Inside Baseball: Baseball Collections as Data

>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington, D.C.>>Meghan Ferriter:
Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining
us for Inside Baseball, Baseball Collections as Data. This morning we’re going
to hear a lot about a week of rapid prototyping, designing,
collaboration, a little bit of scrambling, maybe a
dash of magic as well. First I’d like to
introduce you to our Director of Digital Strategy
at the Library of Congress, Kate Zwaard. Kate’s going to share
a little bit more about the work that’s
happening here at the Library, and we are delighted to
have her here with us. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Kate Zwaard: Thank
you so much, Meghan. I’m thrilled to be here
to open today’s events. I’m Kate Zwaard, the Library of Congress’s Director
of Digital Strategy. And on behalf of the
Library of Congress, LC Labs, the National Museum of African
American History and Culture, and JSTOR, I’d like
to welcome everybody to the Coolidge Auditorium. We’re excited to
be able to share with you today a week’s
worth of very focused work. As you all know, Dr. Hayden
has brought a new vision to the Library that we be
more user-centered and focused on how we can reach
more people and interact with them at a deeper level. And technology, I think, is a really great enabler
of that kind of work. This event highlights how
we can effectively partner with our users and
create prototypes that will make us more
effective and efficient. We’ll be publishing a digital
strategy for the Library of Congress in September
which will describe our plans for reaching more
users with technology and enabling further
access to our materials. To accomplish that work
we’re going to lean on labs and their ability to try new
things and test our assumptions. One of the things I love about
the culture of labs is our — that we do things in the open so that while we’re learning
we’re helping other learn. So we’ve learned to much from
JSTOR Labs here this week. We’re thrilled that
they’re here with us. So that’s a great, great segue
into the past week and today. It’s been a lively week
of looking at collections and new ways of engaging users
inside and outside of our walls and of flash-building. It’s been a week of
shared learning and a week of demonstrating the power of computational
access to collections. We love thinking about the
different ways our collections can be understood and power
of computation brings up a lot of more opportunities. Today’s going to be a
really thrilling day. We’ve got some wonderful
speakers up ahead. And we’re going to get to
see some fantastic datasets and prototypes which will be
useful to baseball researchers and data analysis and,
hopefully, can form a model for other types of collections. It’s always fun to show what
could be quickly put together when great minds are together. We’ll be hearing from LC
Labs, from the National Museum of African American History
and Culture, and JSTOR. And this afternoon
I’m excited to share that we’ll have Clinton Yates,
Rob Ruck, and Jordan Ellenberg in a panel discussion. Okay? As the unofficial
umpire here, play ball! [ Applause ]>>I’m Jaime [laughter]. Okay, yeah. So my name is Jaime Mears, and I work for the LC Labs
team that Kate mentioned. I’m going to talk
a little bit — I’m going to try to
frame the day for you, which is a big task, because
it’s a little confusing. For those of you who dropped
in for the event today, the biggest point that I want
you to know from the start is that we’ve been working
since Monday around the clock to put together flash
build products to help people research baseball
and discover our collections. And it’s kind of crazy
that we did that. It’s a very vulnerable exercise, and it’s been really,
really fun. It’s required all of us to
really trust each other. And so here we go. I’m going to try to help
explain why we did this and why we’re here. So inside baseball. This is the look
at inside baseball. I wanted to kick this
off with one of our — an item from one of the Library of Congress’s baseball
collections. It’s a picture of an
indoor baseball team in Chicago, 1897 I believe. And it’s considered to be — they’re considered to be
the first softball team that ever existed. They seem more dapper than a lot of the other baseball
pictures I’ve seen so far. People may be playing inside. I don’t know. Makes you age better. This is inside baseball to
me when I think about it which may be scary
to some people here. So inside baseball
underneath is essentially data and it’s so much work. But it’s so worth it, and
so, hopefully by the end of this presentation
you’ll see why I love this. So this is a picture
of the LC Labs team. If we were on a baseball card — you know how they used to
do those like action shots for teams that were staged. This is not staged, but it’s
not very dynamic either. But if LC Labs had an
action baseball card, this would probably be us,
just kind of standing around and problem-solving
together around a whiteboard. I wanted to mention
that our team — you got Abby Potter here who you’ll actually see
her face quite soon, me, and Megan Ferriter,
who introduced the day. Not featured here
is half of our team. We just expanded to three more
people and they’ve joined us because we’re launching a
crowdsourcing transcription and tagging application that’s
going to launch in the fall. So if you — if this talk makes
you interested in data at all, and you want to take
a hand in it, then that opportunity is
going to happen quite soon. Okay. So I wanted to talk
a little about our goals because they feed directly into
why we did this event this week. It’s difficult for me — wait. So the first one is enable
transformational experiences by connecting users
with the Library and its digital collections. So some people, people
ask us all the time, how do you measure impact? And the way that we think about
it is if you see a photograph, for example, whether it’s
a dataset or a single item, and it transforms the way that
you think about American history and culture, then
we’ve done our job. So that was partly the impetus
for the flash build this week. And then our second big
goal is to prototype ideas and build relationship
with stakeholders that will realize the
Library’s digital strategy. So you heard from Kate earlier
we’re launching a digital strategy, a new digital
strategy, and it’s Lab’s job to pilot some of those ideas in
small safe ways to see whether or not they work for the Library
of Congress’s environment. And then the last goal is
to strengthen our community by sharing our work for
transparency, feedback, and knowledge exchange. So that’s what we’re doing
now in a very extreme sense because we’re going to
demo something for you live that no one has ever
seen before. So another point of
this whole week is that we spent a whole lot
of time documenting all of the exercises we went
through through the flash build, all of the decisions
we made about — around data transformation, and that’s something
that’s a little scary to do out in the open. But we feel it’s
really important because we all learn
from each other. So, hopefully, by the end of
the day there’ll be a link that we’re going to share
through social media, et cetera, pointing you to where
all our documentation is so that you can take this back to your own cultural
heritage institutions or anywhere you work to think about how you could
incorporate user-centered design into what you do. Okay. And
is our home. If you want to follow us you
can sign up for our listserv. But essentially this is the
main place to find, you know, information about us and the
prototype that we’re going to demo is going to live
here in our Experiments page. Okay. So LC Labs. Who are we? Where did we come from? Two years ago, a little over two
years ago now, we were formed and we hosted an event
called Collections as Data, and we’ve actually done
that now two years running. And the point of Collections
as Data, if any of you went, was an all-day symposium
talking about what does it mean to use data in cultural heritage
institutions, to get the public to use it, what types of
possibilities are there for thinking about
how to interact with collections online
in different ways. And the first two years, the
symposiums were very talky, just like I’m doing now. You know, it was a lot of
experts coming together to discuss these
really important issues. What we wanted to do this
year was take a spin off of Collections as Data and
actually just build something. So that’s kind of
the — I would say that in some ways this is
an unofficial third year of Collections as Data, but we’re taking all the
lessons we’ve learned and actually incorporating
them into the way that we work. So what do I mean by
Collections as Data? This is an example here of a
tutorial of how to use our API if you were investigating
our baseball collections which we have many of. So one of the things
that we know is that people are aware
perhaps of what an API is. It’s the underlayer of information that’s
underneath a website that you can make calls to. But there’s some
intimidation of what it means or how it could possibly be
useful to someone who happens to stumble upon our Lab site. So we’ve done a lot of work on
our site on a page called LC for Robots of tutorials
for you to learn how to perhaps investigate
our collections through the data itself. And I encourage you
to look at that if you get inspired
by this event. This is another example
of Collections as Data. This is an example of a
product that was built by our Innovator-in-Residence, so this is a program
that we started. And our current
Innovator-in-Residence is the Data Artist, Jer Thorp. And the idea behind the
Innovator-in-Residence Program is to try to inspire people to
think about collections and how to explore them serendipitously
in innovative ways. And underlying that is data. So this example is the Library
of Color that Jer built. And what you’re seeing
right now is an example of a visual collection
where he took information from every single record
from prints and photographs and essentially compared
this to — took words that you could
extrapolate to color and then visualized those
colors into a rainbow. And this is a screenshot. But if you were to use a
strapdown, for example, and look at our literature
collection visualized in color, you’d essentially see blue
and black because it turns out that a lot of titles of
books tend to represent darkness or the ocean or something
like that. So you can actually, I think,
intuitively work your way through the collections
and start to extrapolate some theories
around formats and titles, plus it’s just beautiful,
which is also fun and valid in its own right. This is another take on
exploring the Library by color. This is an experiment that
exists on our Experiments page that was made by Laura Wrubel, who was a Software
Development Librarian in Residence with us at LC Labs. And what you’re seeing
here is one of our photograph
collections extrapolated into color palettes. So each of these swatches of
color represents one item. And if you were to click
on it you’d jump back to our collection and
be able to explore that item. And she did visualize the
baseball card collection, so if you’re curious
about seeing that, I would suggest you go onto
our Experiments site and look at the baseball one because
it’s incredibly beautiful and colorful. Okay. So I’ve talked a little
bit about how we’ve kind of had people come to the
Library to work with us, to experiment with our
collections and our data in new ways to get
the public interested. This was a different angle
of trying to do that. We essentially wanted a wide
swath of people to create, and so we hosted a challenge
called the Congressional Data Challenge and the point
of it was to get people to produce some type
of application or tool with legislative
data on And to our surprise — so we
had a $5000 first place winner and a $1000 best
high school winner. We had 17 entries. They were all pretty stellar. And these two high
schoolers, Alan Gomez Tagel and Carter Neilsen, who are
going to be here next week to get an award in person,
won the First Place Prize. So we ended up having our first and second place winners
being high school students out of all 17 which was amazing
and also made us really hopeful that the future is looking
bright, that there are people who are really interested
in taking our collections and creating things out of them
in a way that’s very active, and that’s definitely
what we want to see. So you can look at all the other
apps through There’s 12 that were
submitted publicly. Carter and Alan’s is up there,
the U.S. Treaties Explorer. But there’s a bunch
of other ones. So if you are interested
in congressional data, I encourage you to take a look. Okay. So where we’re going — what does this have
to do with this week? So Collections as Data,
essentially doing it instead of just talking about it,
we were really inspired by the Baseball Americana
Collection because baseball
has a lot of stats. There’s a lot of data. It’s also a topic that
has a very wide reach. And so we thought it would
be a way to get enthusiasts and members of the
general public thinking about what we’re obsessed
with, which is data. So JSTOR Labs approached us,
wanted to play ball with us, wanted to do something. And, you know, we thought,
oh, why don’t we do something around baseball collections. So it’s something that we
can definitely do together. So we essentially are
being led by JSTOR through this effort this week. They are facilitating us through
the first Data Jam that we did as a team, through the first
flash build we did as a team. But we’re also competing
with each other because we’re both going
to demo our own tools that we’ve been working
on separately. Let’s just be real
is what’s happening. And so it’s been really
fantastic to learn from them. This is not their first rodeo. They’ve done this with a bunch of other cultural
heritage institutions. And it’s really been fantastic. Another partner of — or collaborator of ours this
week is the National Museum of African American
History and Culture. So although they haven’t been
with us kind of sweating it out over keyboards for
the past four days, [inaudible] been working with
us for the past several months to essentially combine some of
the baseball digital collections with the Library of Congress’s. So, not to give too
much away, but the demo that our LC Labs team
worked on this week is going to let you kind of
seamlessly view National Museum of African American History
and Culture baseball items with Library of Congress items. So it’s really, really special. And that is what you see here. So this is an exercise in love
because when you’re talking about bringing data together,
it’s really a negotiation of you know what is valuable
to you and your institution and how you show
your collections. So this is, I think, one of
the best resources that’s going to come out of this event. This was the Data Jam that
we did, and the whole purpose of this slide is essentially
to say that there’s a lot of people behind the
scenes that worked on this. We had curators from our
Photographs and Prints Division. We had baseball researchers. And then, of course, our
LC Labs team and JSTOR. It was a full house of people
trying to figure out how to build things that would
get researchers interested. Grif doesn’t know I
put this slide in. So another thing that was
really wonderful about this is that the LC Labs team
got to work hand-in-hand with Chris Adams, the
software developer and Grif from UX designer. And we got to build
this tool together which usually doesn’t happen. We kind of, you know,
work inside in silos and a project gets
passed around. But it was awesome to see everyone’s expertise
play out in real time. So this is Grif drawing
a very small preview of what you’re going
to see later — wireframe of our
application that we built. So, hopefully, that set
the stage a little bit. I really wanted to make sure
that everybody here was aware of just how much work has
gone into the week leading up to what you’re about to see. And for LC Labs, if
you’re interested in any of the experiments
that I shared with you or you want more information about the Congressional Data
Challenge or other challenges that might be coming up, you
can email us at [email protected], follow us on Twitter at LC
Labs, follow us on our Listserv, or go to our website
at Okay. So that’s it for me. So now I’m going to pass
it off to a collaborator that I just mentioned,
the National Museum of African American History and
Culture’s Museum Specialist, Courtney Bellizzi
and Emily Houf. [ Applause ]>>Emily Houf: Good morning. I’m Emily Houf and this
is Courtney Bellizzi. And we’re part of
the Digitization Team at the Smithsonian
National Museum of African American
History and Culture. Our team catalogs the Museum’s
objects, digitizes them, and helps make the collection
information accessible and discoverable for both
users inside the Museum and outside the Museum. And today we’re going to
talk to you a little bit about the objects that we
featured in this dataset for this project and how
we cataloged them and walk through the datapoints together. The goal of the Museum is
to present American history through an African
American lens. And what is more
American than baseball? Although we knew the sport of baseball plays
a significant role in the exhibition sports
levelling the playing fields, and we’re familiar with some
of our baseball objects, we hadn’t really ever done
a deep dive into the — our baseball-related holdings
until we did this project. Once we pulled the data
together and began looking at the various subjects and
object types that connect with the term baseball, we
were not surprised to see that America’s favorite
sport appears all the way through our collection, from Jim
Crow segregation in Mississippi to the early days of
Hip-Hop in New York City. Looking at the numbers
within the dataset, we have baseball objects
from 22 states including — and the District of Columbia. 16% of our objects are
from New York City and 8% of our baseball-related objects
also have stories to tell about the American South. If we compare types of objects,
8% are items of clothing like jerseys and hats,
30% are part of the class of objects we call
memorabilia and ephemera — things like tickets,
programs, pennants, pin-back buttons,
and autographs. The most well-represented class
of objects are photographs and images, making up
44% of the dataset. Analyzing the subject terms
connected to baseball — a remarkable 34% of our
collection, baseball collection, have stories related
to segregation, like this 1920s wood sweater
for the Eastern Colored League, and 4% of our objects
are related to musicians such as this Texas Ranger’s
uniform worn by Charlie Pride. Before he became one of country
music’s most successful artist ever, Pride was a
baseball player. He was a pitcher for
the Memphis Red Sox and other Negro League teams
before he ever kissed an angel good morning. Pride is now part owner
of the Texas Rangers and at 84 years old still
trains with them every spring. We’re able to connect baseball
across various collections and subject areas
because we’re committed to consistent cataloguing
throughout our collection, using the same standards,
vocabularies, and approach, regardless of department. This allows us to tie
together thematic threads that appear throughout
the collection — things like identity,
resistance, connection, and job. Starting with baseball, we
can follow the datapoints through the three pillars
of history, community, and culture that
form the collection.>>Courtney Bellizzi:
Good morning. So we’re going to start with
our history collections, and since it’s All Star week
it’s only appropriate to start with a collection object that
harkens back to the beginning of the All Star Games. This pennant from about 1933
celebrates the Negro League’s East-West All Star Game. The Negro Leagues established in 1885 gave African American
ballplayers who, due to racism, were not accepted to play in
other major and minor leagues, a chance to play professionally. The East-West All Star Game
began in 1933, the same year that the MLB All Star
Game was established. The game was generated to
start as a way for the owners to generate money essentially. But the game became
so much more. It was a way to help legitimize
the Negro League teams and the African American
professional baseball players. The game was the
preeminent sporting event for African Americans. Celebrities like Count
Basie, Alice Fitzgerald, Joe Lewis would attend,
and Lena Horne even threw out the first pitch of the
very first All Star Game. And though these games were
celebrated, they still stood as a stark reminder that
professional baseball, like many aspects of American
society, was segregated. When we look at the datapoints,
the term segregation is used to convey this very
important aspect of history. The term also links
us to our next object, a poster about the integration
of the Detroit Tigers. This is nicely [inaudible] done. In 1947, Jackie Robinson
stepped onto the field to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers and desegregated
Major League Baseball. Not all teams were
quick to follow. In 1958, the Detroit Tigers
were the second-to-last team to integrate when Ozzie
Virgil, Senior joined the team. Virgil was born in
the Dominican Republic and was the first
person of African descent to join the Tigers, and was
also the first Dominican to play in MLB. On June 6, 1958, Virgil went
five for five in his debut with the Tigers, and despite
occurring more than 10 years after Robinson’s first
game, the integration of the Tigers was
still met with protest from staunch segregationists, including Detroit City
Council Member Billy Rogell. He was also a former shortstop
for the Detroit Tigers. Rogell opposed Virgil’s
appointment to the team vehemently. And this poster here sends a
clear message to Mr. Rogell about his policies and
beliefs and gives us a glimpse into race relations in the
city of Detroit in 1958. As you can see, several
subjects have been attributed to this object including
segregation, civil rights, and
race relations. Using the term race relations, we can move to our next
related object type, a magazine from 1960
featuring notable African American athletes. As professional sports
became integrated, African American athletes
soon became household names. Though African American
athletes became mainstream, they were still viewed as other
as evidenced by this issue ofSport Magazinefrom 1960. The title of the issue
is “Sport, Special Issue, the Negro in American Sport.” And it still conveys this idea that African American
athletes needed to be looked at separately from their
white counterparts. The term race relations
was used for this object becauseSports Magazinewas
founded in 1946 and was one of the first national
sports publications, and serves as an example of how African American
athletes’ achievement were covered by mass media. The magazine features
notable athletes include Wilt Chamberlain, Willie Mays, Althea
Gibson, and Jackie Robinson. From a data perspective, all of
these athletes become subjects of the collection object,
so that this object appears when any of the aforementioned
names are searched. Let us look at the
datapoint Jackie Robinson to move along to
our next dataset. Our next set of objects focus around NMHC’s collection
theme of community. Using the subject term
Jackie Robinson and a search of our internal databases
brings up a variety of objects, including a ring,
magazines, and photographs. The collection objects
span different aspects of Jackie Robinson’s career,
not only as a baseball player, but as a family man and activist
who impacted both baseball and African American community. For instance, let’s take a look
at this photograph from 1954 of Jackie Robinson
and Harry Owens. Here Robinson is out of uniform, receiving a Lifetime
Membership Award to the Irene Kaufmann
Settlement House in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for
his charity work. The photograph was taken by a community photographer
named Charles “Teenie” Harris. Harris was founded —
Harris had a connection to baseball actually because he
helped found and was a player for the Crawford Colored Giants who later became the
Pittsburgh Crawfords. So there’s another little
baseball connection in there. But Harris was known as
“One-Shot,” not in a reference to his baseball career, but in
reference to his photography. His photography mainly
focused on the Hill District which is a African American
community in Pittsburgh, and his more than
80,000 images provide one of the most complete
documentations of a minority community
in the United States. When cataloging this
photograph, it’s important that the data not only leads
us to these researchers, to Jackie Robinson, but
also to “Teenie” Harris, the notable community
photographer. Using another datapoint from
this object, the date, 1954, it will lead us to
another photograph taken by another community
photographer, Ernest C. Withers. Around 1954, Ernest C.
Withers took this portrait of Connie Morgan. Withers, a well-known
photojournalist, documented African
American communities in the segregated
South for 60 years. Morgan was the third woman to play professional
baseball in the Negro League. She joined the Indianapolis
Crowns in 1954 as a second baseman and
replaced the first woman who joined the Leagues,
Toni Stone. Though many saw having women
join the teams as a gimmick to increase sales after
the integration with MLB, many journalists who covered
the Negro Leagues also wrote about the women’s skill
and talent as players. For example, an article covering
the Crowns’ game on May 29, 1954, featured in theAfro
, noted, quote, “Morgan electrified over
6000 fans when she went far to her right to make
a sensational stop, slip the shortstop, Bill Holder, and started a lightning
double-play against the Birmingham
Barons,” end quote. Morgan’s great double play
excited this large community of fans. And what we find that’s so prevalent throughout our
Museum’s Baseball Collections is this tie to community. This time, let us turn to
the object type Portraits to see how this portrait of
Connie Morgan can link us to another object
reflecting community within the Museum’s collections.>>Emily Houf: The object
type Portraits brings us to the collection
of the photographer, the Reverend Henry C. Anderson. Anderson was the local portrait
photographer in Greenville, Mississippi from 1947
through the 1970s. Nearly every m4mber
of the black community of Greenville had their portrait
taken by Reverend Anderson at one point or another. Anderson documented all
aspects of Greenville’s family and community life during
Jim Crow segregation, including new babies, birthdays,
weddings, anniversaries, graduations, church groups,
community clubs, and, of course, the Little League teams
like this one here. So we’ve just seen how our
subject terms can take us through several community
photographers. But if we use the classification
Media Arts Photography, where all of our photographs
and images are grouped under, we can expand and will
find the IGME Collection of Hip-Hop Photography
where perhaps, surprisingly, we also find baseball. This leads us to the Culture
section of our objects. In this photograph of KRS-One
taken by Al Pereira in 1991, the rapper sports
the iconic pinstripes of the New York Yankees. KRS-One is an influential
MC from the South Bronx. He started his career as
part of the duo Boogey Down Productions before going
solo after the shooting death of his partner, DJ
Scott La Rock. And being from the South
Bronx, KRS-One’s affinity for Yankees’ gear
signifies his ties to the birthplace of hip-hop. Using athletic wear, and
baseball teams in particular, in this way, is a common style
for hip-hop stars like KRS-One. And if we follow the
term hip-hop we’ll see another example. This is perhaps the supreme
example of the intersections of baseball, music, and fashion,
the iconic baseball cap. I learned recently, yesterday, that baseball historians
credit Tom Selleck with popularizing the
off-the-field baseball cap trend in the 1970s. But I think we can all agree that hip-hop is largely
responsible for the longevity of the trend. This purple Atlanta Braves
cap from the rapper Big Boy, who is one-half of
the group Outcast, was made by the preeminent
manufacturer of baseball caps, New Era Cap Company, which has
been making caps since 1920. This particular hat was
a limited release in 2013 in conjunction with Big Boy’s
solo album, “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors.” In early June, 2013, fans who
attended a CD signing by Big Boy at the New Era store in Atlanta
also received this limited edition hat inspired
by the album. Big Boy and Outcast
is known as the group that brought southern
hip-hop into the mainstream, and Big Boy is seldom seen
without his signature Braves hat to rep his home town of Atlanta. This hat has the
sub-classification, Clothing Fashion. But if we follow the main class,
Clothing, or the subject term, Clothing and Dress, we end up
back in the traditional world of baseball with this Cardinals’
jersey that was [inaudible] worn by Curt Flood in 1966. Flood was an All-Star
player and a centerfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals. He won Gold Glove seven
consecutive seasons from 1963 to 1969. And during Flood’s 11
seasons on the team, the Cards won three pennants and
earned two World Series rings. When Flood refused to accept a
trade away from the Cardinals in 1969, his challenge to the
Reserve Clause helped in usher in the Free Agency System
which was transformative for the culture of baseball. Flood wrote a letter to the
Baseball Commissioner reading, “After 12 years in
the Major Leagues, I do not feel I am a piece
of property to be bought and sold irrespective
of my wishes. I believe that any
system which produces that result violates my
basic rights as a citizen and is inconsistent with the
laws of the United States and of the several states.” Flood’s subsequent lawsuit
again Major League Baseball was unsuccessfully argued in front
of the Supreme Court in 1972 which sided with the League. But it eventually led to the end of the reserve system
a few years later. Twenty-six years later, with
the Curt Flood Act of 1998, Congress declared Major
League Baseball subject to antitrust laws like
any other corporation. Flood is also responsible
for the 10-5 Rule, which is often known as the
Curt Flood Rule which states that when a player has play for
a team for five straight years, and played in the Major League
for a total of 10 years, they have to give the club
their consent to be traded. Although Flood’s
legacy is larger than the time he spent playing
with the Cardinals, well, we can use the team name to
follow to our final object, Minnie Roundtree’s Radio. Mini Roundtree was a
diehard Cardinals fan, living in the rural
community of Lyles Station in Gibson County, Indiana. Her husband, Herman,
bought her this radio so that she could listen
to the games and keep up with her favorite team. And the story of Minnie and
her radio is a favorite of mine because she reminds me of
my own grandmother who, at 94 years old, never
misses a Cardinals game.>>Courtney Bellizzi: Well, thanks for taking the little
journey through our collections. And it’s just a small sample of
the collections that we shared for the event with LOC. But, as this graphic shows,
by following a variety of datapoints we’ve been able
to share and explore this group of baseball-related collections from the Negro Leagues
to hip-hop. We were able to connect each
object based on a set of terms, classifications, and
cataloging fields. However, we could have utilized
a totally different set of terms and datapoints to come up
with a totally different set of objects. That’s the exciting part about
our collaboration with LOC and JSTOR and the
flash build team who have taken a deep
dive into our data. What is important is that the
data is consistent and clean. And so that way people
can utilize it in ways that we can’t even imagine. On behalf of Emily and myself, we would like to thank our
NMHC Digitization Team, the cataloguers who painstakingly make sure
our records are accurate and consistent, the curators
who review all of our records, Doug Remley, Laura
Coil, Aileen Nichols, and Damion Thomas [assumed
spellings] for its curator, for their support on this
project, the team at Library of Congress, especially Julia
Hickey who cleaned the data and pulled together
the cross [inaudible], nd the team at JSOR and,
again, the flash build team who worked all this week and participated in
this great event. Thank you for having us and I hope you enjoy
the rest of your day. [ Applause ]>>Abigail Potter: All right. Thanks so much to the NMHC Team. Next we have Alex Humphreys from
JSTOR Labs who’s going to come up and share about
what their wonderful is and what they’ve been up to, and you’ll see the first
demo, hopefully [laughter].>>Alex Humphreys: I don’t
get to see the presentation, or I do from a very
strange vantage point. Hi, everybody. I’m Alex Humphreys. I’m the Director of JSTOR Labs. And I want to start just by
thanking the Library of Congress for being such amazing
hosts and going on this very quick
adventure with us. A week, a lot of things happen
in a week, and they have been so supportive and eager and in every step along
the way just wanted to jump in with both feet and do. And we find in our
team that learning by doing is just the best
possible way, and we’ll share as we go some of the
things that we’ve learned. So, first a little bit
of context just for those of you are aren’t familiar with
JSTOR or the JSTOR Labs Team. JSTOR is a part a
nonprofit called ITHAKA which helps the academic
community embrace digital transformation. We have a number of different
brands within it dealing with digital preservation, with
art, and strategy and research. JSTOR is a digital archive of
academic literature primarily, so it’s got 10 million
articles and tens of thousands of academic books
spanning centuries of the scholarly record. So these are the
academic journals that, if you’re writing,
if you’re a scholar, or writing your dissertation,
you’re doing that research, and you do that often these days
online with tools like JSTOR. It’s especially prominent in the
humanities and social sciences, and it has a number of —
it’s multidisciplinary, so if you are anywhere
within those fields, you’ll often dip into JSTOR. There we go. The JSTOR Labs Team is
a relatively small team within that organization. You know, there’s
five/six/seven of us. And our job is to build
experimental tools, and we — to sort of show the future of
what research can look like. We do it — and the
best way to see that is through some examples
which I’ll walk you through in just a second. We approach all of these
projects collaboratively. Wherever possible, we work
with partners like the Library of Congress here,
and we do so openly. So we share all the
work that we develop. We share the code if we can, the content wherever
a copyright allows, and make that as
open as possible. And we also do it as
quickly as possible, all the way down to
doing things in one week. So I think it will be helpful
just to get a feel for that so see a few of the things
that we’ve done in the past. These are a little
bit more polished than what you’ll see at the end. But they’ll give you a
feel for what we’ve done. So if we can jump to the
browser that would be wonderful. There we go. Okay. So the first
project was — we did this just
across the street at the Folger Shakespeare
Library. Developed it maybe about
a couple of years ago. And this is Understanding
Shakespeare. So if you’re studying
Shakespeare, what this allows you to do — it has all of the
plays of Shakespeare, and I’d go ahead and
click on any one. It has all of the plays of Shakespeare and
all of the texts. And what we were trying
to do was find a new way for those people who
were studying and writing about Shakespeare to
research that work. So you’ll see this
the text ofHamlet. The Folger Library has these
amazing digital editions of Shakespeare which
are openly available. When we approach these
projects they’re not sort of transactional, they’re not — they’re very open
and collaborative. And I describe them
often as play dates. You have your toys
and I have my toys, and let’s go play
in that sandbox. And their toys were these
digital editions of Shakespeare. So if you see — the play on the
left, and that’s from Folger. And in the middle there
are all those numbers. If you click on one of
those numbers, that’s — each one of those is the
number of articles in JSTOR that quote that specific line. And we have that for every line
of every play of Shakespeare. And then if you hover over
any of those, you can — any of the thumbnails, you can
see how it quotes that article, quotes that particular line. And if you’re a student, it
can help you interpret it. If you’re a scholar,
you can see how that line has been
interpreted through the ages. And if you’re — if you’ve
got a digital humanities bent, you can — we have
an API for this so that you can build
visualizations on the – how Shakespeare has been studied
and quoted through two centuries of academic literature. So this was released
a couple of years ago. This is the kind of
tool that we build. And this has had a
really great response. It’s now being included
in syllabi. Teachers often tell us that
this is a really great way for students to first dive
into academic literature which can be really daunting and
hard with keyword search and — it can be — they’re used to
Google and going to the library. And this is a very easy
way to get into that. We now just — to give
you — to tease something, we’re currently working
on an expansion of this called Understanding
Great Works which we hope to go live later this summer, which will be this
same functionality for more than Shakespeare. It will include the Kings James
Bible as well as a selection of British literature that we’re
working on with theStudiesin English Literature
. So we’re really excited
about that. And if you’re interested,
follow JSTOR Labs, follow me on Twitter, and
we’ll let you know, or JSOR. So that’s one tool. We built the core of
this functionality in a previous Labs Week,
and then we spent a lot of time making it look prettier and be a little bit
more perfect, and adding the rest
of the plays. So let’s jump to another
example of something that we’ve done,
a text analyzer. As I said, academic
research can be daunting and challenging and
in various ways. And text analyzer we
envisioned as a different way of doing research to
overcome some of the hurdles. So text analyzer — so for
those of you who aren’t familiar with it, academic
research is often done through either citation mining, meaning you follow bibliography
one to the next to the next, or by keyword search like
you would do in Google, but in an academic database or in something called
Google Scholar. But those keywords and all
that can be challenging to a new student and if you’re
doing the citation mining, you can get stuck in a
particular, in a silo. So what text analyzer does
is it changes that by instead of searching with words,
you search with a document. So if you’ve either found an
article that is already perfect and about what you’re
writing about, or if you’ve written
the first draft of your paper, you
can upload it. So if we can drag the
sample document over. You just drag and drop it over, and what it does is it reads
the document and it figures out what the document is about. And it does that not just
by looking at the words, but the implied words. It uses a technology called
Natural Language Processing and topic models to figure out
the implied words in addition to the explicitly
mentioned ones. It calls attention to those
and tells you what it found, suggests another selection of
them in case there are some that are really important to
you, and then gives you articles in JSTOR, articles in book
chapters in JSTOR that are about the same materials. You can then, you
know, adjust the — we call it the equalizer at
the top which is a metaphor that probably nobody
gets anymore [laughter]. You can add new terms and then, when you find the articles you
want, you can download this. This actually just won an
award a couple of weeks ago, which we’re really
proud about, proud of. And this is available
right on the JSTOR site. All these tools that
we build are just so — are openly available. The access to the
JSTOR Scholarship is — that will often come
through your institution. But if you’re a — if you’re
not a member of a university or a library, much of that
content is available for free. Some of it with registration. Some of it is pure open access. Okay. That was the other example
of something we’ve done before. Let’s get to the fun stuff of
what we actually did this week. So if we can go back
to the PowerPoint. Great. We showed you that. We showed you that. All right. So, first of all, we
wanted to build — we knew that we wanted to build
a tool for — about baseball. And what I’ll do is I’ll
walk you through the process, sort of the story
of this project. It’s the story that we’ve
been leading the Library of Congress Team through this
week, and sort of enjoying that process with them. I will say, every time we
do this, it’s different. We’re learning all the time
and trying to experiment. This is the first time we’ve
done sort of the parallel play of two teams working,
evidently in competition. Here I thought it was
like the All Star Game where it didn’t matter. And it turns out it’s
like the All Star Game where it totally matters. But, it’s okay. We’re up for that. We’re up for the battle. So let me walk you this process. This process — we talked about
it, I should say, as something that happens all in one week. It’s true. A lot of work goes
on in that week. But you can’t — I mean, you run
a marathon all in one, you know, for me, five hour
[laughter] period. But there’s a lot of work
to prepare for these weeks. So I don’t want to minimize
all of the preparatory work. That’s really important
and it helps us to run fast these weeks. So I’ll walk through those
— that process a little bit and then we’ll show you what we
came out with at the other end. Okay. So I mentioned earlier when describing the Folger
Understanding Shakespeare Project, that we treat these
projects kind of like playdates. And we just decide
what is the sandbox. When we talked to the
Library of Congress Team, they suggested organizing this around the Baseball Americana
Exhibit because baseball was such — it had so much
interest generally, it was multidisciplinary, and
there could be a lot of interest and multidisciplinary in
a way that aligns well with JSTORs collection. So focusing on baseball
seemed really exciting. And I will say, personally,
I’m such a baseball nerd. I’m so happy that
we could do this. There was no way we were
not doing this as soon as that was suggested. This has been so much fun,
especially to meet some of my favorite baseball
writers through this process. So we knew we wanted
to work with baseball, but what exactly were we
going to do with baseball? We wanted a little
bit more definition. And because the Library of
Congress Team had their content, and JSTOR had our content, and
they’re not exactly the same. They’re quite different. And then when you bring in the
Smithsonian, the National Museum of African American History
and Culture, their content — we were really interested
in finding ways to bring all of that content together to tell
a story and really make it sing. And so we were interested
in trying to do that using linked open
data which I won’t get into the technology of because
I’d probably mess that up. But linked open data is
also called the Smart Web. It’s more than just links, but
it knows about the information. And we’ve been working
through that with Wikidata, a part of the Wikimedia
to enable that. So I’ll show a little bit
about what comes from that. So the idea here was multiple
corpora, multiple collections of content, and using linked
open data to connect them. And that’s what we wanted
to find a way to do. I’ll tell you a little bit
about the content in JSTOR and how we went about
collecting that data. We’ll probably publish some
logs or something that get into this in more detail. But just so you have the context
for that, we started with — by selecting a set of content
in JSTOR that is about baseball. We did that using a
topic model similar to what powers text
analyzer that you saw. So it looked at all of the words
within every article to find out the likelihood that that
article is about baseball, even if the word is not used. And we’ve ended up coming up
with about 25,000 articles through the centuries of content
in JSTOR, articles in chapters that were about baseball. We then used some, again,
natural language processing to pull out the people and
places and organizations from those articles so
that we could connect it into the other collections. We then used Wikidata
to limit those people, places and organizations to
those related to baseball. Not all of the people in every
article was a baseball person. We wanted to keep
it focused on — really do a deep
dive on baseball. And that allowed us to create
what’s called a knowledge graph. And then we were able to plug into that knowledge graph
the material from Library of Congress and the Smithsonian
and also some material, some additional data
that’s in Wikidata. And that’s as geeky
as we’ll get. At least that kind of geeky. There’s so many kinds of
geeky that we embrace. So that’s the preparation
on the technology side. But that’s not all that we do
in preparation for these weeks. If we’re building a tool
for baseball researchers, people studying baseball,
we have some theories about what might be helpful. We know how people
research generally. But we don’t know the
exact issues facing baseball researchers. And so we solve that
problem by talking to them. We did, I think,
seven interviews with baseball researchers
of all sorts. I talked to my favorite sports
journalist in the world. We talked to Joe Posnanski. He’s awesome. We talked to historians
of baseball, cultural studies people. We talked to students
and scholars. And in doing that we tried to understand what are their
challenges, what are the things that they have to overcome
that’s specific to baseball? We had to understand their
goals and their practices so that we could help them
achieve their goals a little faster or overcome
one of the hurdles. And so some examples
— and this — I should say this Joe
Pearlman is not a real person. This is the embodiment
of those seven. We sort of shoot them up,
wrapped them up, and put them into one personification, and
it’s Joe, who’s a fine guy. So, for example, they — everybody we talked to that
taught the baseball history related classes said that on
the first day of class they had to overcome the fact
and tell their students that this class is not
about last night’s game, it’s not about how Brace
Harper’s really stinking this year. It’s about looking at America
and the story of America, race relations and labor
relations and capitalism and all of these wonderful —
and hopes and dreams. But it’s looking at the story
of America through baseball. And the walkthrough that we
just got of the National Museum of African American History
and Culture was really such a great embodiment
of that story. It was really wonderful. And all of these people that
we talked to got as excited about those stories and
wanting to be able to tell them. I’d go through their
books or their lectures. We wanted to find ways
to make it even easier for them to do so. So that was the work we did
over the past couple of months, leading up to Monday when
we all came down here. And the first thing we
did on Monday was — I think Jaime had a
picture of this as well — was lead a Design Jam. And these are called a
few different things. Sometimes called Design James. I’ve called them Idea Jams,
Design Studios sometimes. There are various ways — it’s a structured
brainstorming technique, and there’s a few different
steps that you go through. And the first one is the one you
see here on these Post-It Notes that Jessica, who’s awesome, and
in the back, is ably leading. An empathy map is a way to
highlight and bring together all of that research on users and baseball researchers
that we’d done. Sort of brainstorming
what are their big goals, what are the tasks
that they need to try to achieve, what
are the hurdles? Because those can spark
ideas for what we can do to make — to help them. From there — this was all — this Design Jam was
a couple of hours. It was a quick brainstorming
session. We did something
called an eight-by-eight which are what you see here. You see pages and pages
of pieces of paper with eight squares and everybody
in the room worked silently. Had eight minutes to draw
eight different ideas. They then presented their
ideas to the entire room, and we did it again
sharing those ideas. And it’s a really wonderful
way to very quickly come up with lots of ideas. And these were all based on, and
responding to the empathy map. They build on it, helping — each one would help a
user achieve their goals or overcome a hurdle. And some of the ideas
aren’t fully formed. None of them are fully formed. Some of them are
more fully formed. But they help each other, and it’s a very generative
approach to brainstorming. We then ended the
Design Jam by dot voting. Everybody had three dots,
could choose the things that were most exciting,
and that gave us a heat map of the ideas that
were most exciting. From there — so we ended that
with five or six general ideas that we were excited to explore. But we need to have a way
to choose between those. And one of the hallmarks, and
one of the important parts of these Labs Weeks is
it’s focused effort, but it’s iterative effort,
even within the week. It’s not just one week of work. We’ve had baseball
researchers coming in to pretty much
every day this week, and at each step we’d be showing
baseball researchers our works in progress, of where we are so
far, and using their feedback to help us make decisions. So at this point we had, we created a set of
paper prototypes. And you saw a picture
in Jaime’s presentation of Grif doing this
on the LC Team. Paper prototypes of different
ways that we could go about using linked open data to help baseball
researchers do this. There’s a map. There was a Chrome filter
that gave us a baseball lens when you’re reading
about anything. And then there’s this idea
called cultural history baseball cards, and that’s the one
that we ended up running with. So then the rest of the week — so by Tuesday we knew
what we wanted to build. It might even have
been Monday afternoon. So then it was about rapidly
refining and making — turning that idea into a thing that actually exists
in the world. So this — so I’ll
show you quickly what that evolution looked like, and then we’ll get
to the actual site. So this was the Design
Jam sketch. You can see it’s pretty
unclear what it is. It’s very sketchy. There’s a couple — a
little bit of a flow there. And sometimes with these you’ll
have multiple sketches all talking about the same idea. And we’ll bring those together. That turned into the paper
prototype which turned into the first design mock-up
which we’d show on screen to users to get feelings
for whether they liked — whether the thought the
idea could be useful, where they were confused,
what made sense. At this point people
were getting confused between baseball
cards and car — and like they thought this was
a collection of baseball cards. They weren’t seeing the
links to the materials. And there were all sorts
of other problems, too. But that’s why we
do the research. And that makes it kind
of fun and exciting. This is a further
refinement of the design. And so now you can see
on the baseball card for Jackie Robinson, the
cultural history baseball card. You know, on a baseball card,
if you’re familiar with them, there’s often physical
— there’s the stats, their batting average,
their ERA, year-by-year on the lower — on
the back of the card. But on the cultural
history baseball cards, you can get that stuff,
those baseball stats at or
any other wonderful place. Instead we have stats about
their cultural history. So these are links to and stats
about the scholarly articles about Jackie Robinson, the
number of photos or videos or objects that are available
in the different collections. So that’s Library of Congress
and Smithsonian, Wikidata. And so it sort of
gives a snapshot of how much information we have. And then you can dive into it. So, with that I think we should
switch over to Chrome and see where it is, see
what it looks like. This is the — there we go. A quick, you know, caveat. This is a week of work,
so the way you’re going to see is definitely
a work in progress. There will be parts
that look great. There will be some parts that
are a little bit buggy still. And you get to do that
when it’s only a week. We’re trying to focus
enough to give an idea of what this actually is. So what we have is the Cultural
History Baseball Cards brought to you by the JSTOR Labs Team. And the idea is that
you can pick a player or historical figure, see
their cultural history card, and then browse through
the primary and secondary resources
about them. These are organized right
now by the number of articles in JSTOR about each of these. And what’s fun about this, and
if you even show the next 25 or whatever, first of all
it’s not just players, your Branch Rickey, your Bill
James, you have Marvin Miller, you have — this is not just
the players of baseball. This is the history of
baseball sort of told here, which is really exciting. We envision, but before we
go live, that would be — we’ll have more than
just the article, number of articles
on this homepage. It will include the
number of videos and images that we have as well. Then when you click through
to an individual file — who do we have? Ah, Hammered Hank. We have their baseball card
that has the data of the number of articles and images
and videos if we have them,
physical objects. We’re sort of still working
on the classifications and how we map those
to the libraries and Smithsonian’s
classifications. So those are at the top. And then you can browse through. If you’re looking at
articles, you can see all of the articles right there. Click through them to get
access to them on JSTOR. Or if you want to
look at the images, it brings together the different
images from all the sources. You can browse through those
images and then get access to those images where
they’re available, the high resolution
image perhaps that’s on the Museum site or
the Library’s site. Then there are some printed
materials here as well. And I’d just encourage — I mean, so there’s a lot of
exploring that you can do, all organized around people. When we talk to the user
— the researchers — and one of the things
that led to this was a lot of them did want people. They were interested in how
to connect the different — the materials related
to each person. They would say that, you know,
I know I’m doing research on — I’m telling this particular
story, and I don’t know if this archive, you know,
is available at the Hall of Fame, is it available here? So if I could have a
way to connect those and bring those together,
it could be valuable. They also described that when
they first start their research, they start with the
secondary literature, so that would be the
scholarly articles in JSTOR. And then they dive
in, do a deep dive into the contextual material. But that depends. For students, they may want — may benefit from
seeing the pictures that help bring the history
to life and tell some of the stories like we heard
just in the presentation from the National Museum of African American
History and Culture. I think that’s enough demo. We could keep clicking
around and — but let’s go back
to the presentation so we can get to questions. One thing I should say is that
this — I see this right now, and the team sees
this right now, as probably a little bit
more of a proof of concept than full-fledged, you know, research tool ready
for heavy lifting. This is more of an idea,
an evocation of that idea, to help people understand
what it could look like. But there’s still work to do. If you — oh, I get to click. So there’s still work to do. So what we’ll do, just so you
know, is over the coming week or two, we’ll fix
some of the things that you might have seen
— the alignment issues, the bugs that we deftly
managed to avoid in demoing it, and then we’ll release
it as a proof of concept. It will be available
in the labs.jstor site. You can follow me on Twitter. I’ll announce it. And we’ll encourage everybody
to explore it and use it. And I’ll probably give
some presentations about it — conferences
and such. Just so share what we’ve
learned along this way, along this journey. We do see some opportunity
for further development. And the first one is
— I think for this to be a really valuable tool,
the amount of collections and data that’s included in
it needs to be more robust. JSTORs great, the collections
at the Library of Congress and the National Museum of
African American History and Culture, that’s some
really wonderful material. But it feels still a little — I think there’s even more
that we can do by bringing in, for example, the Digital
Public Library of America or some other materials
and beefing that up. So that would be work
that we would love to explore sometime
in the future. We also would love to explore
some crowdsourced improvement, the knowledge craft
that we have is — there are going to
be errors in it. That’s the nature of how — what it looks like to bring
this material together, photographs miscategorized,
or things like that. So we’d love to have an
opportunity for people to, you know, help improve
that, especially in a field like baseball where there’s
so many citizen experts who can help us do that. And then the last area for
opportunity, and again, we’ll see when we
can explore these, is expanding the
concept beyond baseball. I mean, they are baseball cards but we can call them
trading cards. But the idea of using people
as an exploratory tool to multiple collections
is really exciting. This is sort of a front end to
some of the work that’s being — that’s working in linked
open data in Wikidata. And you could imagine the
same kind of exploratory tool for personages of the
Civil War or famous writers or anything like that. And so we’d be interested
in exploring any of those. So before we get to questions, I
want to thank you for being here and the Library of
Congress again. I also — and perhaps
most importantly, I want to thank the JSTOR
Labs Team, so if you’re on the JSTOR Labs
Team, stand up. We have Jared and Shubom
[assumed spelling], Jared and Shubom and Jessica
and Matt and Ron [applause], and Beth is sitting down. She was sort of a
double agent this week. They’re amazing, and I am so
deeply privileged to be able to work with these guys
who can pull this together. My main job this week
was to buy coffee. And I knocked it
out of the park. All right. Thanks. Are there any questions? Yes.>>I have a comment.>>Alex Humphrey:
Oh, or comments.>>Yes [inaudible].>>Alex Humphrey: There’s
a microphone [inaudible].>>Yes, hi. My name is Hollis Gentry and
I’m a Genealogy Specialist with NAMOC.>>Alex Humphreys: Oh, great.>>The African American
History Museum. I’m also employed with
the Smithsonian Libraries and a long-time dedicated
researcher here of JSTOR, and I love JSTOR. So –>>Alex Humphreys: We love you.>>– yesterday, after
registering for this, I went online to play with
your text, the drop and drag –>>Alex Humphreys: Oh, yeah.>>– and I have
one word for it. It was absolutely awesome.>>Alex Humphreys: Oh.>>For someone who’s done a
considerable amount of research and trying to find related
data on just anything, any given subject, because I
do reference, you know, work.>>Alex Humphreys: Yeah, yeah.>>It was amazing.>>Alex Humphreys: Oh,
that’s so wonderful to hear.>>I just typed in,
for example — we have a transcription project
where we’re digitizing records of Federal Government
records, millions of documents, and I just typed
in one sentence. I created a document and
all I said was, you know, the [inaudible] Bureau was
founded on such-and-such a date, Washington, D.C. And it generated
thousands of hits for me.>>Alex Humphreys: Yeah.>>So all I want to say is keep
up with whatever you’re doing.>>Alex Humphreys: Oh. Well, thank you.>>And in terms of trying to
figure out ways to apply this, you want to touch
with universities, like you’re doing
already with the scholars, but there are different
nuances to that research that I think you’re going
to find as you reach out to the universities in
the different subject areas. But, again, all I can
say — it was awesome.>>Alex Humphreys:
Thank you, thank you.>>I didn’t have to
have any training on how to learn how to do it. I’m talking about I looked at it
and I said let me play with it. In less than 10 minutes it
generated all of that material. So that is [inaudible].>>Alex Humphreys: I hope
somebody wrote that down to get your quotes on
this because, dang, that’s a wonderful testimonial. Thanks so much. Any other questions or comments? And we’ll be around
over break and later. Over there [inaudible]. There’s a microphone coming
down to you, Orioles fan.>>Hi. I’m Jordan Ellenberg. I’ll be on a panel
later this afternoon.>>Alex Humphreys: Oh, cool.>>I’m curious just because
I’m sort of naive about sort of how this information
is controlled and what accesses had to what. I mean, if for your cultural
baseball cards you wanted to, let’s say, for each player
I want to see every time that player was quoted
in the newspaper, like every single
thing they said. I mean, those archives exist. What are the barriers to
somebody like you being able to just build that in so I see
the complete journalistic record of that player?>>Alex Humphreys: The barriers to that access have
to do with access. I mean there’s a lot of the in
copyright material for the — you know, when we were
talking to the researchers, showing them this, one of the first things they said
was exactly what you said, like, oh, my gosh, I want to see,
you know, how newspapers talked about Roberto Clemente when
he was just on the team. And they were, you know — he
was forced to be called Bob and I mean, just the, the
language was terrible. And I want to see that and I
want to show it to my students and help them understand
the context for it. The biggest challenge to
that has to be with access and copyright which
are reasonable things. The way to overcome that is
through partnerships with people who have, you know, things — people like maybe ProCrast
[assumed spelling] or others who have the aggregations
of newspapers. And then we can create
pathways through there. It’s a little — it’s another
— it’s a bigger challenge to do that than with the open
material that we have with the Library of Congress. So we often, when we’re
doing these weeks, focus on the open
material because it’s easy to experiment really rapidly, and not worry so
much about that. And then, once we’ve
proved the value of this as a really nifty way
of doing research, then approaching those
copyright holders or people who have access to
those databases. Does that answer your question?>>Yeah, awesome. Thank you.>>Alex Humphreys:
Any other questions? Okay. Well, thank you very much. And I want to see what the
Library of Congress did because it’s competition. [ Applause ]>>Abigail Potter: Hello. All right. Sorry. I have a lot of — we’re going to start with
the starting line-up. So this our team, here,
on your left, the — every team [inaudible] is in
it’s line-up, and this is ours. We have Megan Ferriter, who
did a lot of the planning for the overall event and did a
lot of coordination on our team; Jaime Mears, who
you met earlier, who was also very important;
myself, Abby Potter. We’re all part of Library
of Congress Labs Team. We worked with folks from the
Office of Chief Information, Office of the Chief
Information Officer, Chris Adams and Grif Friedman and visiting
Archivist, Julia Hickey, who we’ll hear more
from in a minute about what she actually
did with our baseball data. And we had a lot of great help
from our summer class of interns who are also around here. You’ll see them — Ilene Jakeway, Yasira
Sweediz [assumed spelling], Ann DeLot [assumed spelling]
and Courtney Johnson. We were also coached by
the Library of Congress — I mean, the JSTOR Labs, Beth
Duffert [assumed spelling], and she helps us really
clearly define our goals and move us along over the week. So it’s — this was
a great team. And we started there. But, actually, we started
before then, during our warm-up, which was our data prep. And I’m going to let
Julia talk about that.>>Thanks, Abby. Good morning, everyone. First I just want to say my
thanks to everyone I’ve gotten to collaborate on this project. Again, I don’t work
with LC directly. I’m employed by another
Federal agency and so this has been an
incredible project for me to work on, so — and if you
ever get the opportunity to work with LC Labs, it’s amazing. So, please take that
in consideration. So what this slightly less
scary diagram here or chart is than what Jaime showed
before is what I’ve come to call the metadata crosswalk. And so this is, in other
terms, a metadata map. And you’ll see in the first
column to your farthest side over here, this is the
authoritative reference for the map. So this is the Merck data and
— that the Library has related to their digital collections
from general topic of baseball. And to the next column over,
you’ll find the JSON export. So this is actually as,
I think, Jaime mentioned through the tutorial, you can
learn how to do a JSON API call and acquire LC digital metadata. And we use that, we
plotted that back onto the Merck data
and moved forward. And the significance here
is that when we turn to look at the National African
American and History and Cultures collection
and their metadata, we had to bring it all together. And so holding the JSON
data and mapping it into the Museum’s data
was the significant point. And where we get to provide
this dataset out to you. And one of the unifying
factors was the next column over from there. And this is the Dublin Core. It’s a very common,
simplistic metadata schema. And this united the data
in common field names such what you see
in the final column and what will be presented
in the final dataset. Some significant
factors here to look at would include the
Museum’s Attributes Field. You’ll see that in the —
it’s about third from the top, or fourth from the
top, excuse me. And you can follow that through. And you’ll see that’s mapped in
a number of different fields. And so this is just some of the
intellectual work you have to go through when looking
at metadata, to explore where it needs
to go into the right fields for proper use, for
proper querying, and certainly for unification. And bringing two different
unique cultural heritage institutions together,
there’s difficulties. But it’s also kind of
exciting challenges to see that LC’s collection can very
easily talk through and with and form this incredible dialog
related to baseball and all of the subject matter you
saw the Museum present, and what you get to explore
in our visualization as well. So, with that, I’ll turn
it back over to Abby. Thank you.>>Abigail Potter:
Thanks, Julia. It seems less scary when
you say it like that. Okay. So we started off
the week visiting our — the Baseball Americana
Exhibit and we did that to get us loose
and ready to play. We were — the docents
let us through, and they told us what the main
themes of the exhibit are, which are creating
and building community and paralleling American
history. So this — when we were sort
of walking through the exhibit, it led us to ask
sort of questions about what we could
do during this week. We wanted to know what else
our visitors might want to see besides this exhibit, as
an extension of this exhibit. We wanted to know what other
stories our collections could tell and what different
possibilities of presentation we could
use, because there’s only so much we can see
in the exhibit. So in order to generate
sort of the ideas — Alex really talked —
did a nice overview of what this design
session was all about. We had some really interesting
ideas come out of them that I think we’d like to
pursue later, including sort of different phone apps and
Snapchat filters and, you know, just sort of fun things that
we think could bring our collections closer to the
people who want to use them. And this led us, really,
to think about audiences. So we saw all the
work that JSTOR did — interviewing the
potential users of our tools and we saw how careful
they did those interviews and got really useful
feedback that — and, you know, that
created the persona. And when we were watching
that work we thought, well, I think with our
collections, with our exhibit, with our focus, we have
sort of a different user in mind who’s more
of a lifelong learner or a teacher who’s trying to
teach people about community or history and just
baseball fans in general. So those are the users
that we had in mind. Following JSTOR’s lead,
we sort of jumped right into user interviews and we
quickly created these mock-ups of how we could display
our collections. One’s in a timeline. We used Timeline JS, and one
in — on a map, we used ArcGIS. And these are just tools that
were sort of quickly available to us that we wanted
to, you know, try out, see what would work and what
people would respond to. And we did get some useful
feedback on the concept of displaying things
in a timeline or a map, but we thought that maybe we
should have, we should sort of go back and sort of come
near what JSTOR should have done and start with a wire frame and
get sort of more information about — besides — you know,
because there’s a lot of — when you’re working
with a tool that exists, there’s limitations there
and what we learned is that we should have
started from square one and not sort of skipped steps. So we used this for the
remaining of our user interviews and we got a lot of useful
feedback on this drawing. We heard that it could — something like this could
be used in a classroom, especially the timeline
aspect when teaching people — teaching a subject
chronologically. We heard that adding datasets to
our baseball collections data, like a census data or income
data, would help tell the story of how baseball — use
baseball to tell the stories like the Great Migration
or other sort of big historical
movements that sort of take up the whole country. We also learned that it
would be meaningful to sort of plainly show what the
gaps in our collections are, what we don’t have,
and sort of — is there a way that we
can see that clearly? And we also learned that
there’s users that have a lot of knowledge about what we
at our institutions have, but knowledge that we don’t
have about our collections. So they’re interested
in contributing to, and adding their knowledge
to, the things that we do. This [inaudible] typing also is
iterative and we, like I said, we shared this with users, five
users, and with their comments in mind, it sort of helps
us work through challenges. So this is — I don’t know
if you can see this clearly, but this is a — our subjects
that we are dealing with. So we had 19 columns of
subjects when we brought all of our collections together. And this is really
difficult to show to a user. As you can see, the biggest sort
of subject is baseball card. The second biggest is color. And is that useful? Is that — trying to
— so when we keep — we think of our users, it helps
us sort of work through some of these decisions of
how we might present data about the subject of
the items to users. So — I mean to pass it over
to either of you to talk about the — so this
is a next prototype, sort of after the
paper prototype. This is what Chris made. Do you want to talk
through [inaudible]?>>Chris Adams: So, basically,
we had several stages here. The first was getting all
of Julia’s hard work pulled out of the CSE files which
are one of our datasets, and then geocoding them so
we could put them on a map. So that was the early
part of the project. We didn’t have a
whole lot to show because it was basically
here’s some data, here’s a different file
that contains the same data in a different shape, and then
we started actually being able to do stuff like
put things on a map. So this slide shows — I think
this was Wednesday, yeah. Tuesday was data ring,
then Wednesday we got this. And then — could we
go to the next slide? Oh, yeah. So this
is a good thing. So we actually had
three deliverables. So we had the raw
dataset for people who are comfortable working
with csv files directly. We then pulled it into a new
experimental tool called the dataset which is basically
just a SQL-like database with a web interface which is
kind of nice because we can take that data, you can write
any query you want, you can just browse through
it and see what it is. So for people who
want to be able to really do advanced filtering
or [inaudible], but don’t want to write their own
code to do it, this is a nice little
intermediate step where you can go on a web
browser, you can look on things, you can tweak it a little
bit, you hit some basic plots and pull out the data. And then the last slide
here is basically getting into the tool we built
which is intended to be sort of the general overview
to the collection. So I guess if we wanted to we
could go to the Chrome Browser at this point and actually
show the live version here. But, basically, the idea here is
this gives you a way to view all of the items in the
dataset on a map, having the ability
to do a search. So you can click on
any one of those pins and you can see the items
that are in that location. You can click on an item
and pull up the information about that, and just scroll
down, it will pass the picture and it will show the
metadata, the description, one of the goals
that we didn’t fit into the sprint week was
actually linking all those things so that when you
see something tagged with a particular subject you
could then see everything else in the collection
with that subject. And then the last thing here. You can just close this,
click anywhere on the map because we want to reset the
selection to the whole list, and then you can drag that
timeline slider up at the top. Either of the ends can be
adjusted and you can just drag that over and it
adjusts the whole thing. And you can drag
the slider itself. So if you wanted to, you could
pick like a five-year period and then just scrub
that forward or backward and see how them dataset
changes over time. It will also work nicely
if you mention then — if you put anything
in the text field. So if you’re interested in
a certain team or league or place that’s mentioned
in there, you can filter all
of these together. And so we were thinking,
this is the raw over — this is the basic
overview of the data. Somebody who’s getting
here first, they can get an idea
of what’s in here. They can follow specific items
back to the source institution or up in the toolbar there we
also have the links right now to the dataset and at some point
there will actually be the link to the explanatory document that says here’s how
you download this, here’s what you can do with it,
here’s, you know, the rights, the known limitations. And I really think
this was a nice way to just illustrate how quickly
we can give somebody an overview for what’s in the data
so that they can confirm that it even answers
the question they have in the first place. And maybe it inspires some
questions about why we have so many pins in a row
[inaudible] obscure place on the map or, you know, whether
there might have been some confusion in what
you were searching for matches somebody
you hadn’t heard of. It really is a good
way just to narrow that down interactively before
you’ve invested any time loading it into your favorite data
analysis tools [inaudible].>>Griffen Friedman: Yeah, sure. So one other thing we wanted
to focus on was the idea of bringing in even more data. So we’re already aggregating
data from our collection here at the Library and
the National Museum of African American History
and Culture’s collections. Over on the right side you’ll
see a mix of items there. And it helps contextualize
these items. You can look at them
in location and time and really understand them. But as a researcher, there
may be other information that you want to
overlay on top of it. Helps you understand
those even more. So up on the top right of the
map there’s a control there where you can actually turn
on and off other layers. And we’ve got two
example layers. The first one shows stadiums. So if you can check that one on. That layer’s actually
from data we found online. So someone publicly made
available GeoJSON data that shows all of current
stadiums in the U.S. So it was very easy to take
that and overlay it on the map. So that was demonstrating
you might find a dataset in a standard format and
bring it in yourself. And now you can make
more sense of the data. The other thing we
did we we wanted to see how hard it would be
for us to make our own dataset. So thanks to hard
work on the team. If you turn on the second
one, we built a dataset that has team locations. So this can sort of aggregate
with that other data. It gives you a sense of
where teams are today and where they were. And you can start to look
at how the items correspond to those team locations. So this is just a sort of hint of what you could
overlay on here. It uses a standard format so
the idea is you could bring in your own data very
easily and add it to our collection and our data.>>Abigail Potter: Great. Whoops. All right. We can go back to
the presentation. I think we’re just
about — yeah. So that link, that
short link there, that is where the
current tool is now. We’re also going to be
linking that with — at our — on our Experiments
Page on Lab, so — and we’ll continue to,
you know, work on it. So what’s next? The — we do want to
finish building this and we do want users to come
use it and give us feedback and add different layers. So we want to give some
instructions on how to do that and we do similarly to JSTOR,
we are really interested in different sort of
crowdsourcing aspects of how this kind of
presentation of data could work. We’re interested in adding
different organizations, different types of data
to our set, and continuing to sort of learn more. One of the big sort of
goals of this week was just to sort of have this week. So we’re done now, so that
was a complete success, and — but we really want to sort of
model this same type of process with other groups, other groups
inside the Library of Congress, other groups outside
the Library of Congress. So we’re really happy
with how everything went. We’re really excited to do
more of this kind of thing. And I’m sure our collections
in different, in more ways like we just showed you, and
like JSTOR just showed you. So with that, that
is our demonstration. And we can take any
questions that you have. And I should also say, I’m sure
the NAMOC folks would also take questions if you have
questions for them. We have a question,
two questions. Here we go [inaudible]. Yeah.>>Could I see the
raw data that was –>>Abigail Potter: Yeah. We can go back to
the demo and the — back to the browser and then
there’s the raw data link at the top.>>I think you opened it. It’s like a — the next tab.>>Abigail Potter: Yeah. Yeah.>>So this is the SQL database
that you created and worked on?>>Chris Adams: Yeah. And the nice thing is if you –>>Abigail Potter: Here.>>Chris Adams: — if
you click on items, you’ll see the raw item records. But the other records — and so you can see there’s one
issue we didn’t have to deal with — time to deal
with this week which is normalizing
multivalue columns. We have an answer to that;
it’s just not ready yet. But, basically, at
the top there, there’s a SQL Query Builder. It’s there so if you wanted
to, you could filter things and just do arbitrary
expressions for how to group or coalesce things. So like one simple
example we use is when we were just looking
is we have data coming in from a number of sources. And depending on what you
might want to use as the title for an item, the answer can vary
depending on where it came from and what metadata it had. And in the SQL query we can
just say pick the first of these that isn’t empty
and pull that in. And that makes it easier
to give somebody a link that shows them the things and
not have to explain, oh, well, for items like that go
look over in this column, otherwise look — you know,
we can just cut that out. You’ve done that work once. You don’t have to
think about it again. If we go back and click
on either the Geography or Location columns, these
are also specific things that were present in the dataset
and so one of the nice things — we were able to geocode them and
then the viewer that we’re — oh, go back one more screen here to the main list
of all the tables. And click on either
Location or Geography. There. This allows you
to view those directly. It also just puts them
all on the map for you, so this is a great way. We were able to do the data QA
while the main viewer was being worked on because somebody
else can go look at that list and say, do we really have
an item from this location or from the things that we got out of the subject
list for Salisbury. Was that — Salisbury, Maryland
was what it geocoded to, but it should have
been North Carolina. And those are the kind of issues
that you have for any dataset like this where we’re trying to link a non-precise
entity to a real value. And that was great
being able just to let somebody else
do that independently. And this is, I think,
kind of a nice example because you could
also explore this. You could click on any
entry in that subject table and it will show you which
items it’s linked to. So if you wanted to do some sort of filtered query
you’re just browsing around that we didn’t
anticipate, that’s there is a safety
mechanism before you get to the point of well, now you
have to load the data and query, build your own tool,
the query [inaudible].>>Great. Thanks. Can I — one more question? On a scale from first base to
home run, how fun was this?>>Abigail Potter: How fun?>>Griffin Friedman: How fun?>>Home run [laughter].>>Griffen Friedman: Yeah. If this was all I was
working on this week, definitely a home run. I’d say a triple. It was really great. I work for OCIO here at the
Library, so I don’t get to work with the Labs Team all the time, but it was really
wonderful working with a really enthusiastic
group of people, having Chris on the team. Everybody just worked
really well together and that certainly
makes it more enjoyable. It was also really fun
to go from having nothing to having a functional tool
and having that tool validated by users and listening to them
say how useful it would be, how they’d use it
in their classroom, how they’d find things they
didn’t think they’d be able to find, and all
that kind of stuff. So it was definitely
a great week.>>Thanks.>>Abigail Potter: Okay. All right.>>I’m just wondering if you have a data that’s
digitalization of the number of baseball puns used
throughout the week.>>Abigail Potter: We
have a running list. Yeah. I think our — Courtney, who’s [inaudible] our
Communications has utilized almost all of them
I think [laughter]. But, yeah, that’s a sub-goal
of the week, is to — all baseball idioms
all the time. All right. Any other questions? All right. If there’s no more questions,
then we will break for lunch and then we are back
here at 1:15. We will have a great
panel discussion with some baseball
experts, scholars, and fans. And we hope that you all come
back and ask your questions. So we’ll see you at 1:15. [ Applause ] Hello and welcome back to
our Inside Baseball event. For this afternoon, we’ll have a
great panel discussion featuring — moderated by our
very own Meghan Ferriter who is a Senior Innovation
Specialist here with the Library
of Congress Labs. She’s also a Sports
Scholar and using that knowledge to
grill our guests. Not grill them, but have a
conversation about baseball and how it has influenced and reflected our
history and culture. I’m going to announce
the panelists and they’re all going
to come out here. But I want to let you know
that this is being livestreamed and the video will be archived
at the Library of Congress so you will be able to
watch this again and again and again if you want. So, first the panelists. Jordan Ellenberg is a
mathematician and author, and he uses math to
uncover the hidden patterns that guide our daily lives. He’s a Professor at the
University of Wisconsin Madison and his book,Not
Not To Be Wrong,
The Power of Mathematical
is aNew York TimesMbest seller and one of Bill
Gates’ 10 favorite books. We also have Clinton Yates. He is a radio host,
commentator, and columnist forESPN’s The Undefeated,
and aWashington Postalumnus. A D.C. native, Yates’s work
examines the intersections between pop culture,
politics, race, and athletics in contemporary American life. And then, finally,
we have Rob Ruck. He is a Sports Historian and
Professor at the University of Pittsburgh whose research
traces the dynamics of race and major league baseball. He’s recognized as a
authority in the history of the Negro Leagues
and Latinos in baseball. Ruck’s recent publications
include the 2011 book,Raceball. So we’ll get started
with our panel first by welcoming them out. [ Applause ]>>Meghan Ferriter: I think
it only matters so we’re not so close to each other
that we can’t hear each other afterwards. Well, thanks so much
everyone for being here. Thanks for those of you who’ve
tuned back in to the livestream if you were here earlier. I already, JSTOR Labs Team,
already have some feedback on things that would
be extremely helpful for sports journalists and performing research using
cultural history baseball cards. And if you’re just turning
in to the livestream again, you may have missed
this morning. We had some sessions where we
were describing a week-long process of exploring collections
from the Library of Congress, the National Museum of African
American History and Culture, and articles in JSTOR
and the JSTOR databases. It gave us some starting
points of conversation. But the whole reason that we
wanted to do this and connect with you all is that we have a
Baseball Americana Exhibit here at the Library, opened
only about two weeks ago. We’re hearing a lot of
really interesting things. And we started our week
with a tour of that. We’re going to end our week
with another tour of that space. And we heard from the docents
that some of the themes that they are emphasizing
and the stories that they are telling are
around convening community and paralleling America’s
history. So I wonder if — Jordan,
you want to lead us, I mean step into the
plate first here? Don’t worry. We’ll talk about some language
in baseball idiom as well. What are your thoughts
around the way that baseball brings
people together?>>Jordan Ellenberg: Well, yeah. I guess I’ll — it’s like
batting practice, right? I’m like coming first
to the plate before you.>>Meghan Ferriter: So —
and they’re both a little bit of a softball team [laughter].>>Jordan Ellenberg: Well, at
least to me what I think is one of the things that’s
so interesting about the community
of, let’s say, fandom around the
baseball team — well, that’s not the only kind
of community around baseball. There’s communities of players,
there’s communities of people who work in baseball,
et cetera, et cetera. But when I think about
the community of fandom which is the community
that I’m a part of, I think it’s interesting
in sort of like how chosen of a community it is, right? I mean, many of the communities that we’re part of,
we are born into. You know, we don’t choose our
family, we choose our history. We do, on some level, choose
our team that we root for, and yet our commitment to
that, I think for most of us, emotionally I think it feels
— it it okay to say this? Like just as deep as [inaudible]
historical communities that we’re a part of. And I think that can be like a
really good learning [inaudible] to think about like, boy, what
does community mean if I feel it so strongly at the same time
as — I chose it myself. I could have chosen
something else. In some instance it’s
arbitrary as a, I think, Jerry Seinfeld said,
you’re rooting for laundry. Yes, but it matters.>>Meghan Ferriter: Clinton, Jordan’s speaking a
little bit to passion. And you do a lot of
communicating with people in various media spaces — on radio and TV and
social media spaces — and I think social
media’s a place where interesting
communities convene.>>Clinton Yates: This is true.>>Meghan Ferriter: — to
bring a person to session. Would you share some maybe
things that you’ve seen recently in those spaces that
you think is either new or interesting about
communities?>>Clinton Yates: Yeah. I mean, I think one of the
the things that’s forgotten about baseball is — you know,
you can talk about the history, you can talk about the math, but in the sport itself
the communal contact of how it exists. Everybody has to watch
two people do one thing and that is a very interesting
relationship in terms of how it forces you to
understand the concept of team and the concept of performance
and the concept of failure in, you know, the communal sense. And I think that’s a large part about why people attract
themselves, you know — baseball is attractive for
them and why it explains about how you have
to communicate. There’s an umpire,
there’s a manager. Everybody on the
bench wears a uniform. You know what I’m saying? Like it’s very different
communication in terms of the basic fundamentals of
the game that I think apply to how people relate
to it, you know? So the laundry in one way is
very important in a certain way because you’re not wearing
helmets, you know what I mean? You’re not wearing shorts. You’re wearing pants
and a shirt that button, and a belt, you know
what I mean? Like it is very much about a
sort of very normalized process that I think brings a
lot of people together. When you’re talking
about social media and how different people come
toward it, everybody is allowed to like, as a result of all
those different things going on, a different part of
the game, you know? And that’s very much, I
think, what attracts a lot of people to baseball. Most people who like
baseball probably — I say this all the time — probably never know how
to score a game, you know? But they enjoy the
environment around it. They enjoy the sounds
and sights of the game without even necessarily
caring what happens. And that’s a large part
that baseball brings to the American sporting
landscape. And I think a lot of other
sports have not found a way to tap into it. And why, ultimately, it is
considered America’s Pastime is because it doesn’t
change much, you know. And people kind of like
that because people enjoy that in their communities.>>Meghan Ferriter:
Speaking about numbers and people not being able to
like maybe create a scorecard, fill it out, even
read it afterwards –>>Clinton Yates: Right.>>Meghan Ferriter: — and know
what different annotations mean. We had a lot of people who
asked us questions about — as we were working on building
prototypes, we’ll begin to bring in statistical data, and we
said, well, we want to tell some of these cultural stories. So, Rob, I wonder if you
can reflect on the types of communities that formed
around baseball in Pittsburgh and some of your work
that you’ve shared about those types
of teams and people.>>Rob Ruck: I’m glad you’re
not asking me a statistical question [laughter].>>Jordan Ellenberg: I’m here. Don’t worry [laughter].>>Rob Ruck: Jordan’s
got that covered. You know, I’m must more
interested in what sport means to people than the game itself. And when you look at a
place like Pittsburgh, where baseball was the sport, was the pastime,
for quite a while. No longer is. You see that it allowed
different groups of people to feel included in
a sense of community. I mean that whole notion of
baseball as the ultimate vehicle of Americanization
for the children of immigrants I think
is pretty valid. Where that broke
down, of course, was over questions of race. And during the half
century or so that the Major Leagues were
segregated Black Pittsburgh created a sporting
world of its own. And an amazing one, with
two Negro League franchises, seven of the first 11 men
from the Negro Leagues elected to the Hall of Fame
came from Pittsburgh, and many more ever since. But you look at that
community, that black community, which was fractured
by geography, by whether they were the Old
Pittsburghers who had come from the northern part of
the South in the 1890s, who were better off, better
educated, and lighter skinned, or those who came during
World War I and after from the Black Belt
who were not, you saw that it created
a sense of community for Black Pittsburgh
which allowed them, as the Negro Leagues
formed in the ’20s, and had this archipelago
of franchises in these norther cities, to
feel a part of Black America. And I think that had a
profound impact on the ability to build cohesion and a positive
sense of collective self which lasted for quite a while.>>Meghan Ferriter:
Thank you very much for sharing more about that. During lunch today we
talked a little bit about — Clinton led us out
on this one — describing the ways
that professionalization of Major League sports may
make the sport less enjoyable. So I wonder if you can —
because it’s predictable, I should say, not
less enjoyable, predictable in the sense of it’s
routine, there’s less variety, there’s less excitement
over what might happen. And so I wonder if you, Clinton,
if you’d like to respond and maybe lead on your thoughts
on this, some of the ways that amateur sport or collegiate
sport and how baseball formed in those communities or in those
spaces tell us different kinds of stories than professional
sport.>>Clinton: Yeah. I think that’s actually a
large part of why this sort of regionalization of
baseball has led to this sport at the highest level
of not being as popular as other leagues is that
Major League Baseball acts like they’re the only form
of baseball that exists when, in reality, you look
at somebody like me. I grew up playing baseball. I played in RVI here in D.C.
I can name you, within a, you know, a couple
of relay throws, 10 fields I played
on in the city. And that is what baseball
is to me, you know? People tell me all the
time, like oh, my god, how do you watch
college baseball. I can’t deal with
the metal bats. Well, you must not have played
a lot of baseball growing up. I don’t know anybody who’s
playing wood bat leagues, you know what I’m saying,
when you’re a kid, you know? That’s not real. So what are you talking
about, right? And so what I’m saying — and
the reason I bring that up is because it is — it’s
important to understand that like what you’re referring
to in terms of the Negro Leagues and how that sense of community
came together was about more than just achievement
at the top. People played because they
liked playing baseball, and that’s what’s cool about it. You know, you go to
a high school game. People show up because their
kids are there to play. They don’t plan to
go to college. They’re not trying to
necessarily make the pro’s. They enjoy spitting
seeds and talking trash with their friends, and
they enjoy hitting the ball and picking it up
and putting it down. And so if your only
sort of understanding of what the game is exists
from just the top level down, you’re really selling
yourself short on a lot of what the community of
baseball is, you know. That’s why I go to so
many minor league games. That’s why I liked
coaching baseball, because you’re involved
with it on a community level that is more than just about
the achievement, the contracts, the trophies, you
know, and the TV time. And that ultimately, to me,
is what gives back a lot more than any nonsense I
see on television. You know, it’s knowing the
people I know from the game and what I was given
as a human in terms of understanding what it took
to, you know, make it work. And that’s still something
that sticks with me.>>Jordan Ellenberg: I mean,
if I can jump in on that.>>Meghan Ferriter: Of course.>>Jordan Ellenberg: I mean,
but it’s about this one thing. I mean, I — because I spoke to
it in the story from this kind of top-down point of view. But it’s very true that,
you know, if you’re a fan of like your favorite sitcom
or something, you’re not going to set up like four TV
cameras with your friends, like make your own
sitcom at home, right? I mean there’s — the only way
you’re going to experience it is through the professional
[inaudible].>>Clinton Yates: You’re talking
about YouTube, man [laughter].>>Jordan Ellenberg: No, it’s
probably more now than before, but — but, you know, as you’ve
seen with baseball, with respect to regionalization, you
know, I grew up in Maryland and hardly anybody I knew
played Little League. Like now I live in Wisconsin
and what I have learned is, you know, my son
plays and I go there and like there’s parents
there whose kids are not even in the game. People in Wisconsin just — they’ll just drive down to
the Little League field –>>Clinton Yates: Right.>>Jordan Ellenberg:
— because you know one of your neighbor’s kids is going
to be there and like, you know, you’re going to see
people you know –>>Clinton Yates: Right.>>Jordan Ellenberg: —
or something like that. I mean — so I think it
is like really different in different parts
of the country, and there you see this extremely
organic kind of fandom — or I shouldn’t even
have called it a fandom, but an organic involvement
with baseball at — and if you think college
baseball is unpredictable, you know, watch —
the 12-year-olds, that’s a different
story entirely. I mean –>>Clinton Yates:
Tell me about it, man.>>Meghan Ferriter: I’m thinking of two different
lines of thoughts. So I’m going to put
them together in the same [inaudible]. I’ve heard a little bit
of mention here about some of the artifacts or objects of
baseball, some of the things that are — metal bat
versus a wooden bat, the uniform that you wear,
what you’re representing. And in some of our work at
the Library, we’re looking at these collection items. We’re thinking a
lot about the data. But there’s also
the representation of [inaudible] as an image. What does that show us? And I wonder, Rob, if you can
share or reflect on how some of — spaces of baseball
or items or objects of baseball are changing, and
how that connects to the types of — the forms of baseball
that we see played today or other people have
played in the past.>>Rob Ruck: Most of the work
I’ve done on baseball’s been in the Caribbean or
in black communities, looking at baseball pretty much
before integration [static]. There’s virtually no artifacts. What you have are memories. If you’re lucky,
you find photos. The amount of footage is scant. I think, you know,
the last 25 years or so is baseball has
become overcapitalized. There’s increasing stuff. But in some ways, to
me, it has less meaning. It’s noise. The same way I feel when I go
to a Major League ballgame, which is why I don’t feel it’s
as enjoyable as a Minor League or a Caribbean or a
Little League game, because you can’t even hear
the person next to you talk. You feel overwhelmed by it. So I’m probably not the one
to answer your question.>>Meghan Ferriter: Oh, I think
that’s a perfect way to connect to spaces that may
be disappearing or still in [inaudible]. Go ahead, Clinton.>>Clinton Yates: As
I was there recently and I wanted to point it out. My mother, who was
in the crowd — she’s from Kansas
City, Missouri. And in Kansas City, the Negro
League Baseball Museum is there. Bob Kendrick is the
President of that facility. And what it does
is — to your point about things being
scant, that is very true. There’s not a ton. But there is a lot of it there. And what it does
that’s interesting, and this is not necessarily
correlated. I just thought to bring it up. You realize that
what it chronicles is as much the history of
America as it is the history of many things necessarily
baseball. It really is, you know? And that’s sort of
what you’re — speaking to your point about how
sports affects people, you know, one of the first women owners in
sports was in the Negro Leagues. One of the first times
where they, you know, they played in those outside
view as communities first, be it the Caribbean, be in
Japan, be in wherever, you know? And it is scant, but it is
not non-existent, you know? And I think that’s why
collections and things of this ilk are important
because everything at some point becomes scant because you can’t
keep everything, you know what I mean? But there are collections
that do these jobs to keep around what, you know,
what people could. And it is, it’s really
fascinating to look at, you know, this –>>Rob Ruck: To reinforce that. I mean, there’s a reason
why Buck O’Neil was the star of Ken Burns’s work on baseball, and I think a much
more important figure than Shelby Foote
in the Civil War. And Buck’s memories and stories
and reflections steal the show.>>Clinton Yates: Yeah.>>Rob Ruck: But it underscores
how much your point is that questions of baseball are
questions of American history. And perhaps no more so
than when it comes to race.>>Jordan Ellenberg:
I’ll, first of all, just second the recommendation of the incredible Negro
League Museum in Kansas City, which is like, I think, one
of the best history museums in America that I’ve been to. And then it’s also to say I
think what you say is very right, and I think — you
know, so I teach math. That’s what I do for a living. And I find that one way
I tell stories about math as a teacher is to tell
stories about baseball because baseball touches
math like through statistics. And in the same way, I think,
you know, you teach history, Rob, and I think because
baseball touches so many things, as teachers one of the ways we
can teach whatever subject it is, like whether it’s history,
whether it’s sociology, whether it’s African American
Studies, whether it’s math. We can teach those through
the lens of baseball because baseball
touches them all. It’s not just the story
of American history, but is the story of
American history. It’s the story of like all
those things put together. And you can meet — I mean,
you know, I meet a lot of kids who don’t think they
care about math, but they know they
care about baseball. They know they care
about arguing about which player is
better than another. You may — I mean, you know, a
kid who’s a little kid today. You say, like, you
know, there was a time like when a black man
couldn’t go to Woolworth’s. They’ll be like,
what’s Woolworth’s?>>Clinton Yates: Yeah.>>Jordan Ellenberg: Like
— but if you say like, not everybody could play
Major League baseball. I mean that’s — I think
that’s as meaningful and kids feel it as [inaudible].>>Clinton Yates: I was there. It’s a huge discussion in
sports around the world, I mean, because I happen to be of
the opinion that anybody who played before
integration, I’m sorry, you’re throwing your
records out, like I just — as a matter of course
they’re not [inaudible].>>Jordan Ellenberg: And they
don’t call it the White League.>>Clinton Yates:
That’s right, right. [ Multiple Speakers ] And that’s a huge point
of contention for — because a lot of —
the most famous players in people’s minds ever played
long before integration, you know? And so that — yeah, it touches
on a lot of different things.>>Jordan Ellenberg: But I
think the math people get that, by the way.>>Clinton Yates: Right.>>Jordan Ellenberg: If you talk to the mathiest [assumed
spelling] people who study baseball statistics,
I think they understand that there’s like a discount
that you have to [inaudible] that you can’t avoid that.>>Clinton Yates: Right.>>Meghan Ferriter: Yeah. And they just kind of — we’ve
encountered this this week in trying to bring forms of data
that don’t match each other, the way the terms and the
pieces of words that we use as subjects we give things. As professional organizations
that categorize information, how there may be a
disconnect between the kinds of stories we’re talking about,
the ways, the oral histories, the discussion, the ways that
people talk about baseball or life in general, which
includes recounting being at a game or being with someone,
meeting someone at a game, knowing where you were when
kinds of conversations. So I wonder if any of you
want to share anything about the ways you think memory
can be connected to talking about baseball or where you
may have recently have found something that was
surprising when someone did try to describe something
to you about baseball.>>Jordan Ellenberg:
Most story — I don’t know if this is
like answers your question, not that I just acknowledged
talking to you. A very elderly cousin of
mine who, unfortunately, just died about a year
ago, Marilyn Sachs, who was a children’s book
writer, and from one thing — I mean, when I talked to
her a couple of years ago, she was pretty old and her
memory was not completely there. But she was telling me
a story I never knew, which was that how she met her
husband in the ’40s in New York, was that they were both
Communists and they were on a door-to-door
drive, knocking on doors, getting a petition
signed for the Dodgers to bring Jackie Robinson
up from the Minor Leagues. And that was like their first
date, the fact it was going on, not in Brooklyn,
knocking on doors trying to get other Communists
to like sign this petition to like get Jackie
Robinson up to the Majors.>>Meghan Ferriter: There’s so
many intersections there, right?>>Jordan Ellenberg:
And that’s [laughter] –>>Meghan Ferriter: How do you
know which one’s to go with?>>Clinton Yates: There
ain’t [inaudible].>>Jordan Ellenberg: And
they were Jews [inaudible].>>Meghan Ferriter:
Yeah, there you go.>>Clinton Yates: I do
a thing on social media. [Inaudible] I go to basically,
and it’s for that exact reason, is that it — while
I’m doing it, it provides memory of the game. I can share it with
other people. People can understand
that there’s more to it than just sort of
looking at it, you know? And I think that that’s a oddly
— not oddly, but that is, I think, where baseball sort
of scores, pardon the pun, over a lot of other sports, is
that there’s a memory element. This for me, it’s very different
than a lot of other sports. I remember — you know, the way
I remember baseball games is by the notation. And there’s not necessarily an
apples-to-apples comparison fro different — other
sports, you know? And that’s why I do it is because it’s there,
it’s available. I was pissed this year
when the Nat’s, by the way, like didn’t allow
their scorecard. You know, they stopped giving
away scorecards and I’m like what are you doing? [ Applause ] You know what I’m saying? I was like, how do you — like
you’re instantly deleting half of the reason why people are
going, is to remember the fact that they were there, you know? And if you kind of
like pay x — so. That is a huge part
of baseball in a way that I think is very
different in a lot of respects.>>Meghan Ferriter: I think
that connects a little bit also to some of the things
we mentioned, just briefly passing by before. Ways that some of our collections
actually surface exclusions, what’s not there,
different types of artifacts that might represent types
of activities related to baseball, people, even roles. We see a lot of players
or baseball cards that represent players. We have some managers’ papers. We have oral histories. But we don’t necessarily
have all the stories where people are
reflecting specifically on their experiences
of baseball. In your respective fields, we — I have to get a plug
in about this — we have resources that
may be useful to you. If you were going to be looking
for different types of research or be performing research
or wanted to connect with the Library of
Congress and its collections, what might be types of objects
and/or collection items you would be interested in?>>Clinton Yates: Hmm.>>Meghan Ferriter:
Putting them on the spot.>>Rob Ruck: You know, when
I started doing research, it was going through microfilmed
newspapers, putting a dime in every time I wanted
to make a copy. No laptops, no word processing. And I kind of get angry
when I see how easy it is to look at things [laughter]. The flip side of that though –>>Meghan Ferriter: I’m sorry. We’re trying to make
it way too easy.>>Rob Ruck: — is
that when I’m listening to all the stuff you’ve
brought together, I mean, I feel if there was a
subject I was interested in, I’d be overwhelmed by the amount
of material and information. And it seems to me the next
step is not just to make all that universe of material
possible, but figure out how to filter and prioritize so
that I can tell my grad students to do it [inaudible]
my expectations.>>Meghan Ferriter: This
week we — oh, sorry. Go ahead.>>Clinton Yates: I think what
would be most valuable to me, and I think about this
as somebody that doesn’t like television at this
point, would be able to — if you could categorize
how you see things, like if I said I want to see
every homer that happened on July 17, 1988,
you know what I mean, like around the league
or whatever. Like those kind of
specificities for visual — even if I could listen to them. You know, radio calls
or whatever. Like that to me would be
cool because you could — for whatever reason the way
my brain categorizes things, like this day in history
kind of stuff, really is — speaks for me, you
know what I — and that that to me would
be a very valuable resource to know like, you know, what
was happening on this day in the world, nevermind in
a ballpark, and kind of look at them all in the same space
and sort of compare them and go from there as to how I look at
the rest of the globe, you know? That to me would be critical.>>Jordan Ellenberg: And
that’s what I love about images of old newspapers, right? Because it would be the base — the story about the
baseball game. And next to it, you know –>>Clinton Yates: Right.>>Jordan Ellenberg:
— there’s like a story about like strikebreakers
and police or there’s a story about like what’s happening
in Asia, or like whatever. And you sort of see like,
okay, not just what happened on the baseball field, but the
people who were experiencing that in the time, what
else was on their mind? You know what I mean? That puts it in context.>>Meghan Ferriter: Well,
I promised we would talk about baseball idiom
and language, so let’s talk a little
bit about the ways that baseball is
integrated unexpectedly into American vernacular. As someone, Clinton, as someone
who’s a sport journalist, you probably encounter this all
the time and have to find ways to not use sporting
analogy all of the time.>>Clinton Yates: This is a
tough one for me, right –>>Meghan Ferriter: Yeah.>>Clinton Yates: — because
I’m also a massive baseball fan that talks in baseball lingo
just as a matter of course. So I don’t –>>Meghan Ferriter: Yeah.>>Clinton Yates: That’s hard. I mean I just realized
I did that earlier when I said it’s a
couple of relay throws — it’s like a distance
of [laughter] — space that I use in my mind. And so that’s — I’m going to
listen on this one [inaudible].>>Meghan Ferriter: Well, if
we think about maybe listening about rather than direct
language like metaphors of baseball and whether
or not baseball — we can understand other —
we’re arguing in our exhibit that you can understand American
history through baseball, or you can see direct metaphor
for particular points in time or the ways that people
organize themselves. Do you have any reflections
on that, Jordan?>>Jordan Ellenberg:
I mean I want to say that in some things we’re
like the exact wrong people to answer this question
because, like, we’re immersed and we hear those words and
that language is alive for us, so we know what’s
being referred to:>>Clinton Yates: Yeah.>>Jordan Ellenberg: And what
I suspect is that for a lot of Americans in 2018, they
will say, give me strength.>>Meghan Ferriter: Yeah.>>Jordan Ellenberg: But they
may not even know that refers to — or maybe — I mean, what I would compare it
to is the way I feel. I think what happened to our language is governed
by nautical metaphor. And, you know, you say like somebody’s three
sheets to the wind. Like I don’t know what
the hell that means. Look I feel like the sheet
was probably [inaudible] like attached to the boat
and then there was like wind. I mean>>Clinton Yates: Maybe
a mast was involved, like>>Jordan Ellenberg: Yeah. Like there’s no way that
doesn’t have something to do with a boat. I’m like that’s — you know, that’s fossilized
language to me. That’s gone. And maybe if there’s like
any sailors in the audience, like can they tell
me what it means. But I think I — to be
honest, I think for a lot of Americans today, a lot of that baseball language
is probably like that. They’re sort of like dimly aware and have something
to do with baseball. But they can’t really
put a reference to it. And yet they know what
sort of that word means in English vernacular. And you should ask
them [inaudible].>>Meghan Ferriter: Yeah. I want to [inaudible] –>>Clinton Yates: I mean, not to
mention — I mean, that’s not — just be real about the
incarceration policies in this country just involving
three strikes and how –>>Meghan Ferriter: Yeah, yeah.>>Clinton Yates: — like
that’s as real as it gets, you know what I mean, in terms of putting people behind
bars vis-à-vis the concept of like a baseball
metaphor making sense as to why you should be in
prison for the rest of your life as kind of crazy, you
know, [inaudible].>>Jordan Ellenberg: Where
now we think of three strikes as like — oh, yeah,
that’s the [inaudible] –>>Clinton Yates: Yeah. I would put them in cage
baseball if I was in jail for three — you
know what I’m saying? Like yeah, like —
because that’s — you know — but whatever. That’s sort of a
different discussion. But, yeah, I mean
that’s, to me, is — that’s drilling down
as far as you can go for taking away people’s
freedoms based on the notion of what happens when you’re in
a batter’s box as determined by an umpire based on
a pitcher and a catcher and [inaudible] like
that’s crazy.>>Meghan Ferriter: Picking
up on a little bit of a thread that you had there,
Jordan, of that — of you not being the
right people to ask. I disagree. I think you’re the
perfect people to ask these kinds of questions.>>Jordan Ellenberg: Okay.>>Meghan Ferriter: But I
also wonder if you can — kind of related to what
you both are talking about of being removed — taking
baseball out of its context, and there’s — this could be
a slightly controversial view or it could be something
that you think is true, this idea of a decline of
baseball as America’s Pastime, or that should it still
be America’s Pastime?>>Rob Ruck: I don’t think there
is a national pastime anymore. I mean, I think that sporting
interests are fractionalized. Clearly the NFL is the most
successful economic sporting league in U.S. sporting history. Even that could be at some
sort of existential crossroads for a number of reasons. You know, I look at my students. And I’ve been teaching
the History of Sport since the late ’70s at the
University of Pittsburgh. And it was easy to discuss
baseball and to have that common shared knowledge. And I think Jordan’s point
is right on the money. They don’t have the
language anymore. They don’t have the memory. I can talk about Bill Mazeroski
and Clemente, and a lot of them, you know, they’d rather I’m
talking about Leonore Messi. And it’s — I think
we’re past that point where we have one
collective sporting experience that is defined by
a single sport.>>Clinton Yates: I’ll
tell you this though. And this is something that
I don’t know that it’s — I know that a lot of
Americans take it for granted. If you go to another country and
you throw something to somebody, they will likely take
it as an assumption that you were throwing it
at them and not to them. And that is a very
interesting thing about how — I mean, just — I’m saying
though, like you did — no. You get my point, You know what
I mean is that like that — on a very interesting base
level, whether or not they care about baby league baseball or
whatever, the simplest part of the game is something that
is integrated into our society. Remember, you all,
hey, catch this. It’s not going to freak you out. You know, you’re
probably going to catch it and you’re probably going to
be able to send it back –>>Meghan Ferriter: Yes.>>Clinton Yates: —
without much of an issue. And that’s why I think baseball,
not changes the past time. It will simply exist in a
different part of our brains as a sporting level, but what
the actions are are very much, very much engrained
in our, in who we are in this society, you know? Throwing and catching is
a pretty standard American operation, you know.>>Meghan Ferriter: That’s the
perfect segue into a question about whether or not — or do you view baseball
as an international sport. And I think there’s maybe
certain places in the world that we think of as
connected to the United States through baseball in a
professionalized way, but you may also have other
reflections that you want to share about amateur
or community sport.>>Jordan Ellenberg: I
mean, I think it’s both. I mean, I think baseball, more than it ever has
been, is a world sport. But it’s also a world sport
whose home is the United States. I mean, I think — I don’t think
there’s any contradiction there, that the U.S. is
kind of the temple. And I think it’s still true that
like the greatest world players, their ambition is to not play in
Korea, like not play in Taiwan, like not play in Mexico, but
to play in the United States. And I kind of like
about it that it’s a — but it’s a different mix, right? It’s not like — the NBA has
become a world sport, too. But it’s like a different
mix of countries. Baseball has this
kind of like, you now, sort of a Pacific orientation,
right, where it’s like –>>Clinton Yates: I wish. I mean, I’m being honest. Like that’s going to be the
death of major league baseball, is being concerned about
being too American. I mean that’s, you know,
really the way it is. You look at the culture
of the game. You watch some world
baseball classic where different nations
field different squads. You know, you’ve seen this,
you now, with your scholarship on the Caribbean and so forth. It’s a totally different concept than what the game even
is, you know what I mean. And so from an entertainment
standpoint, nevermind the participation
standpoint, it has to be global in order for it to survive. And that’s sort of the
large mistake, I think, that the big leagues is
making, is that they’re trying to make it very much this sort of puritanical nonsense
that’s boring and, you know, you go to so many
different places and it’s just — it’s more fun. It’s a different thing. And it has to be global in
order for it to be, I think, real for a lot of people.>>Jordan Ellenberg:
[Inaudible] baseball classics. You get like lots of teams
from different countries and they’re not playing in the
same styles as American players.>>Clinton Yates:
One thousand percent. Oh, yeah. Like that
— I mean, that’s — I mean, we could break this
down on a strategy level, we could break this
down on a style level. You could break it down
on a communications level, you know what I mean? This way — the way people talk,
the way that people run bases, the way the people,
I don’t know — the aggressiveness with
which, you know, the strategy with which they use the game. It is very different
in different places across the globe for sure.>>Jordan Ellenberg: And
[inaudible] about the kind of stultifying conformity of the
kind of this is how it’s done, and if not, then this other way.>>Clinton Yates: Yeah.>>Jordan Ellenberg:
That — and I –>>Clinton Yates: It sucks.>>Jordan Ellenberg: — a hundred percent in
agreement [inaudible]. But it’s interesting. I would have said — I mean, I’ve never noticed the
players who [inaudible].>>Clinton Yates: Okay. I’ll give you a great
example of this. Clint Hurdle is the
Manager of the Pirates. Clint Hurdle was a number
one pick in the draft. Clint Hurdle hit like 40
bombs in his 10-year career. And Clint Hurdle has been
managing in the Big Leagues for God knows how long. And Clint Hurdle is not a
good manager [laughter]. Bobby Baez is probably one of the most exciting
players in all of baseball. Javier Baez hit a bomb
against the Pirates in — you know, hammed it a little. And Clint Hurdle went off about
how this is not how you do this and this is not how you do that. And I’m like, you know, Clint Hurdle was a bum
compared to Javier Baez. You know what I’m saying? And like that — and he just —
he didn’t appreciate the fact that he was celebrating
something he had done well. I mean, that right there showed
me exactly all you needed to know, a random white guy who was not a very good
player felt the need to scold, you know, a young Latino player
who was showing too much emotion for what he felt was
appropriate to the game. And that, to me, is a
massive problem with baseball, just as a matter of
course, in general. You know what I’m saying? That’s — come on. You know what I mean? Like we’re going to have fun. We’re not here to talk
about unwritten rules.>>Rob Ruck: I’ll let
you slide on fertile. But just [laughter] — don’t
dis my column [laughter].>>Clinton Yates: I’ll bet.>>Rob Ruck: Getting
back to your question. The Major Leagues have
always seen themselves as the temple of the game. And they’ve always
wanted to dominate. But, frankly, MLB was never
the only game of baseball. And a hundred years ago the best
white and black players went down to the Caribbean
and played winter ball. During the summer, players
from the Caribbean came and played either Major
or Negro League Ball, depending on whether
they passed for white. The demarcation point
is integration. And in the years after that,
particularly with the expansion of different media and
the ability to broadcast, the games in the islands and
in Mexico increasing sucked into MLB’s commercial organ. And that’s what I
think is deadly. I agree with you
totally about the style. I mean a Cuban game,
a Dominican game, a Nicaraguan game,
differ from MLB. But what’s even more fun is
the style in the stands –>>Clinton Yates: Yeah.>>Rob Ruck: — where it’s just
not piped-in music all the time. Or, you know perogy races. It’s just real action. And it’s a far more
exciting experience.>>Meghan Ferriter: I might
connect back to this idea of community in experiencing
a game you mentioned. We’ve heard this a couple of different times
in the conversation. We’ve talked about coming
together in a sandlot style and how people share information
or connect with one another, or the way they anticipate or
plan their runs to the bathroom or next snacks because they
know what’s coming up ahead, or they need — they want to
get on the camera if they’re in a professional
sporting space. So what are some of the ways that you think baseball
might provide — and Jordan,, maybe ask you
to speak to this baseball as an experience provides
the opportunity for people to come together or
learn something new about the place that they are.>>Jordan Ellenberg: Well. I’m supposed to talk
into this now? Is that [inaudible]? Okay. I mean I’m going to say
something like very simple about it because I think
there’s this very primal things where in your life it’s actually
pretty rare that you’re among like a large group of people
whose attention is focused in the exact same place
on the exact same thing. That’s an uncommon experience.>>Meghan Ferriter: All
of us here today, right?>>Jordan Ellenberg:
All the way. All of us were not
on our phones, right? I’ve had that experience
[inaudible]. No. The — I mean, okay. [Inaudible] a little bit
embarassing the story myself. But I took my kids to
the eclipse last summer. Like we drove down to Missouri
and went to the eclipse. And I did, you know, standing
there in this big field with like all these people,
like all kind of looking up and seeing the sun slip away. I was like, oh, yeah. Like this is like
baseball, right [laughter]. Like everybody here,
like this big huge crowd, all looking up at this like
round thing in the sky, right? Like they’re all
in the same place. But the point is that does
not experience [inaudible] very much. So I don’t know if
that experience — if it’s meaningful. It’s meaningful without actually
meaning any particular thing, right? It’s like meaningful
in this very primal way that I think it feeds some kind
of desire for mass experience that we rarely are offered.>>Clinton Yates:
I think [inaudible] in a point there’s some — I’m not really sure this
answers the question, just something I thought
I wanted to highlight because of the sort of the
dichotomy of the situation. But a couple of years ago
when there were riots, I’m using air quotes for
those of you listening on YouTube, in Baltimore. They always played a
game where they locked up the entire stadium. They didn’t let anybody
into the ballpark and they played a Major
League Baseball Game. And I remember thinking at
the time — I was at the game. And I remember thinking, because
there was probably 50 people there covering the game, which was another super
bizarre element of this. But I remember thinking at the
time like we have really failed as a nation on a lot of fronts if we’re legitimately playing
baseball games in front of nobody for the sake — [ Applause ] You hear what I’m saying? Like for the sake of
the game continuing, but the actual experience being
robbed because of some concern about something that may or may not happen
outside of the ballpark. And it was eerie
on a lot of levels. And to the O’s credit, this year
they’ve instituted this thing where you can bring your
kids to the ballpark for free if they’re under 10. And you can sit up in the crowd
because nobody’s there anyway. And so [laughter] I just — I mean I’m not saying
— it’s not a knock. I mean that’s a legitimate way
to get people in the ballpark. And the reason I bring
that up is because it was such a stark contrast of
how, in the same place, different experiences can
be so different and can make such a profound impact
on a community. And I remember talking
to people, you know, around the ballpark on what
I called the Ghost Game, and they were mad. They were like who
does this, you know? And now, you know, Camden Yards
is one of the nicest ballparks in America, and I just —
to me I — it was very — an interesting example
of the evolution of what I think it kind of
needs to be like, you know, a lot of people [inaudible]
ballpark and people will like their sport more. Like that’s pretty obvious. And to me that’s a large part of the experience is the biggest
patch of grass that a lot of people are ever going
to see in their lives in one place, you know? And [inaudible] people
should experience that.>>Rob Ruck: You know I think
that this thing about sports is when you’re playing it yourself,
when you’re participating. The next best thing
is when those who are competing are people
you know and care about. We get further and
further removed until we become these consumers
primarily on TV or on our phone or something, of people who
live in different zip codes. And I think if you flip it
historically with baseball, between World War I and
World War II there were 4- or 500 independent baseball
teams in Western Pennsylvania. The two Negro League
teams, you had the Pirates. But the independent sandlot and community teams drew
far more people each week than the professional clubs. And a lot of the people who
were playing were people who were playing into
their 40s or 50s, and 40 or 50 was relatively old. And they were playing
in the neighborhood where people could walk to
work, walk there after work, throw some money
in a passing hat, and either see people
they cared about or be a part of the action. And that to me is when sport
provides the most community. I think we’ve gotten several
steps removed from that.>>Meghan Ferriter: I want
to pick up on something that you mentioned
earlier, Clinton. And you and Jordan had a
little bit of a conversation about this, about some of the greatest players
playing before integration, and also the ways that — so we’ve got a couple of
press cuttings [inaudible]. I only have two more questions. This is the second to last. So this is a question that’s
about what types of patterns that you’ve seen in history,
Rob and Clinton and Jordan. And maybe you’re thinking about
the numbers and what types of — what would you think is the
most important type of statistic or form of playing baseball or
pattern from players in the past that we’ve lost in today’s game?>>Clinton Yates: Math Man.>>Jordan Ellenberg: Oh. I mean, if he means — if
you really mean statistic, then I think the answer
is nothing I can — just statistical richness with which we understand
the sport today is just like vastly greater than it
was in any point in the past. So I actually think we
have everything we had in the past and like –>>Meghan Ferriter: Then
the numbers are consistent over time –>>Jordan Ellenberg:
And that’s my point.>>Meghan Ferriter: — and
other things have changed.>>Jordan Ellenberg: I mean,
well, apart from the fact that, you know, as Clinton brought
up, there was like differences in playing conditions like
literally who was allowed to play and who the competition
was and who was pitching to you. So that, obviously, is something
that you have to do separately from a numerical computation. But I think, you know, the
age of statistics that sort of really gets started in like
the late ’70s, early ’80s. Like when Bill James
goes big and sort of makes this a mass
market thing.>>Clinton Yates: Does everybody
here know who Bill James is? Is like that’s just
a [inaudible]. I mean –>>Jordan Ellenberg: I’m leaving that people don’t
who Bill James is. I’m [inaudible].>>Clinton Yates: Why is that? I mean I –>>Jordan Ellenberg: Bill James
is the guy who brought kind of modern statistical
analysis of baseball. People were doing it, but Bill
James was the person who was like I can sell my books in
the B. Daltons and Waldenbooks. And maybe nobody knows
what B. Dalton [inaudible].>>Clinton Yates: We got
further away [laughter].>>Jordan Ellenberg: I’m the — like he was the guy who had
the kind of quixotic belief that like I can make this
like a mass market thing. And now, you know, you go
to Miller Park in Milwaukee. There’s like OPS and WHIP
like on the scoreboard, on the big Diamond Vision. It’s like right there
for everybody to see. I did not think I would see
that happen in my lifetime.>>Clinton Yates: Right.>>Jordan Ellenberg:
And I’m of the party — maybe it’s obvious
that I would be — who thinks that’s an
unalloyed good for baseball. I don’t think that
replaces our fandom with spreadsheets
or number crunching. I think it just adds;
it doesn’t subtract.>>Clinton Yates:
I’m really interested to hear what you think about
this in terms of the way that this statistical
forms of baseball has sort of overtaken — I
mean, you know, between launching
[inaudible] and [inaudible] and all this other stuff. Like I imagine this is not
very popular in your world.>>Rob Ruck: Well, I
stopped understanding math after Woodstock [laughter],
and a lot of other things.>>Jordan Ellenberg: Wow. What did you take [laughter]?>>Rob Ruck: You know the —
when you look at all the stats, you just don’t have
that for Black Baseball.>>Clinton Yates: Right.>>Rob Ruck: You don’t have
that for the Caribbean. You’re using a ball which
would have been thrown out if, you know, it was scratched or hit the ground
once in the majors. These guys might have played
most of a game with it. They’re playing with
terrible lighting on fields that are not going to
give you a true hump. So the statistical stuff for
that era mean little to me. You know that Joe DiMaggio
can say Satchel Paige is the toughest pitcher he ever
faced, or when I would talk about the Negro Leagues
in Western Pennsylvania and have guys who played
for their coalminer team, white guys, stand up and
tell me how proud they were that Josh Gibson hit
a home run off them.>>Clinton Yates: Right.>>Rob Ruck: That
resonates with me. You know, the stuff
you see in box scores from those days —
it’s shaky stuff.>>Clinton Yates: Right. And when I watch a
game now, I mean, the fun part is the stat — I mean the stats are part
of the game and the context of it is part of the notation,
it is part of the record. Like I said, I keep
score at games so that — that’s sort of different
than statistics, obviously. But, you know, that’s just — that’s a part of the
game that I’m not going to say I don’t care about
because that’s not true. But it is not — it is
behind the action, you know? And that’s, that’s — but
that’s also why it’s cool, because you never — you know, you don’t remember
these things, you know. That’s what they’re there for. But, you know, the most
important stat to me is always when everybody forgets about
votes, which is runs scored. The player who scores
the most runs on a team is typically the best
player on the team [laughter], just so you know that. Yeah.>>Jordan Ellenberg: Actually,
can I — I could have — I want to — can I follow
up on that question, too?>>Meghan Ferriter:
You may, of course.>>Jordan Ellenberg: Am I
allowed to like usurp –>>Meghan Ferriter: Of course.>>Jordan Ellenberg:
— momentarily. Okay. Because I think when I
think about what’s different about the way the fans
today experience baseball — I don’t think, actually, the
new regime of statistics makes that much different in how. I think, as you say, when
people are watching them when they watch the game is does
the guy cross the plate or not. And that’s what they’re
watching. But what I think is truly
different is to the extent that people’s interaction
with the business of the sport is part
of their fandom. I mean, then you brought
it up when you talked about how it has become
more distant and more of a consumer operation. I mean, it kind of blows my
mind that my son, he’s 12, he loves playing baseball
games on his phone. And he has one game where
he’s like the hitter and a little pitch comes
and then he sort of tries to hit the phone
at the right time to make the bat hit the ball. But he has another game
where he’s like the GM of a baseball team
and he has like — he thinks of both of those as
baseball games on the phone. You know what I mean? And I do think that
for this generation of fans thinking okay, like, how many compensatory draft
picks am I going to get if I trade this player
at this time? It’s part of what they’re
thinking about, not just like is that third baseman
going to like –>>Clinton Yates: Right.>>Jordan Ellenberg:
— be able to like get over [inaudible]
to make that play.>>Clinton Yates: Yeah.>>Jordan Ellenberg: That’s
a little bit foreign to me. And to me, I think that — and
I’m curious what you guys think about that as — in terms of
this next generation of fandom.>>Clinton Yates: The
League Manager is sort of what you’re referring to. And there’s games that are
based solely on that, you know, where you’re not even playing
— like video games, you know, like actual consoles, you know,
where that’s all you’re doing. That — I don’t need
that personally. I mean, that’s not a knock. And I just — I just don’t –>>Jordan Ellenberg: This is like the old man
portion of the program.>>Clinton Yates: Oh, no. I mean [laughter] –>>Jordan Ellenberg: He’s
worried about the [inaudible].>>Clinton Yates: I mean
I — well, to be fair, I’d say the reason I don’t do
it, because I’m not smart enough to get a handle on it. I mean, that’s what
it comes down to. I mean, at the end of
the day I like playing because that was the easy part. Figuring out all this other
nonsense was hard, you know. So, that’s not for me.>>Meghan Ferriter: Okay, one
last question and I’m going to connect it back to our
Collections at the Library. We recently digitized
Branch Rickey’s papers and released them, so
anyone can explore them. And we heard a lot of
feedback publicly from people who were surprised and
excited to see different kinds of information within
the scouting reports and correspondence. And my question is,
what is an enduring myth that you think you would
like to either dispel or you recently myth-busted
yourself about baseball?>>Rob Ruck: Hmph.>>Clinton Yates:
Interesting question.>>Meghan Ferriter: You
can take your time today.>>Clinton Yates: Well, I
think a story worth noting about Branch Rickey that
may not necessarily go into the myth context
though, is that — I’m not going to say that integrating baseball was
not the most important thing that he did, because
I don’t believe that. But people don’t know
that Branch Rickey tried to start a third league like
the — there was a whole — it was the National League,
there was the American League, and he tried to start
the Continental League. And I — part like
— I always think about what would have
happened if that had been real. You know what I’m saying? Like he had managed to –>>Meghan Ferriter: That
sounds like a great pilot.>>Meghan Ferriter: — if he
had managed to pull that off, like we’re just some
third league where the big leagues were
now, you know — there was — I don’t know, insert
15 more cities where there were just
Big League Teams now. That would have gotten
sort of subsumed into the large [inaudible]. I think about that all the
time in terms of who he was because it was more — like he
wasn’t just some dude trying to get, you know, one
brother into the big’s. That wasn’t what he was. He was a totally larger
baseball mind in terms of so many different
things for a business and a growth standpoint. And that oddly gets
forgotten a lot, you know, which understandably — obviously Jackie Robinson’s
importance to America and, you know, baseball is huge, and Branch Rickey’s
involvement, and that was major. But that dude was much
bigger than that in terms of the specificity of the
sport and trying to grow it on an expansion level
in terms of [inaudible].>>Rob Ruck: Not to pile on
Branch too much, but you know, I think whoever described
him as the person who taught Machiavelli the
strike zone was on the money. And, you know, I thought
you were going to talk about the fact he built
a farm system in the ’20s which monopolized
hundreds of kids –>>Clinton Yates: Right.>>Rob Ruck: — for
the Cardinals. You know, Branch Rickey gets a
lot of credit, and I think a lot of it has been demolished
for integration. He’s not doing it over
a social conscience –>>Clinton Yates: Right.>>Rob Ruck: — question. He’s doing it to monopolize
talent, win championships, and improve the bottom line. And, you know, to me a more
interesting proposition would be, what if they had brought in Negro League Clubs
in the late ’40s? And the Negro League
Clubs, after integration –>>Clinton Yates: Yeah.>>Rob Ruck: — which witnessed
their fanbase crumble overnight, petitioned Major
League Baseball — bring us in as a
high minor league. And [inaudible] didn’t
even answer. And you could, you know
— if that had happened, then you wouldn’t have the
Al Campanis Movement in 1987 where there’s no black managers,
GMs, front office, or ownership. We’re a little bit better
now, but not all that much.>>Clinton Yates:
Not by much at all.>>Meghan Ferriter:
Well, thank you so much for chatting with
me exclusively. Let’s open up to
questions here in the room. Oh, we got one right
there, enthusiastic. So we have some microphones
for you to bring around.>>Rob Ruck: Water?>>Clinton Yates: Ah,
yes, please [inaudible].>>All right. Charles Martin. Thanks to Rob Ruck
again for your blurb on my book,Lawyerball. I’d like to make a statement and a proposal regarding
this stultifying conformity of baseball, the existential
turning point of baseball. I suggest that they
have the same — they relate to the same problem,
and they have the same solution which is that baseball,
thanks to the Major Leagues and to the Congress in
whose library we’re sitting, is one of the few
legal, economic cartels. And Mr. Yates, the Continental
League would never have succeeded because baseball would
have used its 1922 Supreme Court Exemption in the
Anti-Trust Laws to kill it. This is how economic
cartels behave. They do no innovate. They kill competition. And the way to solve the
existential problem of people like Rob Ruck no longer enjoying
going to baseball games, baseball games taking three
hours, kids not knowing who Mazeroski and other people
in history are is competition. You introduce competition,
you will save the game. The game is great. It’s hard to kill. But Major League Baseball and Congress are doing
their best to kill it.>>Clinton Yates: Is
this where we applaud? [ Applause ]>>Hi, this is Gates Ward. I was just wondering
if you ever think that we’ll see a woman play in a non-exhibition Major
League Baseball Game?>>Rob Ruck: No.>>Clinton Yates: And I
think the reason for that is because I would rather just
watch women play baseball against other women than I would
necessarily some, you know, notion of egalitarianism
through competing against men. I like have a huge issue
with that on a lot of levels, mainly just because — for example, Serena Williams is
my favorite athlete of all time. Do I think she’s the greatest
tennis play of all time. People like, you mean
for women, right? And I’m like, dog, that’s
not — first of all, no. And, secondarily, that’s
not what that is, you know? And I would like to see
more opportunities for women to play baseball, period. And if it has to come only in
the world, in the framework of doing it against a man,
that’s a major problem for me. [ Applause ]>>Questions relating
to the exhibit stairs. The first question is, the
exhibit really focused a lot on the evolution of baseball and I was wondering what
the panel’s position was on the current changes
in the baseball rules, whether it be raising the
mound, as what, 20 years ago or introducing the DH,
or even the new rules that they’re trying
to speed up the game by introducing differing things. As a historian or as
an ESPN commentator or as a mathematician
or statistician, how does that change the game
each time they introduce a new rule, or does it change the
game for the better or worse?>>Jordan Ellenberg: I mean, I’ll just say this
as a mathematician. I value elegance a lot,
and I think this concept of having a runner start on second base is the most
cockamamie thing I’ve ever heard [laughter]. I can’t even say that it would
make the game better or worse. It’s just ugly. And I don’t like ugliness. So I oppose it on that ground.>>Clinton Yates:
I went to a game in Nashville probably a month
ago, and if you don’t know this, in AAA they’ve got pitch clocks. It’s — what is it? It’s 30 seconds between batters,
15 seconds between pitches, 20 if there’s a runner on base. And, okay, you know,
like whatever. Conceptually do I have
any problem with this? And I realized that my
only issue with it was that there’s clocks
on the field. And like the huge cool
part about baseball is that there’s no dang old clocks. And it’s like the whole point. And there’s like three
or four clocks around, so there’s this sort of constant
countdown happening in your mind which was a little bothersome. But then they played
nine innings for like seven runs in the game. That bad boy was over in like
two hours and 15 minutes. I was like, whoa, okay. Like maybe I can kind
of deal with this. And so I’m not really sure because on the surface
it’s annoying, but it worked, you know? It kept it moving. And if that’s what your goal
is for baseball, then, sure. But my position on this has
always been that it’s the nature of the game, batted balls and so
forth, that what happens on — during the course of the
game is what changes people’s excitement, not just
the length of time. Inserting seven dudes between
the sixth and the ninth for [inaudible] is annoying,
you know what I mean. Like that’s, that is
far more aggravating than just the amount
of time it takes. Instead you’re constantly
stopping and starting, and what you’re getting
isn’t action. It’s not, in fact,
that exciting. That to me is a larger issue
than people don’t actually like what’s happening, not
necessarily how long it’s taking in any amount of time.>>Meghan Ferriter: Have we — have time I think for
— oh, sorry, Jordan.>>Jordan Ellenberg: No,
that’s okay [inaudible].>>Meghan Ferriter: One
more question if it’s quick, and maybe another
one after that.>>Okay. I’ll try
to make this quick. Do you think that the owners’
preoccupation with making money in the Major Leagues especially
has limited the availability for families, and obviously
it has, to go to the game? But the importance
of going to the game, having the same experience as
somebody like me that grew up and is 50 years old now,
would go to the game and end up behind Home Plate even
though I bought a ticket out in the outfield. And now if you try to go to
it and do that now and have that same experience of actually
hearing the communication between the dugouts and
the umpires and the batters and stuff is just — you
don’t have the same experience when you go to the
game and you go with family of four to a game.>>Jordan Ellenberg: I’ll say
there’s one thing I think modern baseball is doing right, and I’m
interested to hear your takes, too, is that I think the modern
baseball stadium, the cheap, faraway seats are really good. And that was not true when I
used to go to Memorial Stadium as a kid in Baltimore. I got to Miller Park now and
I go to Camden Yards now. I buy an — I mean, I like to
buy an expensive seat sometimes, show off my kids, whatever. But like I — if I sit in
the bleachers it’s still — you really feel in the game, and
think it was way that was not as true in the older stadiums. So in that one respect I
actually think they’re doing more to equalize the
experience [inaudible] more, and people [inaudible] less.>>Clinton Yates: That’s
an excellent point. I hadn’t ever really
though of it that way, which is that the
stratification between the best and the worse is not
necessarily that different. You know what I mean? I hate sitting behind the plate. For me it’s a bad
view, and I’m not — you know, you’re
looking through a net. Like I don’t actually
like that seat. But I do think there’s
something to be said about the family experience. But, I mean, when I
go to baseball games, like I really kind
of only see families. Like I don’t — you know, I’m not really sure what the
other side of that complaint is because while, yes, it
is extremely expensive in the basic context of the
value of a dollar, like I don’t like — I don’t know who
else is going to ballgames. You know what I’m saying? It’s not like people are
just walking off the street that much necessarily
outside of, you know, random businessmen specials or
whatever, which, by the way, I still never understand. Like businessmen’s specials. Like what — why is it called
that, you know what I mean? Is it dudes leaving their aunt? Like what is this, you know? That’s such an —
[inaudible] integrated terms. That is an integrated one. But I guess what I’m saying — that there is still a lot of
families going to ballparks and, you know, without delving
into the intense economics of why it costs so much
to go to games, you know, it’s still a fun experience. And that to me is
hard to evaluate. Like if you don’t like
it, you don’t like it. But if you go there, you’re probably going
to have a good time. And that to me is, I guess, effectively the most
important thing overall. No? I mean is that —
does that make sense?>>Rob Ruck: I would
just add that I think that the smart franchises in the smart sports
are cultivating kids, and building them as fans. And I’ve seen the Penguins
do that in Pittsburgh by making a large block
of tickets available at moderate prices
to college students and the success of
the team itself. But you know I think,
for example, in the Dominican Republic, where
you go to some [foreign words] and before a game you
see 30 or 40 kids seated on the outfield walls
with poles with nets at the end to try to snag balls. And they become lifelong
fans in the process.>>Meghan Ferriter: Great. I think we will wrap up here. I want to thank everyone for
joining us in person and also on the livestream, and
especially thank Jordan, Clinton, and Rob for spending
the afternoon with us. If you are watching, we will
be archiving the livestream and make that available to you. We encourage you to
visit the [inaudible]. What’s that?>>Jordan Ellenberg:
The [inaudible].>>Meghan Ferriter: The
[inaudible] on YouTube. We also encourage you
to visit the exhibit if you haven’t seen it yet. And I think I will pass back
over to Abbey to wrap us up here in this event.>>Rob Ruck: Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Abigail Potter:
Well, thank you so much. That was such a great
conversation. I wish it could be hours
longer, but [inaudible]. I don’t know. It would be [inaudible]. The Tigers. Transition year. It’s fine [laughter].>>And decade.>>Abigail Potter: But this is
just a very short wrap-up just to thank everybody that
came, thank everybody from the JSTOR Team
who’s still around, who really made this week
very — just packed with — I want to use baseball idioms,
and I just can’t think of them. But it was a really,
really wonderful week, and I think this conversation
just put a big exclamation point on it, and I just
want to thank everyone for coming and tuning in. And thank you, Megan,
for moderating that nice conversation. [ Applause ] And go see a baseball game. And go to the Library. Okay.>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at

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