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"It's Baseball, Ray!": Baseball and America's Culture, Values, and Aspirations

Evening Program

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Monday, July 20, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1K0014
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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("America on Stone" Lithography Collection/National Museum of American History)


  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
  • For multiple registrations, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses.

“Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.” —Jacques Barzun, French-American social commentator, 1954

After being delayed and jeopardized by the coronavirus, the 2020 Major League Baseball season is finally set to open July 23. With just 60 games and some unique rules, it will be a decidedly different one, but as the sport has shown since it took root in the 19th century, baseball has the power to bring Americans together, as it did during the Great Depression and the Second World War.

Presenter and avid fan Jack Marshall offers the perfect season warm-up: an interactive, wide-ranging program that offers fans and non-fans alike a chance to deepen their appreciation for the game that has profoundly affected every corner of American life.

Baseball has always reflected wider aspects of our society: the battle with corruption, the drug culture (a pitcher once threw a no-hitter on LSD), labor relations, and the law.  Most significantly, the game played a leading role in the integration of American society thanks to a heroic athlete, Jackie Robinson, who knew he would only be successful if he were not merely good but great. More recently, a scandal involving technology-based sign stealing focused the national debate about complex ethical and legal issues that reach far beyond baseball.

It’s also been a catalyst for less weighty developments in the culture. No sport has had as strong an influence on our legends, folklore, mores, and entertainment than the National Pastime. It inspired one of our most familiar songs and its greatest comedy routine. It dominates the field of inspiring sports movies and has added metaphors and expressions that have become part of America’s distinctive language.

Baseball has given us icons, heroes, villains, and eccentrics, a U.S. Senator and the TV star of “The Rifleman.” Most of all, it has given us stories—shocking, funny, inspiring, and tragic—and Marshall guarantees you haven’t heard all the best ones.

Marshall is an ethicist, lawyer, author, and inventor of a baseball trivia game called Pennant Pursuit who has spent a lifetime studying, watching, and suffering with the game (he’s a Boston Red Sox fan).

Patron Information

  • Once registered, patrons will receive two emails: one is an automatic email confirmation and the second will include a link to the Zoom webinar as a follow-up (usually given within 24 hours of registration).
  • NOTE: If you do not receive your follow-up email from Zoom, please email Customer Service for assistance.


Smithsonian Connections

In the future, the Postal Museum will open a blockbuster exhibition of stamps and artifacts titled Baseball: America’s Home Run.

For decades before they got an official league of their own in the 1940s, women were playing baseball—often against men—in “Bloomer Girl” teams. covers some of the colorful history of the era, including a particularly rowdy local game in 1913 during which the “girls” playing at Capitol Hill’s Union Field were discovered to be men.