Required Reading:

February 14, 2017. Baseball

  • Playing for Keeps: A History of Early Baseball. 1989; Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009. [Note: We will discuss the book during our Thursday class 2/16].

February 16, 2017. Days of Rest: Holidays, Nature, & Leisure

Weekly Assignment 

For your weekly assignment, please post two discussion questions you have about our readings this week that you would like to talk about in class. Your questions will be used in class on Thursday.


I also highly recommend the Ken Burns baseball documentary series.


Dr. Rhae Lynn Barnes is a member of the Society of Fellows at USC and Assistant Professor of American Cultural History at Princeton (beginning 2018). She earned her Ph.D. at Harvard University and B.A. at U.C. Berkeley. She is the co-founder of U.S. History Scene.
  • Madelyn Suennen

    The chapter on “Excitement and Self Control” explained how women were expected to “domesticate the ballfield” by keeping men’s behavior in check. How do you feel the role of women has changed in the world of modern day baseball?

    In the 1860s, the reputations of baseball clubs stemmed predominantly from newspapers and from win/loss ratios. Is this still the case in the 21st century? What elements shape your own perspective of today’s baseball teams and their reputations?

  • Hannah A Cruz

    Why was baseball in the 1860’s conducted with a sense of labor, duty, and hard work instead of being a more leisurely activity?

    If facial hair became a symbol of authority and masculinity for white men, how did these social constructions play out in terms of race? Were there fears around slaves and/or free black men growing or sporting beards? Did effeminized groups such as Chinese laborers try to grow beards in response to these stereotypes?

  • Carissa Brones

    Men clung to their distinct gender through sporting facial hair, particularly as a response to women threatening their position of authority. This fashion “codif[ied] a distinctly male appearance when other traditional markers of masculinity were no longer stable or certain.” How is this assertion of superior status similar to other displays of power through appearance (such as blackface, etc.)? Is this present in any other areas, past or present?

    A major shift in baseball changed an amateur leisure sport into a competitive business match. Reformers drew a line between boyhood and manliness, in which being a boy was the greatest offense. What implications does the development of facial hair have in engaging the distinction between being a man versus a boy? How was this influenced by a changing time and culture ?

  • Justin Gilson

    Many different sports often have a few teams that dominate the rest for a period of time, E.g. the New England Patriots or New York Yankees. These “dynasty teams” are able to continuously attract the best players because of their status and the money they get from winning repeatedly, which allows them to keep winning. Did the baseball clubs of the past also suffer from this “dynasty” effect, pushing a few clubs to the top and allowing them to dominate, or did certain aspects of the fraternal culture subdue this effect allowing the talent to stay spread out among the various clubs?

    It’s very clear that the sports newspapers of the time made their opinions on the way the game of baseball should be played very known. Using words like “manly” or “boyish” to describe certain playstyles or actions on the field, the editorials did not hold back their praise or disapproval of the actions of the players. How did the opinions of these newspapers affect the individual players actions both on and off the field? Were the clubs as a whole more likely to pay attention to the opinions of these sports journalists, forcing changes in the club culture to stay positive in the public eye?

    I’d also like to discuss the effect the Fly-Rule and these sports newspapers had on the transition from baseball as simply a game of leisure to a manly sport played for glory.

  • Taylor Grant

    1) What are some of the factors/reasonings behind men feeling the need to so drastically set themselves apart from women? Is part of the reason out of fear that they would be viewed as similar/more equal to women had they not taken the time to se themselves apart in such an obvious physical manner?

    2) At what point was there a shift back to the idea of not placing such an emphasis on facial hair/physical appearance as the only respectable way for a man to improve his appearance? In other words, when did it become of less importance than it was during the 19th century, and which factors influenced this shift?

  • Kristen East

    How did geography affect a community’s experience of baseball? Did baseball hold a different cultural significance for rural communities or those on the west coast?

    How did female hairstyles and facial appearances develop during this time? Was a woman’s hairstyles similarly significant in signaling status and authority among her peers?

  • emma arce

    1. If growing a beard was a sign of masculinity, power, and wisdom, how come now a day people look down upon professionals with large beards? Many professions require men to shave due to the fact that it looks “unprofessional or unappealing” what led to this idea in contemporary society? (disregard food professions)

    2. If men valued and relied on women’s opinion and domestication during their baseball games, why were they not given an official role in the sport or a spot in the umpire?

  • Richard Nunis

    Based on the reading, in the seventeenth century white men were able to use facial hair and attire to dominate gender. Were white women able to use a physical trait to exert power over minority women?

    In an attempt to make baseball more manly, the sport eliminated its “boys’ rules” by altering the “fly rule.” Prior to 1865, fielders could catch the ball after one bounce for the batter to be out. With the fly rule, batters could only be out if the fielder caught the ball on the fly. The change to the fly rule made the game more challenging, thus making it more masculine. Were changes such as this a result of an era where male dominance over women was extremely sought after or was it strictly for the love of the game?

  • Alyssa Rubio

    Why was baseball men’s way of claiming masculinity, and not some other directly masculine sport like boxing or wrestling? What made baseball so profound that it increased in popularity so quickly, and in a masculine way?

    If you were a man and didn’t have much luck in growing out a beard, what happened? Did men accept the fact that they were seen as more feminine compared to other men, and not “true men”? Or did men get a sort of beard transplant or wear fake beards to counteract this?

  • Jonathan Sears

    Goldstein’s account of the progressions of professional baseball shows how economic opportunism grew simultaneously with fandom, creating a need for increased professionalism instead of the typical club amateur skilled-workers that comprised most teams. This same effect has happened in other sports and – more importantly – has permeated its way to all levels of sports, especially at the collegiate level. Do college athletes deserve to be paid because of the ever-increasing professionalism demanded of them?

    In modern sports, players on teams in the playoffs customarily grow “playoff beards,” a tradition where players do not shave while they are still alive in the playoffs. These “playoff beards” are most common in baseball. Are “playoff beards” – especially given the context of when these beards are grown – a remnant of baseball’s early movement towards masculinity?

  • Dru Chavez

    “Facial hair was not passive—it was a deliberate choice that said something about what kind of person you were inside…Masculinity and authority were intimately connected, and the shag on a man’s face could signal both.” (McBride) With hair such a priority, I can only assume that barber shops and men’s grooming businesses grew in popularity. Did the obsession of the hair on a man’s face during the 19th century foster modern-day “machisimo” barber shop culture or did they differ? Conversely, did women’s salons during the 19th century help empower women or only reinforce women’s stereotypes of beauty?

    Goldstein’s narrative of amateurs vs. professional players in baseball make me wonder how negro leagues were perceived amongst the public during the early 1900’s. How did race blur the lines of amatuer and professional when the likes of Jackie Robinson came to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers? Similarly, did the intersection of entertainment and business on the baseball field further progress the sport as American popular culture (by becoming less fraternal and more popular) or push the game further away from it’s origins and more of a spectacle?

  • Kristen East

    Most miners during the gold rush, and pioneers and frontiersmen/mountain men in general are portrayed as having beards. Was this coincidental to the time period during which these people lived? Were there beards a sign of hyper-masculinity? Or rather a point of practicality?

  • Dashiell Johnson

    It seems like in many images I’ve seen from the times, there were not many examples of what we today would call a “well-groomed” beard. Was another facet of this new style an attempt to have literally, the biggest beard around?

    Is there any truth behind the story that President Lincoln was convinced to grow a beard after receiving a letter from a young girl from New York? And if so, was he the first President to make this look “acceptable” for presidents?

  • Chynna Cowart

    1) Did the way the book explored more of the sociological and economic foundation of baseball instead of honing in on the biographies of players change the “bias” or tone of the way masculinity was documented through this lens?
    2) How has the role of femininity changed in baseball over the years in comparison?

  • Shayla McMurray

    1. What was the female discourse of men’s changing silhouettes? Did it change the way some women wanted to dress also, or did the welcome the divide?

    2. How did women’s protest and push for advancement vary outside of religious morals–if at all–in the 19th century?