Innings and Outs with Mark Sigmon, on the History of Baseball
By Lateisha Howe
What do Ronald Regan and baseball have in common? Plus is it cheating if a player yells racist taunts? And do you actually believe the Astros won the 2017 World Series or did they cheat? San Francisco State Historian Mark Sigmon takes you on an enjoyable virtual history lesson of America’s favorite game called Gators Talkin Baseball 2022.
Baseball is one of America’s national pastimes, but where did it come from? “Nobody really invented the game of baseball, but Alexander Cartwright one day in 1845 sat down and wrote down the rules. And the rules were 42 paces from home to second base, and 42 paces from first to third. That works out to 90 feet per base. So it goes all the way back to the original rules of the game,” said Sigmon on the changing rules of baseball.
The annual Gators Talkin Baseball event happened virtually this year was a pleasant interactive Zoom lecture of all things baseball. Even those who are not sports fans would find Sigmon’s historical facts on the game a breath of fresh air as he weaves in ethical questions and past presidents to the game of baseball and life.
What does former President Ronal Regan have to do with baseball? Did you know that before Regan was president, and before he was an actor, he worked in radio.
“He had a job doing recreated baseball. He was at a dinky little radio station in Des Moines, Iowa and would pretend like he was at Wrigley Field at the Chicago Cubs game,” said Sigmon.
Ronald Reagan would reconstruct the game,” Sigmon continued, “And he would sort of make up oh, strike one strike two. And he’s creating this illusion that he’s at the ballpark. But for Reagan, it was important to him, he wanted to keep the illusion alive, wanted to keep this myth and as long as he could keep spinning it.
“The 80s were very much sort of like that,” Sigmon said. “I think Reagan’s idea of keeping the illusion alive, kind of reflects what his presidency was like, a lot and that kind of brings me to today’s society and how baseball reflects today’s society.”
With a reflection on today’s society through baseball, Sigmon presents an ethical question on racial slurs. “Ty Cobb leads off the game for the Tigers. He gets a base hit. He’s standing on first base, he looks down at the shortstop and he’s saying, hey, crowd head, I’m coming for you. So he uses a racial slur because Wagner was German American,” Sigmon said.
“Is it cheating to yell at your opponent and use a racial slur to kind of insult him and throw him off his game? Or is that unsportsmanlike? Or within the rules? Or is that just you know, gamesmanship?” Sigmon asked.
The hour-long event led into an exciting lecture with Sigmon stating that the Astros definitely cheated to get to the World Series. He asked the question, “Is it fair to keep steroid users out of the hall of fame?” If Sigmon was to have his own MLB team with present and past players, he believes he could beat out everyone with just building around Satchel Page, having Josh Gibson as his catcher, and Willie Mays,
While some may not agree with Sigmon on whether the Astros deserved to win or not, your best bet (even though one shouldn’t make bets in baseball), is checking out SF State’s baseball history class or attending next year’s annual Gators Talkin Baseball 2023. Now if you had a MLB team, who would you choose?