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Baseball and Me

Mark Damazer Mark Damazer 15:51, Friday, 6 March 2009


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.


  • Comment number 1.

    Sorry to make a really geeky comment but can someone have a look at the stylesheet for this page.
    The links in the list at the end aren't obvious until you mouseover them and the underline appears, unlike the ones in the paragraphs above and below which have the dotting underneath.

  • Comment number 2.

    Just unfortunate that Simon Schama's perfect coiffure is lost on radio listeners...

  • Comment number 3.

    @thegreatgonzo Thanks for pointing that out. You're right. I'll see what I can do. New design templates are due for all the BBC blogs quite soon so it may be that we have to wait a short while for this to be resolved.

    Steve Bowbrick, Editor, Radio 4 blog

  • Comment number 4.

    I should perhaps confess, Mark, that I prefer cricket to baseball, although I did listen to Simon this morning, and I rather enjoyed some of his insights. Let us call it a home run. Cheers! c.

  • Comment number 5.

    As a baseball fan (like you, Red Sox Nation, 'natch, as are the majority of UK baseball fans for reasons I can't go into here because it would involve mention of another broadcaster, and that might invoke the wrath of the moderators), I did enjoy Simon Schama's programme today. It worked, primarily, because of his infectious enthusiasm. Extrapolating this excellent example to suggest a regular 'Radio 4-shaped sports programme' could be a dangerous leap of faith however. Let's face it, Schama did the programme for Radio 4 because he's your pal and you nabbed a little gem. The serious point is, individual passions for baseball or another 'UK-minority sport' aside, I can't believe you're even considering competing with 5 Live.

    Or is there no one in overall control of BBC Radio anymore, with every station now a fiefdom in its own right?


  • Comment number 6.

    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?

  • Comment number 7.

    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.

  • Comment number 8.

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

  • Comment number 9.

    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.

  • Comment number 10.

    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?

  • Comment number 11.

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

  • Comment number 12.

    @dennisjunior1 (9) The show is available via BBC iPlayer until next staturday.

    Jem Stone (host)

  • Comment number 13.

  • Comment number 14.

    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.


  • Comment number 15.

    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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