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Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

The following post is by Mike Buscher, head of the Reference Team in the Geography and Map Division.

This baseball postseason has been a particularly exciting time for baseball fans. The first five games of the 2017 World Series have truly been an “October Classic,” featuring two teams that have not appeared in a World Series in over a decade. There are twenty nine major league teams playing in U. S. cities coast to coast and one franchise in Canada. With attendance, viewership, and revenues way up the argument can be made once again that baseball is truly our “national pastime”

Looking back, organized baseball in America looked quite different just 70 years ago. There is a map I find fascinating in the collections of the Geography and Map Division that focuses on baseball in America in 1940. It was sent to the Library of Congress as a copyright deposit but was apparently never printed or distributed.

Towns in Organized Baseball. Map drawn by Harlow D. Forker, 1940 June 20. Geography and Map Division.

Towns in Organized Baseball. Map drawn by Harlow D. Forker, 1940 June 20. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

This 1940 blueprint map of the United States by Harlow D. Forker shows all the cities and towns with baseball teams, either major league or minor league, that were considered to be part of “organized” baseball. In 1940, there were sixteen major league teams in eleven cities. Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis each had a major league team in the American and National Leagues. New York had two National League teams and one American league team.

Compared to the 19 minor baseball leagues today, in 1940 there were 44 different minor leagues with a total of 304 teams! One hundred and twenty seven of these teams were farm clubs or had working agreements with a major league team while the rest were independent teams. North Carolina alone had thirty one minor league teams, the most of any state!

Detail of Towns in Organized Baseball. Map drawn by Harlow D. Forker, 1940 June 20. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Detail of Towns in Organized Baseball. Map drawn by Harlow D. Forker, 1940 June 20. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

In 1940, most of the leagues and teams were located east of the Mississippi River. St. Louis had the only major team west of the river, and as the southernmost city, the St. Louis Cardinals (NL) games were broadcast on radio networks across the south. Below, you can see Sportsman’s Park where the Cardinals played in 1940 as it looks on a map from the Sanborn Fire Insurance Company from 1951.

St. Louis, Missouri. Map by Sanborn Fire Insurance Company, 1951. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

St. Louis, Missouri. Map by Sanborn Fire Insurance Company, 1951, Vol. 7, Plate 46. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

The blueprint map identifies the location of each team, the name, the class level of the league, and the affiliation of teams with major league franchises. There are also circles showing airline distances from Chicago, the hometown of the mapmaker who used the city as a central point for the country. There is quite a lot of information packed into this one map!

I also noticed on the map that the two cities with teams in the 2017 World Series both had minor league teams in 1940. Los Angeles had a Pacific Coast League team called the Hollywood Stars, and Houston had a lower level team in the Texas League affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Details of Towns in Organized Baseball. Map drawn by Harlow D. Forker, 1940 June 20. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Details of Towns in Organized Baseball. Map drawn by Harlow D. Forker, 1940 June 20. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Details of Towns in Organized Baseball. Map drawn by Harlow D. Forker, 1940 June 20. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Originally intended to become a full color map, this blueprint map was never fully realized into a complete color edition. Seventy seven years after this map was created, baseball is being played around the globe. Rumors of the next round of expansion of the major leagues include the addition of franchises in cities outside of the U.S. Perhaps on the coming decades, the excitement of a long season may culminate in a true “World” Series.

AERIAL VIEW DURING BASEBALL GAME, FROM SOUTHEAST, ca. 1940 - Roosevelt Stadium, State Route 440 & Danforth Avenue, Jersey City, Hudson County, NJ. Photo from Historical American Building Survey, ca. 1940. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Aerial View During Baseball Game, From Southeast, ca. 1940 – Roosevelt Stadium, State Route 440 & Danforth Avenue, Jersey City, Hudson County, NJ. Photo from Historical American Building Survey, ca. 1940. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

4 Comments

  1. Sherry L.
    October 31, 2017 at 9:27 am

    Way to go, Harlow D. Forker and Mike Buscher! This is a delightful and informative post that will be shared with map and baseball enthusiasts alike — not to mention teachers and students. Considering what else was happening in September,1940 (the Blitzkreig, for example), studying this map must have provided a welcome relief. Thank you for this exceptional entry.

  2. Hank S
    November 2, 2017 at 8:11 am

    This is pure gold. Is there a way to see a larger version where you can zoom in to various locations? And, it needs to be published.

  3. Julie Stoner
    November 2, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    Hi Hank,
    We are glad you like the map! It is in the process of being cataloged and scanned which can take a few weeks. Once that is finished, it will be available in the online catalog for viewing and download.

  4. Ted
    November 2, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    First, love the post and especially the blue print style map of major and minor league teams. If there were a reproduction of this map, I would purchase one in a heart beat.

    Second: “that the two cities with teams in the 2017 World Series both had minor league teams in 1940. Los Angeles had a Pacific Coast League team called the Hollywood Stars”

    One of the two history courses I needed for my degree, that I am style working towards, was a course called “Baseball and the American Experience”. Trust me even as a baseball fan it wasn’t a puff course I worked hard to get my A in it. I did get to apply my love of the Pacific Coast League to it as my adopted home is San Francisco which like LA at various points had two teams the Seals and Missions. Los Angeles did have the Hollywood Stars, and if you think “star watching” at a LA Dodger game is a thing you should read some of the stories about the Stars. Los Angeles also had the Los Angeles Angels which played in a park named of all things Wrigley Field named after the very same man who owned the Cubs and the park in Chicago. The Angeles also played closer to downtown, similar to the Dodgers so I believe they would be a more natural example than the Stars.

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