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Transcript of Baseball Magic
Voice & Style
Connections to Previous Research
The author, George Gmelch, spent time playing professional baseball in the 1960s and has written other articles, such as “Rookie Ball, 1965” and “Inside Pitch” about the history and culture of baseball.
- Explained how humans are more likely to turn to magical or occult powers
when faced with situations where the outcome is important, uncertain and beyond their control.
- Takes theory
magic is most likely to be used in important situations that are unpredictable, where chance or uncertainty are part of the condition
- Applies this to American professional baseball
- Writes how chance and luck play a large role in American baseball just as much as skill.
- Presents his evidence by three separate categories:
routines and rituals, fetishes and taboo.
- Voice is active
- The sentence subject performs the action.
- Tone is formal
- Precise and correct
- No use of informality
- More literal than figurative
- Few instances of effective figurative language
- Mix of first-person (I, my) and third-person (he/she, they)
- Mix of past to present tense
- Sentence structure
- Not choppy or repetitive
- Not too long or complex
- Anthropology writing process and style
- “Reflexive” Approach (more personalized approach)
- Qualitative Data (descriptive field notes, the informants’ narrative, myths and stories)
“As I listened to my professor describe the magical rituals of the Trobriand Islanders, it occurred to me that what these so-called “primitive” people did wasn’t all that different from what my teammates and I did for luck and confidence at the ball park.” 
by George Gmelch
Integration of Other Research
Gmelch both primary and secondary sources to compare modern baseball rituals to historical rituals.
1. Gmelch lists a variety of specific player rituals.
1. Gmelch calls on previous research from anthropologists and behaviourists.
Style and Conventions
The article is presented with specific headings that indicate to the reader exactly what each section is written about. Gmelch also defines all terms that he uses that may be unfamiliar to the reader. Giving set definitions about terms under discussion is also conventional of academic writing in the social sciences in order to eliminate confusion, especially when a term may have several different meanings or connotations.
In Class Activity/Discussion
We just finished the drafts of our research papers. In Gmelch’s article, he states that his interest in the topic arose when he was an anthropology student and playing baseball himself, using other personal stories throughout his essay. Did you state a personal interest in your topic or use personal stories in your essay? Why or why not?
In this article, Gmelch focuses on the “magical elements” involved in baseball, as indicated in the article title, some of which contribute to the culture around baseball and follow with his research interests.
“For example, Yankee pitcher Denny Neagle goes to a movie on days he is scheduled to start. Pitcher Jason Bere listens to the same song on his Walkman on the day he is to pitch. Jim Ohms puts another penny in the pouch of his supporter after each win” (2).
2. Gmelch also uses direct quotes from players and coaches.
“They’re like trained animals. They come out here [ballpark] and everything has to be the same, they don’t like anything that knocks them off their routine” (1-2).
“Trobriand Islanders, according to anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, felt the same way about their fishing magic” (1).
“… behavioural psychologist B.F. Skinner sheds light on why personal rituals get established in the first place (5).
- Professor of Anthropology at University of San Francisco.
- Undergraduate work at Stanford.
- PhD at University of California, Santa Barbara.
- Cultural anthropologist.
- Studies tourism, sport cultures, and migration.
- Published eleven books.
- Author and editor of seventy articles.
- Also wrote for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Natural History, Psychology Today, Society, Stanford Magazine, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.
- Thesis is unclear
- Does not clearly or concisely indicate the subject of the article or its main points.
“If he gets another hit, the chances are good that he will touch his crucifix each time he bats.” 
“In professional baseball, fielding is the equivalent of the inner lagoon while hitting and pitching are like the open sea.”