Yankee swagger and the dominance created by virtually unlimited resources. It can be easy to forget that there was a time when the Yankees had no more World Championships to their name than the Houston Astros. Robert Weintraub’s new book, The House That Ruth Built, takes a look back to the 1923 season when the Yankees were moving into a new stadium and had yet to win their first championship.  Better yet, Mr. Weintraub will be appearing at the Decatur library on the evening of April 18 to talk about his book and sign copies. It will be an evening any baseball fan can enjoy.

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Feb 28 2011

The Rites of Spring

by Greg H

The Super Bowl is now over so the baseball fans among us will soon hear the terse yet soothing sentence “Pitchers and catchers report.”  These four words, more than the appearance of robins or crocuses, tell us that spring and the return of baseball are truly not far off. Fortunately, for those of us who live in the south, neither are they very far away.  Approximately 500 miles separates Atlantans from the spring training sites of numerous American and National League teams, including our own Atlanta Braves.

For the baseball fan spring training offers some very satisfying moments that the regular season can’t.  The first, and most obvious, is a chance to enjoy genuine spring weather while the calendar still says it’s winter.  Friends back home are still wearing coats and checking the weather reports for snow but you are wearing shorts and checking to make sure you brought sun block.  (And you should!  It isn’t usually very hot but the sun it still strong.)

Another treat is the sense that you are getting an insider look at the baseball season before it begins; sort of like being able to watch rehearsals for a Broadway production from the wings.  All the legends and rookies and free agents are arrayed before you.  Watch them perform and guess who the next star will be!  You’ll know before anyone back home.

Are you a people person?  You’ll find that everyone sitting around you is a fan just like you so the ice is already broken!  You might be sharing your row with a family from Minnesota or some young women from Toronto or an older man who just happens to be from very near your home town. It doesn’t matter. Everyone has stories to tell and reminiscences to share. You may not be there to root for the Cleveland Indians but you’re part of a tribe nonetheless.

Still not convinced? Well, the ball parks are smaller, autographs and foul balls are easier to get and tickets and concessions are less expensive than at the regular season games.  But if you still need a nudge, consider these books which are available at your Dekalb County Public Library system.

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Dec 18 2009

Celebrating the Birth of two Georgians

by Amanda L

Today is the anniversary of the birth for two famous Georgians.  These two men made an impact in their respective fields. I knew the first one, Ty Cobb, was from Georgia but I was surprised that Ossie Davis was from Georgia.

Ty Cobb made his impact on the baseball world.  He was born in 1886 in Narrows, Georgia. He was known as the “Georgia Peach” and was considered an outstanding offensive player of all time.  He played for Augusta in the minor South Atlantic League. He set many Major League records. Several are still intact today.  Ty Cobb  was the first man elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame which was established in Cooperstown, Ohio in 1936.

Want to learn more about Ty Cobb? Check out these books.

Ty Cobb by Charles C Alexander

Cobb_A biography Cobb: a biography by Al Stump

Ossie Davis made an impact in films. He was born in Cogdell Georgia in 1917.  He was known as one of the busiest African-American Entertainers in the 1970’s.  In his career he wrote plays and books. He was a director, playwright and producer. He co-starred in a radio program with his wife in the mid-1970’s.

Want to learn more or see some of Ossie Davis’s work? Check out the following.

Black Directors in Hollywood by Melvin Donaldson

Finding Buck McHenry

Miss Ever’s boys

Ossie With Ossie Davis and Ruby: in this life together

Ossie pic book Just Like Martin by Ossie Davis

Want more information about these gentleman but can’t get into a library? You can use the Library’s electronic resource, Biography Resource Center. This resource along with other electronic resources can be found on our Reference Database page.

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Jul 16 2008

Baseball for Kids

by Ginny C

The Major League Baseball All-Star game was last night, which means the 2008 baseball season is half finished. That means it’s not too late for those of us who still haven’t made it to Turner Field this year to see the Braves play. It’s never too late, however, to sharpen your baseball skills and improve your game. We have several books and dvds for children and coaches on how to be a better baseball player.

Here are some good books to get you started. Play Ball Like the Hall of Famers features tips from baseball greats such as George Brett and Johnny Bench. Derek Jeter, Pedro Martinez and others offer suggestions on how to play the game in Play Ball Like the Pros. The Kids’ Baseball Workout gives ideas for how to start and structure a workout to help improve your game.

For all the parents who coach their kid’s baseball team or those that just want to help their child improve, we have stuff for you, too. Baseball Drills for Young People and Backyard Baseball Drills are worth looking into. And regardless of your skill level, remember to have fun!

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May 5 2008

Relive Your Baseball!

by Nolan R

My cousin George is not a librarian, but when it comes to sports in general and baseball in particular, he’s always the one educating me about the best websites. One of these is Retrosheet. The folks who manage the website tell us that “Retrosheet was founded in 1989 for the purpose of computerizing play-by-play accounts of as many pre-1984 major league games as possible.” This function alone makes it a great website to visit for the nostalgic fan. The first search I performed let me look up the play-by-play and results of the first major league game I attended with my Grandmother and some of her friends back in 1966 (Pirates 9 Cubs 1). The next let me look at the results of the Pirates vs. Reds game that my Dad took me to the next year. It was Cap Day and we actually got to walk on the perimeter of Forbes Field until we exited the centerfield gate. I still have the cap.

Obviously I have already described my favorite part of this website, but Retrosheet is a gold mine for any baseball trivia wonk or statistics geek. For example, they chronicle every instance of a player losing a home run in a game (due, usually, to umpire mistake, a game being cancelled by weather, or a base running gaffe.) and the homepage tells the reader if a new occurrence has been added. Unheard of franchises are represented here. Did you know that the Cincinnati Porkers won 43 games, lost 57 and tied 2 games in 1891? I KNOW! Neither did I! There is just too much in this website to convey in words but, if you have any curiosity about baseball, Retrosheet.org is the place to visit. You’ll learn about things about the game that you didn’t know even ardent fans paid attention to.

George would not forgive me if I didn’t also mention what is probably his favorite website/blog at Uni Watch. Their slogan is “The Obsessive Study of Athletics Aesthetics.” In other words, if a sports team wears it, Uni Watch knows everything about it. They keep track of any change in any team’s uniforms (or those of the team’s cheerleaders, if they have them) and the writers are not stingy with their opinions, good or bad. One current feature that I like is a preview of all of the changes that fans will be seeing for the 2008 baseball season. Many, many entries discuss the pockets, hosiery, caps, and warm-up outfits and there are fans who write in about things they’ve noticed, like an upside down “i” on a player’s jersey or some other error. All of the major, and a few of the minor, sports are represented. As with Retrosheet, very few fans will be interested in everything offered but there is so much there that the digging around will be part of the fun.

Greg H.

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Feb 21 2008

The Negro Leagues

by Jimmy L

Joshgibson_negroleagues_1_
I stumbled upon this webpage the other day and thought it was intriguing.  It’s about the first Negro Leagues in the early 20th century and the impact the first black baseball players had on the history of the sport.  Be sure to listen to the sound clips where different players talk about the subject.

For further research, here are a few books you may wish to check out:

The Kansas City Monarchs : champions of Black baseball by Janet Bruce

Negro league baseball : the rise and ruin of a Black institution by Neil Lanctot

Crossing the line : Black major leaguers, 1947-1959 by Larry Moffi and Jonathan Kronstadt

Blackball superstars : legendary players of the Negro baseball leagues by Ace Collins and John Hillman

Black diamond : the story of the Negro baseball leagues by Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick McKissack, Jr.

The forgotten players : the story of black baseball in America by Robert Gardner and Dennis Shortelle

The Negro leagues : the story of Black baseball by Jacob Margolies

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In the excitement about the release of Ken Burns’ The War on PBS last week, don’t forget about one of Burns’ other popular projects which the library owns on DVD.

Ken Burns’ epic history of baseball, which DCPL recently acquired on DVD, is long.  Consisting of nine episodes, each roughly two hours long, Baseball delves into America’s Pastime in as much detail as one might expect from a college course.  The beauty of this series, though – the reason why it still stands up fourteen years after its release – is that you don’t mind the length.  Baseball is Ken Burns storytelling at its finest, using old photographs, films, and many of today’s finest film and stage actors to weave a spellbinding tale of romance and friendship, prejudice and disgrace, defeat and victory.

From the fascinating biographical portraits of Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Ty Cobb, Satchel Paige, and Jackie Robinson, to the play-by-play of bygone world series that brings you to the edge of your seat, to the exploration of baseball’s social implications surrounding racial segregation, Baseball offers a very entertaining and complete history that leaves you wanting more, even after all that time you’ve spent watching it!

Click here to get the first episode of Ken Burns’ Baseball.

The library also owns many other Burns projects on DVD.  Here’s a small sample:

The Civil War

Mark Twain

Jazz

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