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Baseball - The Tenth Inning


"Seventh Inning Stretch" Activities

The lesson plans on this site were designed to help teachers explore a variety of academic subjects using BASEBALL and THE TENTH INNING. Because the films are so rich in educational themes and we know that teachers have a limited amount of time, we've also developed a series of easy-to-use "seventh inning stretch" activities which can be easily adapted to suit individual teaching styles

Inventing Baseball

According to baseball legend, baseball was invented on a summer day in 1839 when a West Point academy student was playing a game of "Town Ball" against another school in Eluhu Phinney's cow pasture in Cooperstown, New York. The West Pointer, Abner Doubleday, was said to be frustrated with the loose (some would say chaotic) rules of the game of Town Ball and sat down during a lull in play to write an entire new set of rules. He called the new game "baseball."

For most of baseball's history, people believed that baseball was invented by Abner Doubleday. Today, sports historians believe the story is a myth. Trace the history of baseball as a merging of two previously invented sports, "rounders" and cricket. Look at how elements of these two games are incorporated into baseball and how the game evolved over the decades to be the game as we know today. Report on Mr. Doubleday's alleged contribution to the game and how another baseball legend, A. G. Spalding, helped perpetuate the myth.

Baseball's Real Characters

Baseball is a personal game and a game of personalities. Even though ballparks and stadiums are large structures and seating is farther from play than a basketball court, players are not in motion all the time and are not covered by pads and helmets, so it is easy to see their antics and to read their personalities easier than in other sports. Baseball has enjoyed a rich history of odd and interesting characters who have added more than just their athletic talents to the game. Antics on the field, statements to the press and incidents in their private lives have all contributed to Baseball's folklore.

Work in pairs or individually to write a brief biography on one of baseball's more colorful characters. Research female as well as male ballplayers. Include their early lives in baseball, their "big break" into baseball, details of their performance on the field, and their famous or infamous characteristics. Some examples are members of the "Chicago Black Sox." Ty Cobb, Albert Goodwill Spalding, Jerome Hanna "Dizzy" Dean, James Augustus "Catfish" Hunter, Andrew Rube Foster, Harry Frazee, Sophie Kurys, Kennesaw Mountain Landis, Satchel Paige, George Steinbrenner, Casey Stengel, and Alta Weiss.

The Music of Baseball

Take me out to the ballgame,
Take me out to the crowd,
Buy me some peanuts and Crackerjacks,
I don't care if we ever get back…

For over a century the song "Take me out to the Ball Game" has been considered the unofficial theme song of baseball. Sung at nearly every Major League game's Seventh Inning Stretch, the song instantaneously rekindles memories of baseball games past. Baseball was of the earliest spectator sports to incorporate music during the game in between innings and during non-play periods (pitcher warm-ups, grounds maintenance, opening line-ups, etc.) The musical interludes were originally played by organs and several stadiums still employ organists. Digital music selections of pre-recorded music are also used. The "art" of stadium music is to play a selection that has something relevant to the action on the field, either highlighting (or mocking) a particular player or umpire call. Sometimes music is chosen to bring the crowd to its feet and turn the momentum of the game towards the home team.

Construct a wiki or other digital presentation incorporating visual examples of the celebration of baseball-play action, fan appreciation, celebrations and disappointments – with the music played at different baseball stadiums. There are several websites that feature MIDI files of music composed for baseball such as Amaranth Publishing's feature on baseball or Stadium Songs.

Stadium Fever

Baseball parks have been transformed from community gathering places to mega-stadiums. Seating capacity has grown from 25,000 seats in the 1920s to 75,000 seat behemoths like Sun Life Stadium, home of the Florida Marlins . But that's not all. Luxury box suites, animated scoreboards, restaurants, and many other amenities have followed. Over the past several decades, stadiums have become a total experience for baseball fans.

Work in small teams to develop a promotional brochure (either digital or hard copy) of your hometown Major League Baseball stadium or one that is geographically closest to your hometown or your favorite Major League team. Research information on the stadium, how it was funded (private or public funds or a combination), its construction, the type of field (artificial or natural turf), seating capacity, farthest distances between home plate and the outside wall (left, center and right field), year built, its history including mention of stadiums that came before, memorable games and/or incidents, amenities like electronic scoreboards and Jumbotron screens, luxury seating, food services, etc. The brochure should include a seating chart, maps showing the stadium's location in relation to the nearest city, pictures of the stadium's outside and inside and your evaluation of the stadium for enjoying a game of baseball.

Baseball Curses

Many baseball players and fans are known to be superstitious. Players might repeat the same routine in what they eat before a game or travel the same route to the ballpark on game days. Fans often wear the same clothes to home games, sometimes never washed and especially if first worn the day of a victory. Curses also run prevalent in baseball. From billy-goats to ill-conceived player trades to dishonored war heroes with a grudge, curses help explain the unexplainable losses and disappointments of baseball.

Research some of the many curses in baseball. Select one and document all its details, possible side versions, and whether the curse has been broken or still seems to be in effect. Construct a case study where you explain the curse and how it is understood to work on the suffering team/fans. Then in a counter study, research other plausible explanations as to why the team struggles (and is not a victim of a curse). Weighing the evidence, come to your own conclusion about the credibility of the curse.

Baseball Trivia

Baseball is a sport made for trivia games. With over 100 years of folklore and history and thousands of characters, the game is a treasure trove of anecdotes, stories, and tales. In this activity you and your class can develop a Jeopardy Baseball trivia game.

Review your video notes from the lessons in the Ken Burns' Baseball series. If your class hasn't conducted any of the lessons yet, you can watch selections from any of the "Inning" episodes and take notes to gather facts. You can also research information for questions from any number of baseball trivia websites. Divide up the class into five or six groups. Determine the different categories that come from your notes. Examples: Famous Players, the Negro Leagues, Lovable Losers, Artful Deceptions, etc. Each group will select a category and write 7-10 trivia questions. You can limit how many people know the questions by having each student write only 2-3 questions and not share them with other members of their group or other students. Write questions that are memory-based, literal questions that are good for trivia games. Some examples can be found at "How to Write Trivia Questions". Place all the questions in a pile for the teacher or moderator to deliver. Set up your game board on the front board with category rows and varied points for the different questions.

Fantasy Baseball

Fantasy Baseball is the oldest form of fantasy sports and, like the real game itself, one that has numerous factors that can make the game totally unpredictable. An odd characteristic considering the game is driven by statistics.

In this activity, you can set up a fantasy baseball league using professional baseball trading cards. Working with a partner you will role-play co-managers of a baseball team. Each team will receive a pack of baseball trading cards. By looking at the players' performance statistics you will determine which players you want and set up your team lineups. Team managers will play a simulated baseball game or games (depending on how much time you have to allot to a "season.") Details of how to set up and play Fantasy Baseball can be found at PBS Mathline website.

Activities from Major League Baseball

Check out Major League Baseball's community programs for resources offer by individual major league baseball teams as well as additional educational ideas and activities.

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