Реферат: America Through Baseball Essay Research Paper The

America Through Baseball Essay, Research Paper

The American Pastime

“He who would know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball”

(Voigt 3). Through the years baseball has not only been a leisure activity and source of

entertainment, but a mirror of American culture and its society. Baseball has been looked

upon by many as a source of rejuvenation in times of hardship. Baseball is commonly

called “the pastime,” but most often the game feels and acts like an old friend (Cantaneo

4). In World War II many of the men dispatched to Pearl Harbor within weeks of the

Japanese attack in 1941 brought along a baseball and a mitt, and each day at dusk played

catch in front of their barracks. Nearly fifty years later a solider could remember how the

soft Hawaiian breeze reminded him of early spring at home and how throwing a baseball

was great solace, with the American fleet smoldering in the harbor (Cantaneo 5). Baseball

is not just a game, but an institution that has changed along with the American people.

Baseball has not only given Americans something to play and enjoy, but also something

they can depend on and associate with. This concept is illustrated in Phil Alden

Robinson’s movie Field of Dreams through James Earl Jones’ speech:

“Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t

even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway and not even know why

they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children

longing for the past. We won’t mind if you look around you say, its only

$20 per person, they’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it.

It is money they have and peace they like. And they’ll walk out to the

bleachers, sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll have reserved

seats along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children

and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it will be as if

they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick,

they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray.

The one constant through the years has been baseball. America has rolled

by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt

and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game,

it’s a part of our past Ray. It reminds us of all that was once good, and

could be again. Ohh, people will come Ray, people will most definitely


Baseball gives one a sense of youth and comfort that can be relived through baseball’s

ever-changing ways. It is one constant that’s been experienced generation after

generation. The game has not only become the most popular in our country, it mirrors our

society: Baseball is peculiarly American in its temperament and psychology ….It is our

national game not alone because of history and development but by nature and

characteristics as well. The game “fits” Americans; it pleases, satisfies, represents us

(Guttmann 96).

Baseball is a nineteenth-century field sport evolving out of children’s bat and ball

games. It first appeared as an exclusive team sport for urban gentlemen in Massachusetts.

The popularity of baseball grew immensely during the 1870’s, and with this growing

interest in the game, new baseball teams sprung up everywhere. People started paying to

see games, opening the door to commercialism. At the same time intense competition led

to the paying of good players so that the sport quickly evolved into a commercialized

spectacle. The decade of the 1870’s also saw the rise of baseball journalism. This was so

that people could keep track of their favorite stars. The average price being paid to

ballplayer at this was twenty dollars a week and has increased rapidly through the years;

today Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants is making $7 million a year. The paying o

good players led to labor disputes, as occurs in many other job fields. In 1890 players

banded together to form their own “Major League” to oppose their owners’ plans of

reducing salaries (Voigt 22). Since then players have tried to unionize, their ventures

reflecting the up-and-down pattern of union success in the nation’s economy. Although

baseball players don’t belong to a union today, they belong to the Major League Players

Association, an organization comparable to the white collar unions which use strikes and

boycotts as weapons in getting what they want (Voigt 25). Players and other workers

share many of the same problems, including retirement. In the case of the ballplayer it’s a

much different problem, since injuries can cause retirement at an unexpected and early

age. So the most important achievement of the Players Association would be the securing

of pension rights so that a player can be paid with as little as five years tenure (Voigt 22).

To lure fans, owners now offer more than just the game. Today, music, trick

cartoon scoreboards, fireworks, giveaways (including bat days, ball days, and batting

glove days) are all used. Such great promotions, and the pursuit of fun, has made baseball

almost an American religion. This then has lead to the struggle between baseball and the

church. There has been a declining influence of churches on public behavior, and the

ability to maintain religious-based rules in our society. This is reflected in the losing battle

of religious moralizers against baseball. Baseball gave way to the church until 1902 when

Sunday games were played only in Chicago, St. Louis, and Cincinnati (Voigt 17).

Elsewhere local and state laws banned Sunday games to insure peace and quiet (Voigt

17). But because the owners saw the profits made by Sunday baseball, they banded

together against these laws. And then in 1918 a bill was passed through the New York

state legislature and Sunday baseball came to New York (Voigt 18). This set a precedent

and soon Sunday baseball was played everywhere. Baseball has become, to men

especially, a form of religion. And as in any religion there is a god or gods; baseball is no


The years following the advent of Sunday baseball in New York saw the rise of

baseball’s greatest god: “The Great Bambino.” George Herman “Babe” Ruth attracted

worshippers as no player ever has before or since. And many recent scholars have

suggested that baseball has flourished, at least in part, because of what they call the “Folk

Hero Factor,” because legendary figures like Babe Ruth captured the national imagination

(Guttmann 98). The name Babe Ruth became famous in lands where the game had never

even been played. He drew fans from all over the country, and in 1930 his salary climbed

$80,000; this was more than President Hoover’s salary (Ritter and Honig 121). This was

unheard of at the time. But he did contribute a great deal of his money to children in need

and made frequent visits to children’s hospitals. Probably the most miraculous thing he

ever did was hit a home run for a sick little boy in the 1932 World Series. The babe

visited the luchemia-stricken boy that day in his hospital bed. All the boy wanted was to

meet Babe Ruth; he met him and Ruth promised him he’d hit him a home run. And on

Babe’s first at bat of the afternoon, he pointed to the centerfield bleachers, he swung at

that pitch, and the ball sailed to the deepest part of the centerfield bleachers, exactly where

he had just pointed (Durant and Bettman 239). He called his shot, and no one has ever

matched this feat. With one swing of the bat he gave the boy life. After Ruth’s death,

which saw 100,000 fans show up at Yankee Stadium to mourn him, American baseball

never again produced such a god-like hero. There is undeniably an interaction between

the game and its heroes, and Babe Ruth certainly reinforced the hold of baseball on the

sporting public.

Changes in baseball mirror broader changes in American character. This is true

when we look at how baseball helped many young immigrants “be somebody” in the late

nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the late nineteenth century Irish-Americans

sought an escape from discrimination through what they’d hoped would be the quick

baseball road to cash and glory (Voigt 11). Children of other immigrant groups,

meanwhile, had similar dreams. In the late 1870’s Lipman Pike emerged as a Jewish star,

and in the 1890’s German-American stars like Ted Breitenstein and Honus Wagner

inspired youngsters with their play. Then there were stars like the great Joe DiMaggio

who inspired young Italian-Americans; Polish-Americans identified first with the

Coveleskie brothers, Al Simmons, and later Stan Musial; Russo-American youths looked

to Lou Novikoff and Czech-Americans to Elmer Valo (Voigt 11). This gives us a great

mirror image of the “Melting Pot,” which has been kept alive through baseball.

Even though baseball has supported the great melting pot theory by the acceptance

of many ethnic Americans, baseball has a tough time dealing with Black Americans as did

the rest of the country. However, in 1946 Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers

broke the color barrier in baseball and gave hope to other blacks all over the country.

Jackie Robinson became a symbol of racial progress and helped pave the way for other

blacks not only in sport but in life as well (Stam and Barrett 56). Robinson was warned by

the organization to curb his temper and sit back and take all the racial slurs that were

thrown his way. Many of the southern whites were angry at Major League Baseball,

saying “Let’s face it, there are folks down here who just don’t want their kids growing up

to admire a Negro” (Voigt 12). As time went on, many learned to accept Robinson, as he

went on to win the National League Rookie of the Year. What Jackie Robinson did was

bigger than baseball, it was an accomplishment that not only opened the door for blacks in

the game, but also opened the eyes of a prejudiced nation.

Baseball is a mirror of American culture and its society and that is why it is

America’s pastime. Baseball reflects American life, showing us the trends and structure of

American character. Yes, baseball has faced many of the same problems as the rest of the

country, yet it has endured and has become one of the only constants in America.

Baseball is a part of childhood we don’t have to leave behind, which might explain why it

can be as comforting as a crib blanket amid the changes of America (Cataneo 4). The

biggest reason for Baseball becoming America’s Pastime is simple: “Baseball’s position in

our way of life is due….to its rich history. The fan cherishes memories of ball players of

his youth (Guttmann 99).” And even though baseball has had its problems in recent years,

many people continue to be faithful to t

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