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A CELEBRATION OF THE NATIONAL PASTIME

Baseball fever has infected a multitude of sports fans again. It's World Series time when our national pastime's showcases the champions of the American League playing the National League winners.

The U.S. Postal Service has followed the game and its players with great excitement and enthusiasm by issuing numerous stamps depicting players and games.

Noted historian Ken Burns has written an illustrated history of baseball from its inception when one sunny afternoon in 1839 a player named Abner Doubleday drew up the rules for a new game called baseball. On Sept. 23 a shipping clerk named Alexander Cartright formally established a team known as the New York Knickerbockers. A league was formed and the game was on.

It wasn't until 1869 when the first all professional team took the field -- the Cincinnati Red Stockings. Another league was formed and the Cincinnati Reds are still playing ball.

Many baseball stars have been portrayed on U.S. stamps. In the year 2000, the U.S. Postal Service issued a set of 20 stamps which it called "Major League All Century Team" (20th century). Featured on the set are Eddie Collins, Christy Mathewson, Ty Cobb, George Sisler, Rogers Hornsby, Mickey Cochrane, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Roberto Clemente, Lefty Grove, Tris Speaker, Cy Young, Jimmie Foxx, Pie Traynor, Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, Honus Wagner, Josh Gibson, Dizzy Dean and Lou Gehrig.

Some critics say that such stars as Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Hank Aaron should have been included.

In 2001 the Postal Service issued a set of 10 20-cent stamps featuring "Legendary Playing Fields" which included such stadiums as Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, the Polo Grounds in New York City, Fenway Park in Boston, and Shibe Park in Philadelphia.

In 1982 a pair of 20-cent stamps in the Black Heritage Series honored Jackie Robinson, the Brooklyn Dodger's player who "broke the color line" for major league baseball. One of the stamps showed Robinson stealing home plate.

A single stamp in tribute to the centenary of the first World Series was issued in 1969 depicting a player at bat and the dates 1869-1969.

In a salute to the "Celebrate the Century Series" for the decade of the 1950s, a 33-cent stamp showed a scene from the 1951 playoff game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants when Bobby Thompson of the Giants hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to win the game. It was called "the shot heard round the world."