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Fans share baseball stories at Memory Lab

Fans share baseball stories at Memory Lab

Of the more than 7,000 stories submitted so far to the Baseball Memory Lab, a joint effort of the Major League Baseball Origins Committee and MLB Advanced Media, there is one by a longtime Red Sox fan named Sheldon Siegel that begins with a most appropriate word:

"Unforgettable."

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Indeed, his word is the very reason for BaseballMemoryLab.com, a repository of those stories that are unforgettable to each individual and worth preserving for future generations. It is the public's collective statement on baseball's importance, combined in one place with rich archival research, including baseball's origins and its growth.

Siegel shared his own account of what happened on Sept. 28, 1960, as Ted Williams homered off Baltimore right-hander Jack Fisher in the bottom of the eighth inning. It was the Splendid Splinter's 521st homer and the final at-bat of his career. Siegel reflects:

Unforgettable. In the stands on that dark, overcast afternoon at Fenway. Only 12,000+ in the stands. Last game of the series. Sox going to NY for last three games, which everyone thought would be last games of Ted's career. But that afternoon in Fenway, in his last at-bat, Ted lofted one into the mist. The ball was lost in the fog. When it came down it was in bullpen. It was Teddy Ballgame's last AB and a home run. Ted never went to NY that weekend. But I went home with the greatest memory a Sox fan could have.

What is your greatest memory of the national pastime?

Was it a game you shared with a parent, rich with meaning as you built a relationship -- or the first time you took your infant son or daughter to the ballpark? Was it a hero's milestone, like the Texas fan's story about being at Nolan Ryan's 5,000th career strikeout? Was it your own youth-ball exploits, or maybe watching Kirby Puckett's heroics in the 1991 World Series?

Some of us have prominent vehicles to share our stories. Some of us tell them privately to family and pass them down to a next generation. The Baseball Memory Lab project is the place where they all can come together in the shape of a unique history penned by the people, reflecting the bedrock place baseball has in the history and culture of a nation.

"We continue to see how Americans connect to each other and to the larger world around them through baseball," said John Thorn, MLB official historian. "President Obama, in describing his foreign policy initiatives, said last month, 'You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run. But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world.'

"Baseball provides us with a family album, filled with snapshots of people we care about deeply, even if we have never met them in person. They enter our lives and enrich them, their actions planting the seeds of memory and framing it for us. If you are a Twins fan, what do you recall about the 1965 World Series, who you were at that time, and what you were doing? Baseball pins down recall of our own past, and that is what the Memory Lab looks to capture: personal intersections of this great game, our great country, and our not-so-ordinary lives."

In addition to your memories and extensive historical information about the game, the Baseball Memory Lab offers a terrific Henry Chadwick Archive, which gives a personal sense of the "Father of Baseball" (1824-1908) beyond what one might read in the histories.

Chadwick wrote prolifically about baseball from its earliest years in the mid-1800s. Most of his baseball writings were bequeathed to Albert Spalding, who gave them as part of his sports collection to the New York Public Library. The remaining poetry, writing and memorabilia were inherited by his wife, Jane Botts Chadwick, then his granddaughter, and finally his great-great granddaughter. The family sold the material to a private individual in 2002 as a single collection intended for museum display. The collector gave a photocopy of each item to the family, and it is these copies which comprise the archive.

You continue to augment that history with your own narrative, one that is ever-changing with each new day and night of live games. Your story will be added alongside that of Commissioner Bud Selig's account of what happened one night in 1957, when Hank Aaron homered in the 11th inning and Milwaukee secured its first pennant.

That was the first story at the Baseball Memory Lab, and it is augmented with the box score and play-by-play from that game, as well as video highlights. You can share personal reflections and photos, tagging them by favorite games, players, teams, ballparks and/or regions, ultimately creating the most comprehensive portal housing baseball memories.

"You'll meet friends who you didn't know existed and share a common bond," Thorn said. "If you can imagine 60 years from now, thinking about what fans thought back then. We are building an archive of tremendous historical importance. The game is not only what happens on the screen, but what happens on the other side of the screen. How do Americans interact with this game they love? I see this having enormous enduring benefits."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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