By Bill Francis
If baseball and cricket aren’t brothers, they are probably distant cousins. And sometimes visiting relatives, when they get together, are not always readily accepted.
Such was the point made by Beth Hise, a guest curator for the Marylebone Cricket Club Museum in London, England, during a presentation on Wednesday afternoon in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Education Gallery. Hise’s work, entitled The Crowd Began to Shout “Atta Boy” With a Lancashire Accent: The English Response to Baseball Exhibition Games in the Early 20th Century, was one of many presentations that took place on the first day of the annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture.
Hise, who lives in Australia but was raised in Cleveland as an Indians fan, is currently working on an exhibit on cricket and baseball. She combined her appearance at the Symposium with her continuing research at the Hall of Fame.
“Today’s talk was looking in detail at one small element of the exhibition, which is the spreading of the two games,” said Hise. “Cricket spread internationally very strongly through the British Empire, where they weren’t imposing a foreign game; they were imposing an entirely foreign system. And the game came as part of it.
“Where baseball is very different is that baseball tried to missionize and send out teams around the world but they sent out two star-studded teams to play each other,” she added, referring to exhibition games held throughout Europe by the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants in both 1913-14 and 1924. “My talk looked at the reception of those two tours in the early 20th Century and how England, in particular, received those tours.”
According to Hise, England saw in those tours something that was outside of anything that they would have anything to do with.
“It was great spectacle, thousands showed up for the matches, they were watched by royalty, but what I did was I looked at the press response,” she said. “I found a lot of different things that the reporters wrote about – very humorous, very good natured, very much enjoying the spectacle, enjoying what they learned about Americans but keeping it all pretty much at arm’s length.”
Hise added the Major League Baseball International is now promoting the fact that our national pastime isn’t strictly an American game but can be adopted for each country’s own needs and have it reflect what they want it to.
“But in the early 20th Century it was really brought over to England as an American export and very much enjoyed in a very strongly American, patriotic sense.”
The annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, co-sponsored by the State University of New York College at Oneonta and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, runs through Friday. Each year, the event brings baseball scholars from throughout the country together to examine the impact of baseball on American culture from inter- and multi-disciplinary perspectives.
Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.