Friday, March 6, 2015

Merkle to Progressive Era History Class

When we published Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle, I thought about the possible use of the book for a Progressive Era History Class.  Public 
Bonehead creates such an exciting setting for the 1908 season and the scapegoating that Merkle got from the muckraking press.  I was never sold on the idea that college students had enough time to take sports history, but on the other hand, sports is one of the great subjects that can often help lead people into understanding history. I'd be happy to offer a discount to a class that would make use of the book.

It's more important to understand the economic and social change that transformed America in the early 20th Century that to understand the Pennant winners and how they got there.  Changing gender roles; advances in communication, science, technology, economics, health, government and other big issues are just more important that the struggles of John "Muggsy" McGraw's New York Giants.  But a course that examines and uses McGraw and the other baseball cast of characters can lead students into a better understanding of history.  

The Magnificent Mordecai Brown, the Cubs three-fingered pitcher had stuck his hand in a corn shredder at 7-year old.  That's a powerful prelude to understanding the times child labor and work safety rules that were changing in the Era.  

Flamboyant Mike Donlin took some time off with his movie star wife, Mabel Hite, give you an introduction the the day entertainment.

Contrasting the pre-radio baseball fans by the thousands standing out in Detroit to watch the Detroit Free Press Scoreboard to the radio age that was about to follow gives students an excellent before and after view of communications.

The changing demographics in baseball, where the Irish were getting new teammates from other nationalities was similar to what was happening at Ellis Island.

The leadership role of Teddy Roosevelt speaks to today's students, but Frank Chance is an interesting study of the times.

The scapegoating of Fred Merkle and the appeal of the Merkle game was lesson in history and can be a lead in to the American reforms and law changes of the time. 

I can see using Public Bonehead for an understanding of the time and then go back and forth to the historical documents that you want students to study.