When I was a kid, I was really into the game of baseball. I couldn't play it well, as I rarely got a hit in Little League, and was always relegated to a remote position in the outfield. But I enjoyed watching the sport, following it in the news, and reading about past teams and players. This interest in baseball was much encouraged by my dad and his parents, as well as my maternal grandfather. There was some friendly rivalry between the two sides of my family over favorite teams, and the rivalry was a lot of fun.
Later in life, when I started to get into history documentaries, I liked the films of Ken Burns, and decided to try his 19-hour film on the history of American baseball. It included still photographs of nineteenth-century baseball players, and film footage of early twentieth-century players like Babe Ruth. I learned a lot about baseball history, and discovered that the history of the game was also a great prism for talking generally about American history. The series discussed themes such as the business of sports, race relations, organized labor, and sports in American culture. I think the race relations theme has been overdone by liberals to the point of obsession, but it was nonetheless interesting to learn about the life of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American baseball player to play in the Major Leagues, and I enjoyed the other themes much more.
The series was a lot of fun, and well deserved its Emmy Award. But I think it also had its uses for a business major like me, with my interest in labor and its effects on human resources. This series has a lot of labor history in it, with players' unions and even strikes; and it focuses on some of the most significant periods in American labor history. I believe the game of baseball is also an excellent place to learn about statistics; as learning about on-base percentages, slugging percentages, and earned-run averages helps to learn about debt/equity ratios, liquidity ratios, and profitability measurements.
PBS "Baseball" documentary by Ken Burns
The series also teaches much about American history and culture, and one does not have to be a sports fan to enjoy this series. Both baseball fans and general American history buffs will get much out of this series, and those who fit both categories will particularly enjoy it. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in either baseball or American history.
DVD (includes 10th Inning)
See episode descriptions
See also my list of favorite history documentaries