Major League Baseball's current advertising campaign,
"Connect with it," features a collage of images and traditional Baseball themes spliced together. Kathy Francis, MLB's Vice President for Marketing, enunciated the ad's goals:
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People mark time by baseball. . . we want to celebrate those deep connections to get fans in seats, fans buying products, corporate sponsors and more viewing of our television programs. . . . We want to turn up the flame and remind people why they're connected, or should be connected, to the game. . . . The game is all about bringing people together in many forms through personal connections, through statistics, through stories, through purchasing apparel.1

"Connect with It" underlines the game's past, linking an image of Jackie Robinson to the phrase "to your heritage," including "with history" in a rapid-fire progression of words, and equating "heaven" with black-and-white footage of Yankee Stadium backed by a scratchy radio broadcast. Yet, in trying to be all things to all people, the ad suggests a new period in Baseball, and perhaps a movement beyond the nostalgia craze of the last two decades. The cultural diversity represented -- although certainly a device to appeal to different ethnic and socio-economic groups -- also demonstrates the multiculturalism at play in today's game.

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  Fox Sports's introduction to the 2001 All-Star Game in Seattle, while similarly nodding to Baseball's relationship with its past, also relies on the multicultural make-up of the Major Leagues. While figures like Cal Ripken and Mark McGwire -- representations of a nostalgic past of white, male, blue-collar ethics -- remain vastly popular, so too are international stars like Japan's Ichiro Suzuki and the Dominican's Pedro Martinez. George Will recently noted what may be a new period in the game, and how the game is imagined:

It's been well said that the most important three things in baseball since the Second World War were Jackie Robinson, free agency for players, and the much-emulated Camden Yards in Baltimore. Now we have a fourth, and that is the internationalization of our national pastime.2

This is not to claim that Baseball has moved beyond an often dehistoricized and depoliticized imagination. Cities continue to build "new-old" ballparks and fans voraciously purchase pieces of the past. But the relationship of Baseball and its past is not beyond appraisal. An ad for ESPN's nightly newscast,
"Baseball Tonight," gently parodies James Earl Jones's monologue on continuity in Field of Dreams. The Onion not so gently satirizes the "good old days" impulse in a mock column entitled, "In My Day, Ballplayers Were For Shit."3
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It's sad. Nobody has a sense of history anymore. . . . Of course Piazza's the best! The old catchers blew! And so did the pitchers! And rightfielders, too! They all stunk! Buncha slow, fat, selfish, mean whiteys. I tell ya, they didn't used to make 'em like they do now.4

-- Herman Jacobs

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  Ichiro's introduction at the All-Star Game is perhaps a fitting indicator of where Baseball is -- a Japanese man has become an icon in America's pastime, introduced with a hip-hop soundtrack at a new nostalgic ballpark, as a computer-generated image of a black-and-white baseball card spins in the corner of the screen. At the turn of the century, Baseball finds itself in a period of hybridity and contentious contexts, grasping the past and trying to move into an indeterminate future.

Notes (click footnote number to return to text)

1 Stuart Elliot, "A Sales Pitch Tries to Connect with Fans as Baseball Season Starts," New York Times 28 March 2001: C6.
2 "This Week," ABC Television, 8 July 2001.
3 Herman Jacobs, "In My Day, Ballplayers Were For Shit," The Onion (
4 Jacobs.


#1 "Connect With It" by Major League Baseball, advertisement, ESPN, 27 June 2001.
#2 "All-Star Game," Fox Television, 10 July 2001.
#3 "Baseball Tonight," advertisement, ESPN, 3 August 2001.
#4 "Ichiro," Fox Television, 10 July 2001.