“The Sum Total Of Our Historic Life.”

On April 7, 1889, American poet Walt Whitman and his friend Horace Traubel had this conversation.

Whitman said to his friend, “Did you see the baseball boys are home from their tour around the world? How I’d like to meet them — talk with them: maybe ask them some questions.” Traubel replied, “Baseball is the hurrah game of the republic!”

Whitman responded, “That’s beautiful: the hurrah game! Well — it’s our game: that’s the chief fact in connection with it: America’s game: has the snap, go, fling, of the American atmosphere — belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.”

“Is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.”

That’s what makes baseball beautiful. Not today’s games – of which there will be many – not yesterday’s – and not, especially, the one last night that the Orioles let get away (again).

Not any one, but the sum total of them.

The hurrah game. It’s who we are, isn’t it? Or, who we wish to be.

Dorthea Lange, the famed photographer who, better than anyone, documented the Great Depression, took this photo in Cedar Grove, North Carolina (about 20 miles north of Chapel Hill).

Public Domain, Library of Congress #LC-USF34-020008-E

The photograph’s title at the Library Congress, and the title that I am going to believe Lange gave this photo herself, reads:

“Rural filling station becomes community center and general grounds for loafing. The men in baseball suits are on a local team which will play a game nearby. The team is called the Cedargrove Team.”

The community center and men in baseball suits photo was taken by Lange on July 4, 1939.

May your Fourth of July be hopeful. May there be a Hurrah Game for you. And, may your team, dressed in their best baseball suits, win.


15 thoughts on ““The Sum Total Of Our Historic Life.”

  1. Happy Independence Day! And justice draws near as it appears Nick Markakis will be elected to start the All Star Game (with more votes than Bryce Harper, and this year most deservedly so). Nick has emerged this year as leader of a team winning despite low expectations, a true professional, yet unafraid to challenge team management. Braves and Orioles fans have worked together to achieve this long-denied recognition for an exceptional star baseball player.

    • Nick is one of my all-time favorites … and the Orioles broke my heart when they didn’t re-sign him. We watch Braves games when we can just to cheer him on (and his brother-in-law and another former Oriole, Ryan Flaherty, too). And, I was pleased when the Braves broadcasters called Nick “Old Reliable” the other night because that’s what I always called him. (I hope you saw the story on Nick in the NYT last week … there’s a link on my Twitter feed if you didn’t.)

      Even in his younger, more athletic days he rarely dived and made those “OMG Play of the Day” catches. Why? Because he has the uncanny ability to be properly positioned and would make a difficult catch look easy. I always joked that Nick hated to get his uniform dirty. But, I think he has this ho-hum playing appearance which is simply a reflection of how good he is.

      I was going to boycott the All-Star game this year because a) the O’s are so stinky this season, and b) the game is in Washington as a punishment to Baltimore where it was supposed to be played. But, Nick overrides both those negatives. Yay!

  2. Hope you had a glorious 4th, Bloggess. Despite the all too familiar results today by the O’s, and the Twins, and even the Giants (who have shown some respectability), your post reminds me to consider the bigger picture. One of either the Yankees or the Red Sox will not play in the World Series. Possibly even both. Gotta take your Schadenfreude where you find it. 😁 And “Baseball is the hurrah game of the republic” is positively sublime. Thank-you!

    • Exactly … there has to be a bigger picture, right? Although I still watch the stumbling Orioles, even when things look horrible, because I still have this Pollyanna belief that maybe — maybe — they’ll turn it around. Down 3 runs, two outs in the 9th, down to their last strike? I still believe … I still believe … I still believe. I hope you had a nice 4th of July too … oppressively hot here in Virginia. :)

  3. I had to reread this as some how this really resonated with me! I just had it swirling I, there and all I could think of was that tv show the Waltons! How life is a small snapshot best taken at a general store that has everything. And then baseball being interwoven into many of our lives. It stays, it becomes a part of you. Thank you and I sure hope your 5th brings a win for you.

    • I find Dorthea Lange’s photos to be so beautiful and so evocative. She was such an extraordinary artist who documented an era, a culture, and a country so perfectly. And, that photo says so much.

      We were up to see the Orioles last week … both were losses. But, it was still fun. It was still baseball. It’s more than just the score. Although to win a few — just a few — would be even better … :)

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