Friday 6 March 2009, 15:51
Tomorrow's programme at 1030 - Baseball and Me - presented by historian and man of letters Simon Schama took well over three years to happen. It's in two parts - the second part is in the same slot the following week. It has been a personal passion.
I knew Simon shared my mania for baseball - and in particular The Boston Red Sox - from my time as a student in Boston in the late 70s - where Simon was a junior (if already obviously destined to be senior) History Professor at Harvard. Every time I have met him since we have ended up discussing baseball with embarrassing intensity. So soon after I became Controller of Radio 4 I suggested he should register his obsession - and in addition provide a glimpse into the culture of baseball - the folklore, the literary stars who have written about it, the way it grips a large part of the USA during the summer.
Simon said yes... but this proved to be no more than an opening gambit. Getting the diary space to give this monumentally important topic (sic) the full attention that it deserves took forever - during which time the Red Sox did very well indeed. Simon was distracted by such small matters as a TV series or two on art, some academic books, a recent BBC 2 series on America, commenting on the rise of Barack Obama. (He told me about him four years ago). But finally he was lashed to the task.
The programmes - I should cheer you up - will not assume any knowledge about baseball.
There is a wider question about the role of sport on Radio 4. We should (I know) have a Radio 4-shaped sports programme. We had one for many years on Saturday mornings (Sport on 4 - presented by the estimable Cliff Morgan) but that looked odd when 5 Live was invented - and we have not really managed anything sustained since.
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