Twinkle, twinkle little bat: Carroll at the ballgame

“The Mad Hatter” sold by New Era Hats

"The Mad Hatter" sold by New Era Hats

What number connects Lewis Carroll with the noble game of baseball? For the answer to this question, please welcome guest blogger and LCSNA-member Ron Papp. ~ Rachel

Jackie Robinson Day has come and gone again. As you may know, on April 15th each year all the Major League Baseball players wear the number 42 on their uniforms.

Beginning in 1997, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier, MLB revived his (the only) league-retired number. At first it was just one player per team who became 42. Subsequently, the number is worn by every player, coach and umpire. With some 20 teams playing on that day, and with four coaches per team and three umpires per game, there’s a ballpark figure of 630 wearing the number 42.

One plan for the coming year is to pass out t-shirts stamped with the famous integer to the thousands of fans at any given stadium.

But, of course, it would be difficult to tie in this annual phenomenon with Lewis Carroll other than it was his favorite number. Robinson played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, not the Brook-leaping Dodgsons. Yet, the beginnings of baseball do hail back to Carroll’s time. Abner Doubleday invented the game in 1839, when Carroll was about seven. Baseball teams (wearing straw caps) rose in popularity during the Civil War when Alice in Wonderland was written. Also, the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first all-professional team in 1869, with the regulation size and weight of a baseball being decided in 1872 – both around the time of Through the Looking-Glass’s release.

A pity there isn’t more, considering the great number of people commemorating (in part) the number 42 while playing games. And always just nineteen days before Alice’s birthday!

Rachel: That sounds like a game to me! Can anyone think of some more connections between Carroll, Alice and the game of baseball – numerical, historical, linguistic or spurious? Next week we’ll try curling…