April 4th, 2012

The Launch of Baseball Memory Lab

“My fondest baseball memory,” the correspondent began, “occurred late in the evening on September 23, 1957, when Hank Aaron’s 11th inning home run gave the Braves a 4–2 win over the Cardinals and secured Milwaukee its first pennant.  I was 23 years old and sat in the upper deck….”

That correspondent was Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. The memory he submitted to MLB’s new Baseball Memory Lab project (http://mlb.mlb.com/memorylab/index.jsp) went on to take the form of a bookend, with another game from October 10, 1982. On that date the Brewers captured the flag and, for him and all the club’s fans, brought Milwaukee baseball back full circle. See the Commissioner’s full narrative at [http://mlb.mlb.com/memorylab/memories/selig.jsp].

Don’t miss Mark Newman’s story about the Memory Lab launch at [http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120403&content_id=27887666&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb]. As the nephew of Cubs’ infielder Johnny Goryl, Mark is himself, like the Commissioner, an early contributor to Memory Lab:

I love Baseball largely because of my uncle, Johnny Goryl, and I see three of his baseball cards on my bulletin board as I compose this memory here at the MLB.com HQ. A utility infielder, “Gentleman John” broke in with the Cubs in 1957, going on to play six seasons including the last three with the Twins. He managed 14 seasons in the Minors, and took over as Twins manager in 1980, fired by Cal Griffith in 1981 while given little payroll to work with…. I have a million memories in the game, been to so many major events like Ripken 2131 and Big Mac 62 and Touch ‘Em All Joe, worked no-hitters and am a Hall of Fame voter, but what matters most to me in Baseball is honoring Uncle Johnny. [See Mark’s full narrative at: http://mlb.mlb.com/memorylab/memories/index.jsp?transactionId=7900

Baseball Memory Lab is a collaboration of MLB’s Origins Committee, which I chair, and MLB.com. Focusing on the intersection of personal history and baseball, this new forum  initially will spotlight two aspects of the game’s history—the origins and evolution of baseball and fan-submitted memories and recollections. How does the work of the Origins Committee unite with the highly personal histories of fans and families? Baseball’s history begins not with Abner Doubleday or Alexander Cartwright but with last night’s game, and all of us at MLB believe that knowing a thing or two about our game’s past increases the pleasure of the present moment.

Indeed, it may not be too much to think about baseball’s history as its thirty-first franchise, a storehouse of fun, fact, and lore that enriches us individually, enlarges our circle of friends, and produces a shared heritage, across the generations, of extraordinary breadth. The long-term mission of Baseball Memory Lab is to unite the official and unofficial histories of the game by joining formal accounts (historical research, box scores, records, editorial coverage, and multimedia) with informal accounts by fans, resulting in a more far-reaching narrative of the game. In building a scrapbook of baseball memories, we are not only recording American history, we are making it.

Early Baseball Milestones will tell the story of major events across baseball’s historic timeline, dating as far back as 2500 B.C. The project commenced with Project Protoball, which Origins Committee panelist Larry McCray founded in 2004, and has since expanded through research finds by a number of early baseball enthusiasts. Now featured within Baseball Memory Lab, it continues as a living, breathing chronicle with highly interesting subsets (see, for example, the timeline for African American ball play at


or the chronology of military involvement in the game’s development, at


For the wonkish (myself included), Early Baseball Milestones is a source of unending delight. For the ordinary fan (myself included), the broadest focus of the Baseball Memory Lab mission is to build a new community through its gathered memories and collaborative discussions.  Fans will be able to share their personal reflections and photos, tagging them by favorite game, player, team, ballpark, and/or region, ultimately creating the most comprehensive portal housing baseball memories. My colleagues at Major League Baseball Advanced Media plan to extend the surrounding content for each submission, tying it to a boxscore, play by play, photos and videos, as available, as we have done for the Commissioner’s personal contribution, cited above. Each fan’s submission, after review, will become a permanent exhibit on BaseballMemoryLab.com, and may attract posted comment from fans with parallel experiences.

We are still in the early stages of collecting memories and adding assets (photos, audio, video, etc.) to them. We also are working on other features and content libraries that will be great additions to the site. Please share a memory of yours and connect with other vanguard fans at BaseballMemoryLab.com. Before long we will have an archive of fan memories that will make good reading today and for historians will be a goldmine fifty years after.