Given America’s roots as an agrarian nation, it is appropriate that the legend of baseball’s birth begins in a Cooperstown cow pasture; Doubleday Field, just a baseball throw from the Hall of Fame, occupies the spot where the myth—long since debunked—of Abner Doubelday inventing baseball began. It provides, at the very least, a nexus between farmers and the village’s world-famous icon located at 25 Main Street.
Goose Goslin worked on his family’s farm in southern New Jersey before journeying to the major leagues, which began by playing for DuPont’s company team. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1968, Goslin retired in 1938 after 18 seasons. Among his career statistics:
- .316 batting average
- 2,735 hits
- .500 slugging percentage
The Hall of Fame web site quotes Goslin regarding his humble beginnings: “I was just a big ol’ country boy havin’ the game of my life. It was all a lark to me, just a joy ride. Never feared a thing, never got nervous, just a big country kid from South Jersey, too dumb to know better. Why I never even realized it was supposed to be big doin’s. It was just a game, that’s all it was. They didn’t have to pay me. I’d have paid them to let me play. Listen, the truth is it was more than fun. It was heaven.”
Tom Seaver tasted success with a World Series championship, three Cy Young Awards, and 311 wins. His palate presently determines quality of wine in Seaver Vineyards. In a 2005 article for the New York Times, Eric Asimov profiled Seaver’s venture. “I wanted to keep my name off it, so the wine could make its own name. My daughter said, ‘Dad, you’re not living forever. Your grandchildren will be running it one day. You’re putting your name on it,'” Seaver explained.
Carl Yastrzemski spent his formative years working on his family’s Long Island potato farm before embarking on a career spent entirely in a Red Sox uniform. He became a Boston icon, racking up:
- 3,419 hits
- .285 batting average
- 452 home runs
On Yaz Day at the end of the Red Sox slugger’s last season—1983—Yastrzemski reminded, “I’m just a potato farmer from Long Island who had some ability. I’m not any different than a mechanic, an engineer or the president of a bank.”
Ty Cobb, a member of the first Hall of Fame class, inducted in 1936, had farming in his DNA, thanks to the Cobb family farm in Georgia. Knowsouthernhistory.net reveals that the future star gained respect from his father during one summer when he worked extra hours as punishment for pawning two of his father’s books—he needed the money to fix his glove. “The fields looked good, and were growing well. For some reason, this brought about a change in the older man’s attitude toward Ty, one that the young man never forgot. W.H. began to confide in Tyrus about the market for cotton, the work animals, and the crops. Thrilled with the sudden change in treatment from his father, Ty hurried out and won himself a job at a local cotton factory. He ate up the information about growing, baling, processing, and marketing the crop and shared all that he learned with his father. In turn, the Professor was happy with the boy making an effort to mature, and their bond strengthened.”
Tragedy struck the Cobb family when Ty’s mother mistook her husband for a burglar and shot him dead. She was acquitted at trial.
In addition to Cooperstown’s farm connection, films have used farms as settings. In the 1991 film Talent for the Game, Angels scout Virgil Sweet discovers Sammy Bodeen, an Idaho farm boy. Bodeen’s promise is heightened in the public’s mind by a marketing campaign designed by Angels management. It looks to be futile when Bodeen suffers a horrible first inning in his début before settling down, thanks to Sweet, who dons catcher’s gear for the second inning and calms Bodeen with empathy in a conference on the mound without anyone else figuring out his masquerade; Sweet catches Bodeen’s first career strikeout, presumably, the first of hundreds. Thousands, perhaps.
In the 1984 film The Natural, the story of Roy Hobbs ends with a shot of him playing catch with the son of his paramour, Iris, on her farm. The poster for The Natural depicts a photo of this scene.
A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on October 14, 2016.