The 400-Year-Old Rivalry

Liz Covart is the Digital Projects Editor at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the Creator and Host of Ben Franklin’s World, an award-winning podcast about early American history.

On June 29 and 30, the oldest rivalry in American sports will play out in London Stadium as the New York Yankees take on the Boston Red Sox. The rivalry between these historic Major League Baseball teams dates to the early twentieth century, when Boston team owner Harry Frazee sold his star player Babe Ruth to the Yankees, but the rivalry between Boston and New York goes back centuries. The great baseball rivalry, in fact, is the latest manifestation of an intense regional competition that developed from the fierce commercial rivalry between England and the Netherlands during the 1650s.

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It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

Murphy Swing

The greatest baseball players fail to get on base the vast majority of their at-bats. In fact, Daniel Murphy—second baseman for the Washington Nationals—currently holds the title for the highest batting average this season at .411. To many, that batting average justifies the $37.5 million, three-year contract the Nationals just signed with Murphy. That’s $37.5 million for failing six out of ten at-bats. To be fair, when he does make contact with a pitch, he usually scores runs and contributes to the Nationals top standing in the National League East. Continue reading

Guest Post: Sports Talk Radio, Sabermetrics, and Carl Becker

Mark Boonshoft is a PhD candidate at Ohio State University. His work focuses on colleges and academies, especially the networks forged in them, and their role in the formation of revolutionary political culture. 


“Long time listener, first time caller.” These are words I heard often as a kid. I grew up listening to sports talk radio—mostly 660AM, WFAN-New York—and this is how many a caller introduced themselves. I’ve limited my habit—I no longer keep a transistor radio quietly playing under my pillow while I sleep—but I have not shaken it entirely. Long car rides are still a good chance to binge, and binge I did this July Fourth weekend. Driving through Albany, I called in for the first time ever. Continue reading

Sanitizing History

For the last few years, there has been a recurring news item in early January that sets my historical rage going. The repeated refusal of the Baseball Writers Association of America to elect Mark McGwire and others suspected of steroid use in the 1990s and early 2000s was bad enough. This year tipped me over the edge; the idea that neither Barry Bonds nor Roger Clemens deserve a place in the Hall of Fame is nothing short of preposterous. For better or worse, McGwire, Sosa, Clemens, and Bonds defined an era in which baseball regained its popularity after a self-destructive strike in 1994. For the hallowed halls of Cooperstown to pretend they never really existed is willfully sticking heads in the sand.

Of course, the sanitizing of history is not limited to the game of baseball. Every year, the NCAA comes down with ‘sanctions’ on college sports programs for a series of violations, whether academic, financial, or moral. Most typically, those programs are asked to ‘vacate’ their wins – doing nothing to actually award wins to the losers. And the sorry mess of the Lance Armstrong saga reflects a similar tale – those consulting the record books will simply be told that no-one won the Tour de France between 1999 and 2005, as if the race had never been run. At least the ‘vacation’ of title or a blank space in the annals encourages the casual observer to do some further reading on the circumstances. At root, though, it is a cop-out – if the record books don’t give us the nice morality tale that we’d like to see, we just press the delete button and hope that no-one comes to notice. Continue reading

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