It's a Great Day for a Ball Game!
Updated: Jan 26, 2021
UPDATE (1/26/21): Thanks for the interest I've received in getting your own copy of the map! I'm currently accepting pre-orders while I work through a few legal considerations prior to a public sale. Send me a note if you'd like to be added to the pre-order list: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I've long had a love for the sport of baseball. I played all through my growing up years—t-ball, parent pitch, Little League, the whole deal. Love for a game doesn't always translate into skill, however, so when I didn't make the high school baseball team in 9th grade, that was more or less the end of my playing career (other than some occasional softball games). But I still follow the game closely and enjoy watching baseball—especially live. Now, I have been able to combine one love with another: maps.
My sister has, perhaps, a deeper love for baseball than I do. She has a personal goal to visit all Major League ballparks. As her birthday approached last year, her husband wanted a baseball map that would allow her to mark each stadium that she has attended. He poked around online and didn't see anything that suited his interest, so he asked if he could commission one from me. As we chatted about the requirements for the map, he made one thing clear. He wanted it to be something that he or my sister could catch something new every time they walked by it.
Here's what I came up with:
Some of the details were really fun for me to research and create. Let me share a few.
Many teams have been through a lot, including new cities and new names. I wanted to have a little history of each team on the map, so under each current team name are all of its historical names. Some of them are quite unique. The Pittsburgh Pirates began as the Alleghenys but were called "piratical" in 1890 after they lured a highly regarded player away from another team. Apparently team owners embraced the moniker and the team has been the Pirates ever since! Some team names, however, haven't lasted the test of time. They include the Perfectos (St. Louis, 1899), Bluebirds (Cleveland, 1901), Superbas (Brooklyn, now Los Angeles, 1899-1910), and the Orphans (Chicago, 1908-1912). The Cincinnati Reds have had their name since 1890, except for a brief hiatus in the 1950s when they changed their name to the Redlegs to avoid association with the Communist Red Scare.
Other teams have switched cities—some more than once. The New York Yankees started as the Baltimore Orioles. The Baltimore Orioles started as the Milwaukee Brewers and then became the St. Louis Browns. The Milwaukee Brewers started as the Seattle Pilots. The Washington Senators had two tries in the Capital, but ended up instead as the Minnesota Twins and the Texas Rangers. The Atlanta Braves started in Boston before moving to Milwaukee for 13 seasons and then south to Atlanta. The Athletics also had two cities they called home—Philadelphia and Kansas City—before they settled in Oakland.
Four infographics relate important tales of the game: the ball, the bat, and the field.
"Anatomy of a Baseball" dissects a Major League baseball. Each ball is made to specific regulations in Costa Rica. Considering that the average number of baseballs used per Major League game is 100+, that's a lot of baseballs to churn out! They're made mostly by machines now—except for the 108 red seam stitches. Those are still done by hand. (If you try to count them, you'll probably count 106, because two are hidden under the cover.) The core is cork surrounded by two layers of rubber, three layers of wool, one layer of cotton, and a cowhide cover. The last step for getting a ball game ready, however, is to rub it down and deshine it with mud mined from public land in New Jersey. (Here are some great reads about baseball construction: Smithsonian Magazine, Bleacher Report, and Supply Chain X. And a "How It's Made" video—I love these!)
"Anatomy of a Field" is a small education on baseball field dimensions and player positions. Few sports allow their playing fields to have varying dimensions and strange quirks like flagpoles in the playing field (Houston's Minute Maid Park until 2016) or a 37-foot-tall wall you have to get over to hit home runs (Boston's Green Monster at Fenway Park). Distances between bases and between the pitcher's mound and home plate, however, are standard from field to field. Player positions each carry a number one through nine that is used as shorthand on scorecards. For example, a "6-4-3 double play" started with the shortstop, who threw it to the second baseman (touching second base for one out) who then threw it to the first baseman (touching first base for the second out). In a nod to my sister's fandom for the Chicago Cubs, the field portrayed is Wrigley Field.
"Anatomy of a Bat" shares baseball rules on bats. They must be made of one solid piece of wood no longer than 42 inches and not more than 2.61 inches around at the widest point. There are no minimum or maximum weight requirements. Most current major leaguers swing bats made of maple, ash, or birch about 34 inches long and weighing 32 ounces. "Big Bats," however, tells the story of variations to the norm. Babe Ruth swung some enormous bats, some reportedly more than 50 ounces. Not every hall-of-famer thought bigger was better. Tony Gwynn preferred smaller, lighter bats.
World Series Victors
Along the top of the map is a timeline of every World Series participant since its inception in 1903. The New York Yankees have the most total victories by a landslide. Their 27 victories are almost three times the St. Louis Cardinals, who are second with 11. One team (Mariners) has yet to ever make it to the World Series and five other teams (Brewers, Padres, Rangers, Rays, Rockies) have been but never won.
Woven between the team locations, names, and infographics, are statistics of the best players to step onto a baseball field. Hitting statistics include career leaders in home runs, batting average, RBIs (runs batted in), hits, and OPS (on-base plus slugging percentages). Pitching statistics include career leaders in wins, losses, strikeouts, saves, and game score. Players with the most MVPs are noted, as are single season leaders in various hitting and pitching categories. Four notable general managers also have a section. Notably, Major League baseball indicated in December 2020 that Negro League records from 1920 to 1948 would be incorporated into Major League records, so that will probably lead to some adjustments.
Set in the background of the map are images of famous ballplayers and fields. Players in the background include Ty Cobb, Ernie Banks, Jackie Robinson, Joe Jackson, Honus Wagner. Ballparks include Fenway Park (Red Sox), Turner Field (Braves), Oracle Park (Giants), Rogers Centre (Blue Jays) and Wrigley Field (Cubs). Also included in the background is a program from the 1911 World Series, the box score from the Cubs' 2016 World Series victory, the Wrigley Field manual scoreboard, and the sheet music for "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" next to former Cubs announcer Harry Caray, who would sing the song every 7th inning stretch.
The map was designed to be printed in a variety of dimensions. Its full size is a 4:5 ratio (such as 16x20 inches), but the top and bottom can be cropped without losing critical detail in order to fit a ratio of 3:4 (18x24 inches) or 2:3 (20x30 inches or 24x36 inches).
Other Fun Things
The map has a few other fun details. The legend is based on Wrigley Field's manually operated scoreboard. The clock on top of the scoreboard is set to 1:20, the typical time for a day game at Wrigley Field. My sister's version also had personal photos collaged into the background of her with family members at various ballparks. Favorite baseball quotes find their way into the map: "Let's play two!" from Ernie Banks, "It ain't over 'til it's over" from Yogi Berra, and "There may be people who have more talent than you, but there's no excuse for anyone to work harder than you" from Derek Jeter. In fact, the title of the map is also a quote from Ernie Banks, "It's a great day for a ball game!" And it certainly is!