Baseball, New York, and a Sense of History

Any sports fan can attest to the tightly knit community that forms around athletic teams and this is hardly more apparent than on the opening day of the Major League Baseball season. On April 1, both the New York Mets and Yankees opened 2013 at their respective home fields with “unblemished optimism” for the season ahead.

Members of the New York Yankees are introduced on the opening day of the 2013 season.

Like apple pie and jazz, baseball is woven deeply through American history with accounts of baseball games recorded as early as the late 18th century. The country’s first official team was the New York Knickerbockers and is widely credited for establishing the modern rules of the game in 1845. Just over 10 years later, there were 16 baseball clubs, or teams, in the New York area alone.

In Central Park, arguably the city’s most iconic outdoor recreation space, baseball played a defining role in community. A redesign in 1857 by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux grew the park to more than 700 acres of sufficient space to accommodate all classes of the city, drawing 7 million visitors by 1865. But a ban on recreational activities like picnics and baseball kept the park’s visitors strictly upper class: parties often arrived for an afternoon in the park via carriage, but city laws restricted small tradesmen from using their commercial wagons for family trips. And baseball was stringently prohibited: only school-aged boys with a written note from their principals were permitted to play ball in Central Park. The reigns loosened when working-class New Yorkers successfully petitioned for outdoor concerts on Sundays, their only day of rest, and over time parks officials made concessions from carousels to tennis; though not fully until the early 1950s when parks commissioner Robert Moses embraced the city’s evolved culture by establishing permanent softball fields on the Great Lawn to support corporate softball teams and neighborhood little league games.

Meanwhile, baseball as an enterprise was developing concurrently. In 1903, the Baltimore Orioles merged with the New York Giants and called a high point along Broadway between 165th and 168th streets home, appropriating a new team name—the Highlanders. However the team’s record was less than auspicious and in 1912, the teams’ owner, Bill Devry, added their iconic pinstripes to the uniforms with the hope that changing the team’s look would also change a 7-year losing streak. But most sports fans, and residents of New York and Boston alike, know legend was secured when Babe Ruth was signed for $125,000 and a $350,000 loan against the mortgage on Fenway Park—all to help Red Sox owner Harry Frazee finance a Broadway musical.

A move across the Harlem River in 1923 to what is now the former Yankee stadium left the Giants behind in the Polo Grounds. In their brand new stadium, record batting averages and undefeated consecutive seasons from Lou Gehrig to Joe DiMaggio secured the Yanks as a pride of the city. And each spring as the season starts anew, New Yorkers continue to  exercise that eminent capacity to celebrate greatness.

But just in case Opening Day doesn’t conclude favorably, there’s always the Nostalgia Train to relive the glory days and revel in our city’s great history.

Former Yankee and team coach Lou Pinella delivers the season's opening pitch.

All photos by Shawn Alston


The Patient Search Fosters Iconic Design

Cassina introduced a limited edition of the LC4 chaise covered in pony-skin this winter. The cleverly curvaceous chair, designed by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand, is as iconic a profile as any designers have achieved, one of the factors in the chair’s long popularity.

In his book Creation is a Patient Search, Le Corbusier wrote, “We learn to see how things are born. We see them develop, grow, blossom, flourish and die…And the grain matures. The fundamental principle is ‘from the inside out’ (contrary to appearances).” The organic shape of the LC4 illustrates the “from the inside out” principle, as it was created to embrace the human form. “The value of all things lies in their purpose, in the germinating seed,” he goes on to say. “Nothing is seen, admired or loved except what is so fine and beautiful that from the outside one penetrates into the very heart of the thing by study, research and exploration. By devious ways, we therefore reach the centre.”

Le Cobusier in Paris in 1965.

Corb wrote this treatise about drawing in March 1960; he had designed the LC4 with Jeanneret and Perriand in 1928. Cassina has reintroduced only 400 pieces this time around. The company says of its decision to revisit the design, “It is an undeniable example of iconic and authentic design. The product has been designed outside the conventions of a regular trend, which makes it a high-quality piece of timeless design. The excellence of the product is complimented by both its form and the use of key materials. Significantly, the chaise-longue has been designed with purpose, studied in strong relation with the human body and man’s necessities, and will fulfill this in every decade.”

Cassina has the exclusive worldwide rights to produce the LC4 working in close collaboration with the Le Corbusier Foundation and Pernette Perriand-Barsac, the sole heir of Charlotte Perriand. Continuing to produce such timeless artifacts of design history helps us remain connected to those who strove to achieve excellence in the past, and there were few individuals who pushed more valiantly for greatness in thought than these three visionaries.

Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Jeanneret and Le Corbusier.

From iconic designs to cutting edge ones, we’ll feature iri5′s great visual of Bob Dylan (it’s musical but not in the way you think) day after tomorrow in our newest #ThoughtThursday post.


Our Thanksgiving Salon: How To Eat!

We touched upon the Algonquin Round Table in this earlier post but the group of NYC thinkers has inspired another question I wanted to toss your way for this Thanksgiving Day salon (the turkey carving episode in the videois so quaint, and he even gets away with flubbing his finale!). The Round Table members worked together only once when they created a revue called “No Sirree!” but the relationships and attention the groupt built and gained helped launch a Hollywood career for Robert Benchley (whose short film is embedded above). Have your collaborations in the virtual Algonquin of social media helped your career in any way? If so, how?


Faceless Book: A Salon Question For the Ages

Facebook has announced that it has a new self-cooling server farm in the Arctic the size of 11 football fields. I’ve been thinking about the word “server” since I read this announcement, musing about how it once meant a person providing some assistance to another person. That was before the advent of the computer, of course, and the announcement leaves me with these questions: “Will the world end up being populated only by rooms full of clicking and whining machines regurgitating data?” and “What data will be broadcast once humanity is defunct?”

What the world will be humming when we are all gone…


What You Might Have Been: the adroyt salon

© adroyt original

George Eliot claimed, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” Do you have a “what you might have been” within you? If so, do you believe it will emerge at some point? If not, do you feel it is because you haven’t nurtured the “you” that you might have been into being?


The Adroyt Salon: Take 7

“Danger Hollow Sidewalk” from streetscape in New York City. Photograph © adroyt original.

We’re keeping it short and sweet today with our adroyt salon question this week. We’d like to know your answer to this inquiry inspired by Voltaire, who said, “I don’t know where I am going, but I am on my way.” On this #ThoughtThursday, do you believe you can be on your way (figuratively speaking) even if you don’t “know” where you are going?


I Wish I’d Thought of That! (Our Social Media Salon)

Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth in the film version of Girl with a Pearl Earring.

There are few narratives so brilliantly conceived that they make me jealous I didn’t think of them. Only two come to mind as I’m writing this post: the book Girl with a Pearl Earring and the movie The Hours—each for different reasons. This awareness brought the question, our Salon prompt for the week, to mind: “Can you think of anything you’ve read, seen or heard that made you sit up and say, “Wow: I wish I’d thought of that!”?

With Tracy Chevalier’s book Girl with a Pearl Earring, it was the way the author looked back at an iconic person in history, in this case Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, and built an incredibly plausible story around him, using her protagonist as the person who made an impact on his art though she was but a “lowly” cleaning girl. When I read the novel, the idea was stunning to me and I thought to myself, I wish I had thought to create such a clever construct, one which rang so true!

With David Hare’s screenplay for The Hours, created from Michael Cunningham’s powerful book, it was the way the screenwriter wove the past and the present so seamlessly into one mosaic. He had a terrific manuscript to work with in that sense, of course, but intermingling worlds—like the ones that took place within Virginia Woolf’s measured countryside manor and within Richard Brown’s gritty loft in New York City—is a challenge he conquered beautifully. Director Stephen Daldry also deserves the visual credit for making the meshing of these two disparate worlds seem unquestionable, but without excellent writing, the segues would have been stilted or jarring.

Our question doesn’t have to involve a book or a film; it can be anything you have seen that made you take notice. Thanks for stopping in on this #ThoughtThursday. Let us know if you have a question you’d like for us to pose and we will add it to our list. Happy end of the week, everyone!


Exploring The Salon as a Social Conversation

Gertrude Stein (R) and Alice B. Toklas in the Atelier at 27 Rue de Fleurus.

Given the back-and-forth we’ve had with many of our tweeps, it has become apparent that the word “salon” as we are using it here on adroyt might merit more explanation. As our lead-in post to the Thursday salon series mentioned, inspirations for the effort include Gertrude and Leo Stein, whose Paris salon brought some of literature’s and art’s greatest minds to their atelier for weekly explorations of aesthetics. They were, for the most part, discussing art; we are not drawing such strict boundaries as to what our subjects will encompass, choosing instead to offer a platform that will allow people to discuss a broad array of topics.

The stories of the writers and artists living in Paris during the 1920’s (there’s a wonderful documentary on the PBS website about those luminous years) cemented our desire to foster creativity through our Posterous blog. Because the world has shrunk—thanks to technology and, to an even greater extent, social media—we can interact without having to be in the same place at the same time, unlike those visionaries filing into the Stein’s atelier at 27 rue de Fleurus. Voilà: the idea for adroyt’s virtual salon—a gathering place, not unlike a café or an atelier, where we can figuratively sit around and dish on topics that interest us—was born!

Henri Fantin-Latour’s painting Un coin de table

Although one of history’s most notable, the Stein’s conclave wasn’t the earliest example of creative types gathering to engage in intellectual inquiries: poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud are pictured here in Henri Fantin-Latour’s painting Un coin de table, depicting participants in the Paris salon of 1872. I saw the painting in person while strolling through the galleries at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris last February and as a poet, it was like standing in front of a shrine! One of my all-time favorite quotes is attributed to Rimbaud, though I’ve never been able to locate it in his writings—and I’ve read everything I could find to try to pinpoint it without luck. It is said that he wisely quipped, “I’d rather be the poem than the poet.” Touché!

Catherine de Vivonne, marquise de Rambouillet (painting by anonymous, 17th century)

A peek farther back into the mists of time brings us to the founder of the first salon, Catherine de Vivonne, or the Marquise de Rambouillet. She had gathered a circle of confidants around her as early as 1607 in the Hôtel de Halde, which she bought, transformed into a private residence and renamed the Hôtel de Rambouillet. This salon drew some of the era’s hippest courtiers and it remained one of the most important literary gathering spots until 1650.

The early 17th century was one of Paris’ most prolific periods for salons, as a number of offshoots were inspired by the Hôtel de Rambouillet, such as Madeleine de Scudéry’s “Saturday Society.” Here’s a terrific article by Jessee Browner on Bookforum’s site regarding Rombouillet’s impact on French culture, including the fact that women and commoners were included in her salon during a time when most European women were required to withdraw from the conversation of men and commoners did not mingle with the elite. Snippets of a secret language and nicknames were the norm during these heady exploratory sessions, one of my all-time favorites being Scudéry’s Sapho. We won’t go so far as to continue this tradition (unless you are itching for a nom de plume of your own, in which case have at it and let us know what you choose below) but we do love digging into meaty questions like the one we’ve identified for this week: “Is expressing truth and/or beauty inherent in making meaning?” We can’t wait to hear what you think. We’d also like to know if you have a question you’d like to pose; if you do, leave it in a comment and we’ll put it in our queue.



The Social Media Megaphone

“Inside each of us is a storyteller. We like to amplify. Social platforms and the internet in general allow us to do that. They are a megaphone for your message.” This quote from The Zen of Social Media Marketing gave us pause, leading us to the question we are posing this #ThoughtThursday on adroyt: Has being able to amplify through social media expanded your personality in any way? Has it made a difference in your life? If so, leave us a comment to let us know how. If not, clue us in as to why you think it hasn’t.

Being serious writers who have come to this new media, we are fascinated with the idea that everyone is a storyteller, but we wonder if it is true that everyone has a narrative just waiting to emerge. Ernest Hemingway had some extremely strong opinions about the subject and we can’t help but wonder what he would be saying about SoMe were he involved in building his own platform today. In a letter to Charles Scribner in 1949, he wrote, “So the boys can’t tell a story. You know why? They couldn’t tell it if they put them on the stand. If you have a story it is not hard to tell. Maybe people won’t believe it. But you can tell it straight and true. A writer, of course, has to make up stories for them to be rounded and not flat like photographs. But he makes them up out of what he knows.”

We salute those of you weaving your tales on the social media channels which connect us and we hope you enjoy ours, as well. Thanks for stopping by our Salon and taking the time to read the questions we have fielded, which we would like to think are encouraging you to look a bit below the surface of this new world we call virtuality!