New book demonstrates the sport’s increasing global reach
Many Americans see baseball as a uniquely American sport, however, a new book edited by two professors – one from Clemson University and the other from the University of Central Lancashire in the United Kingdom – demonstrates its impact around the world.
The book, published by the University Press of Florida, “Baseball and Cultural Heritage“, explores how the heritage of baseball is understood, interpreted, marketed, performed and, in some cases, ignored – both in the United States and other countries.
“For well over a century, baseball has been lauded, eulogized, romanticized and idealized, escalating it to something more than just a game. It is also a widely written-about academic topic, particularly in American history,” said Dr. Gregory Ramshaw, one of the book’s co-editors. “However, how baseball’s past is used today – in other words, baseball’s cultural heritage – remains a relatively unexplored topic.”
Ramshaw, a Professor of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at Clemson University, and Dr. Sean Gammon, Reader at the Lancashire School of Business at the University of Central Lancashire (UK) came up with the idea for the book when conducting research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York in early 2018.
“We were exploring how the National Baseball Hall of Fame balanced its cultural and economic objectives, which is a major topic of study in heritage studies, as many museums find there is tension between presenting an accurate and authentic past while also appealing to as many visitors as possible,” said Gammon. “We realized that there was more to the baseball/heritage relationship than we initially thought.”
When the editors initially approached authors to contribute chapters for the book, they quickly realized how many academics had baseball projects they’d been meaning to explore and how many of these projects came from outside of the United States.
“We thought that most of the contributors would be from the United States or would explore US-based topics” Ramshaw explained, “but we quickly realized that baseball’s heritage is a global phenomenon.”
Ramshaw notes that “about half” of the chapters look at baseball heritage in the United States, with the remainder of the chapters coming from Canada, Brazil, the Caribbean, South Korea, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
“I think we knew that places like South Korea, Japan, and the Caribbean had a distinctive baseball heritage that was different – and, sometimes, in opposition to – American baseball culture,” Ramshaw said, “but for us it was fascinating to learn that not only is there a baseball heritage in Brazil, but that it is a mixture of Brazilian and Japanese traditions. Or that Britain has a rich baseball heritage that continues into the present.”
Gammon believes that baseball heritage in the United States remains powerful, but that it is changing.
“There is little doubt that baseball’s heritage still holds significant currency in the US, though much of it is now passed down from generation to generation rather than experienced first-hand,” Gammon said. “That said, this collection demonstrates that there remains a deep passion and curiosity for the game’s past in the United States, including how players from the Negro Leagues are remembered and honored, the role and importance of baseball statues, how women’s baseball is interpreted at sites and museums, and the cultural importance of food in the baseball spectator experience”
Though baseball is fertile ground for exploring heritage, Ramshaw sees opportunities to explore heritage in other sports.
“So many different sports – from soccer and hockey to cricket and auto racing – share a strong relationship to their heritage. I don’t think this will be our last book exploring how heritage shapes and defines a particular sport today,” Ramshaw said.
The Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management is a part of the Clemson University College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences (CBSHS). Established in 2016, CBSHS is a 21st-century, land-grant college that combines work in seven schools and departments – Communication; Nursing; Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management; Political Science; Psychology; Public Health Sciences; and Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice – to further its mission in “building people and communities” in South Carolina and beyond.
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