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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.

The Picture, showing the 1911 Boston Red Sox in Spring training, is from the Boston Public Library's flickr stream.

Comments

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  • Comment number 15. Posted by AandrewEe

    on 14 May 2009 07:31

    Baseball is part of the American life. However, just like any entertainment show, it is also envelope with controversy.
    Manny Ramirez seems to have controversy follow him wherever he goes. He angered and alienated fans in Boston (despite helping them to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007) and was traded in 2008 to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Well, now he'll be sitting out for a third of a season, as he has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, netting a 50 game suspension. He won't need payday loans, but he's the latest addition to a list of big names in Major League Baseball to take steroids. Oddly enough, the kind he took is used to treat female infertility. His agent had no comment, but many would get out credit cards to see Manny Ramirez suspended indefinitely.


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  • Comment number 14. Posted by Russ

    on 9 Mar 2009 21:22

    Reference response #3, could I request that Steve Bowbrick or whoever takes on the editorship of the Radio 4 blog notifies the inauguration of the new design templates in a *separate* blog post. This will facilitate discussion on the general matter of BBC blogs.

    Russ

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  • Comment number 13. Posted by kleines c

    on 9 Mar 2009 14:46

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00hxv2p/Baseball_and_Me_Episode_1/

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  • Comment number 12. Posted by Jem Stone

    on 9 Mar 2009 09:38

    @dennisjunior1 (9) The show is available via BBC iPlayer until next staturday.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00hxv2p

    Jem Stone (host)

  • Comment number 11. Posted by kleines c

    on 9 Mar 2009 08:02

    Perhaps religion is a sport, Bernie. Perhaps sport is a religion. Cheers (breakfast coffee)! :)

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  • Comment number 10. Posted by BernieR

    on 9 Mar 2009 00:07

    Thought for the Day

    I think religion should be about as important as sport in our society. It's quite similar in many ways, a fantasy, an escape from real life that some people take far too seriously.

    I would have said sport should have as much time on TV and radio as sport does. So there isn't a single sports programme on Radio 4, I hadn't realised. How many hours of religious programmes are there each week then?

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  • Comment number 9. Posted by kleines c

    on 8 Mar 2009 23:39

    I don't think that sport, or indeed music, should be banned from BBC Radio 4, although I do feel that they should be treated rather differently when they are broadcast on 4. In my opinion, Simon Schama is doing an excellent job with baseball.

    As far as Mark is concerned, I guess that this particular question raises the spectre of 'linearity', and its demise as a result of the digital revolution. Say, for example, that I am a sports fan, perhaps even baseball, so I search for baseball on the world wide web. This effectively displaces traditional broadcasters, such as the BBC, because what is relevant for me is not the broadcaster but the baseball.

    Such innovations are inevitable, Mark, but there is also inertia. Linearity is dead; long live linearity.

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  • Comment number 8. Posted by dennisjunior1

    on 8 Mar 2009 21:11

    i hope that the shows that simon schama will be provided online...

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  • Comment number 7. Posted by angelashrewsbury

    on 8 Mar 2009 16:04

    Please, no sport on R4. Why should we R4 listeners have to suffer? Is sport not well represented on R5, TalkSport, t.v. etc. etc.? Mark Damazer seems keen on a war of attrition and won't be happy until he has dumbed down R4. I am a low income single parent who doesn't speak with an RP accent and I have R4 on from dawn to dusk. It is an inspirational and aspirational station. Leave it be.

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  • Comment number 6. Posted by zowenel

    on 8 Mar 2009 15:40

    The nice thing about Radio 4 is that apart from various summaries and a lot of hoop-la when England actually wins something (and it is normally England), there is no sport. It is wonderful to have a sport-free zone. You can't MOVE for sport - usually football - on TV. If I want to watch Rugby Union, or cricket, or athletics, I know where to go; if I want to listen, then there is always Radio 5 - which I understand was created for just the purpose. But if we're not talking about live action which needs to be commented on, and just historical background stuff on a sporting activity,or personality - then provided we're not fed a surfeit of it - why not?

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