For me, Punxsutawney Phil is not the ultimate predictor that winter is coming to an end. No, it is those first reports from Florida and Arizona that baseball’s Spring Training is beginning that does it for me. The baseball is in the air once more and I feel so much better when I am immersed in the rhythms of baseball.
And there is such a rhythm. With its 162 games played over its six month season, it is present in some form on a daily basis for those who follow the game. Each day brings something new that adds to the game’s long history, to its poetry and legend, to its voluminous statistics, to its never-ending debates over the superiority of teams, players and eras. For someone like me who is a huge fan of the game’s folklore and history, nothing could be better.
Speaking of folklore, the photo at the top is perhaps the oldest image of the game, taken sometime before 1870. It sold a few years ago on eBay for $3800. It shows a group of schoolboys at the Bluff School in Claremont, New Hampshire. It was used in Ken Burns‘ Baseball documentary and was taken by the early photographic studio of French & Sawyer which operated in Keene, NH. Their partnership dissolved in 1870 so the photo was taken before that time. It could be as early as the late 1850’s, pre-Civil War. The interesting thing is that there is action in the photo, a rarity for any photos of the era. It also shows the players in positions that closely resemble today’s game which adds to that feeling of connection through time that is a part of the game.
The painting below is an early painting of the game. I don’t know who painted it or when and can’t find anything about it. It was listed on a folk art site and is no longer there so details on it are sketchy. I think it’s a fun piece and reminds me that baseball is coming soon and winter is coming to an end.