In 1903, the Boston Americans came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first modern World Series to be played in the major leagues.

American athletes were a sturdy, self-reliant and ethical bunch back then. Honus Wagner, the shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, was so upset over his performance in the series that he refused to send a photograph of himself to a group honoring him for winning the batting championship. He noted, “I was a joke in that Boston-Pittsburgh series. What does it profit a man to hammer along and make a few hits when they are not needed only to fall down when it comes to a pinch? I would be ashamed to have my picture up now.”

Somehow, I don’t think his publicity agent wrote that.

It’s also interesting that in 1903, our government was spending about $1.7 billion per year, or about 6.8 percent of our nation’s gross domestic product, according to usgovernmentspending.com. Nowadays it spends that much in the time it takes you to read this issue of Southeast Farm Press.

Unfortunately, the prices of goods and services have not kept pace with the rise in government spending, which had climbed to 22 percent of GDP as the United States entered World War I.

After the war, the percentage dropped by half, to 11 percent. Then, after the Great Depression, it took off again. By the time Social Security was implemented in 1935, government spending had risen back to 20 percent of GDP.

It hovered there for a few years, then rose again as the United States entered World War II. Government spending peaked at 52.97 percent of GDP in 1945 and dropped to 20 percent in 1948 as the GDP climbed to $269 billion. In 1991, spending reached another peak of 37.2 percent, before declining to 33 percent as GDP tripled over the next 10 years.

Under the Bush administration, government spending again started to climb, and when the Republicans left office, the feds were spending 37.1 percent of GDP. In 2009, under the Obama administration, it’s up to 45 percent, and with health care, climate change legislation and stimulus packages in the offing, and the economy still fragile, it’s likely headed higher.

I could go to Washington to remind Congress that our country is about to be crushed under the weight of our own government.

But I’ll probably just watch baseball instead. Sure it’s not the same game they played 100 years ago, but it is one game I still understand.

And that brings to mind one more notable about Boston versus Pittsburgh in 1903. In Game 3, there were so many people crowded into the stadium that hundreds of fans spilled onto the playing field, where they watched the game alongside the outfielders.

Those were the days.

e-mail: erobinson@farmpress.com