Professor shares his passion for baseball at SF State through unique history class


American sports has been used as a social platform for decades, but no other sport has such a rich historical background in this country than baseball.

From the civil rights movement to helping refugees escape communism. Baseball has been part of it all and you can learn all about it at SF State in the history of baseball course.

Mark Sigmon graduated from UC Berkeley in 1995 and has been a professor at SF State since then. Originally started in 1998, the class was taught by professor Jules Tygiel and initially the course was labeled, the history and literature of baseball.

Tygiel died in 2008 and the course was temporary dormant, but in 2014 Sigmon presented his history department chair with the idea of reviving the course and he was given the green light, but it took him some time to adjust.

“The first time I taught the class I was trying to get everything out there. When certain events happened or how free agency came about,” Sigmon said. “Now that I’ve got the basics of the class down and an understanding for myself, I’m trying to weave more U.S. history into the class and showing how baseball really illustrates various aspects of U.S. history.”

According to Sigmon, the class is quite popular among SF State students and the course is usually filled within five days of class registration. There are a wide variety of students in the course, from art, marketing and other majors, yet these students were all brought together for their interest in the sport.

Henry Huang is a third-year marketing student and has always had an interest in baseball. “I’ve always wanted to learn about baseball and get into it. This class gave me a golden opportunity to learn the rules and history of the game,” Huang said. “I’ve learned a lot about the rules and how to watch baseball, which was perfect for someone like me who needed a way to learn and ask questions without feeling embarrassed.”

Here in San Francisco, students began to draw more interest in baseball during the San Francisco Giants championship run earlier in the decade and baseball has long been part of the city’s culture.

“Sometimes it’s hard to get students interested in history,” Sigmon said. “If you can find something they’re already interested in, then it can appeal to a lot of people who may not normally want to take a history class, but if its a sport they’re interested in then they get really excited about it.”

According to students in the class, Sigmon is very passionate about the course and gave the class a first-hand experience toward the end of the semester.

Justin Fong is enrolled in the course and said, “The history of baseball is great and is taught by a great teacher who cares about sports and its history,” Fong continued to say, “The SFSU Night game at Oracle Park is a great way to end off the semester. While learning about the history of the sport, this is a great way to take part and experience the environment.”

As baseball season begins to takeoff, a new wave of students will enroll in Sigmon’s class and he will continue to share his knowledge about the game. However, this may be the start of things to come as sports are evolving into more than just a game and perhaps history classes will be offered in the future.