Time Traveling through Baseball’s Past

For fans of a certain British television show about a guy and his companions who travel around in a bigger on the inside blue police box, today marks the start of a very important week.

The week is important for fans of Doctor Who in that it marks the final countdown to the new season of time traveling adventures Saturday night.

In honor of the countdown to the new season of the show, I thought it would be fun to focus on time travel here as well.

In particular, the focus this week will be on time travel as it relates to baseball in the past, present and future.

Today we will start our journey through baseball time and space in the past.

Consider if you will, all of the historic moments that have occurred in baseball.

From Babe Ruth, to Shoeless Joe Jackson, to Jackie Robinson, and every player in between, baseball is full of larger than life players who for many baseball fans exist only as black and white news reel images or statistics on a page.

With Babe Ruth having made his professional debut 100 years ago, there are few people still around who were alive then, let alone old enough to have been there to witness it.

Now consider that time travel was possible, and you had the means to visit any past moment in baseball history, including the Bambino’s first game. What moments would you visit?

I have often pondered that very question and have come up with some definitive moments that given the chance I would love to see in person.

The moments are divided up into the categories of Ballparks, Ballplayers, and Ballgames.

First let us focus on the Ballparks.

Many books are dedicated to the must see sights in baseball. But what if time travel was a reality and one could visit events as they occurred instead of reading about them afterwards? Photo R. Anderson
Many books are dedicated to the must see sights in baseball. But what if time travel was a reality and one could visit events as they occurred instead of reading about them afterwards?
Photo R. Anderson

While I have had the pleasure and opportunity to visit many Ballparks, including several that have since been torn down, there are a few of the classic Ballparks that were torn down before I had the chance to see them that I would have loved to catch a game in.

With the ability to travel back to the golden age of baseball and visit any Ballpark, I would visit the Polo Grounds, Ebbett’s Field, and the first Yankee Stadium.

While many new Ballparks such as Oriole Park at Camden Yards have brought back a piece of that classic Ballpark feel, there would be nothing quite like traveling to see the ones that started it all.

It would also be fun to travel to an era where people dressed up in their Sunday best to catch a game. Although, I could probably go without the grandstands full of cigarette smoke since I am allergic.

While visiting Ballparks from the golden age would be fun, another Ballpark that I would love to visit is technically still standing but no longer hosts baseball, or much of anything else for that matter. That Ballpark is the Astrodome.

I covered a high school football game in the Astrodome. However, by the time I moved to Houston, the Astros had moved to Minute Maid Park (technically Enron Field at the time) and the days of baseball in the Dome were done.

Granted the Astrodome begat many carbon copy domed stadiums that hosted baseball in Seattle, Minnesota, and St. Petersburg. But, there would be something hard to miss about being at the very first indoor baseball game under a dome.

Whenever I find myself at Tropicana Field, I often try to picture what a culture shock it most have been for those first Houston fans to see a game without knowing what the weather was like outside or being able to see the sky.

After Ballparks, the next item to travel through time to see would be Ballplayers.

I would use my time machine to travel to see Babe Ruth play a game along with Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, and Shoeless Joe Jackson to name a few.

Speaking of Shoeless Joe, an interesting time traveler’s paradox comes into play. Would one warn Shoeless Joe and his Black Sox teammates about being banned for life for the World Series fixing scandal, or just let history go on as predicated?

While time travel in science fiction books and films often show negative results to the future through the butterfly effect whenever the past is changed, it does pose an interesting question of what one would do in that situation.

There are people who would use time travel to their benefit through betting on games when they know the outcome. However, for our purposes here, let us go with the belief that all who travel back are merely going as fly on the wall observers to soak in the events without altering the outcomes or fattening their wallets.

So, with that philosophy of observe, but don’t interfere in mind, the Chicago White Sox would still throw the World Series, just as Pete Rose decades later would still be banned from baseball for betting on games he managed.

As a certain British time traveler would say, some points in history are fixed points in time.

The third area of our journey to baseball’s past would be specific Ballgames.

From the first World Series game, to Lou Gehrig’s luckiest man alive speech, there are countless moments in Ballgames that would be worth traveling to.

For me, some of the games I would need to see in person would be when Hank Aaron broke the home run record and when Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken Jr. played their first games.

To see the start of the two longest consecutive games played streaks and to see a home run record fall would be truly historic events.

There are more Ballparks, Ballplayers and Ballgames that could be revisited given the ability to travel to any point in time. Each historic moment in baseball would be at the time traveler’s disposal to visit time and time again.

While realistically time travel to that degree will remain a mere wish and the stuff of film, television and literature, it is certainly fun to consider the big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff now and then.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get ready for travels through the present.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson