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America Through Baseball Essay Research Paper America

America Through Baseball Essay, Research Paper America Through Baseball”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 ofentertainment, but a mirror of American culture and its society. Baseball has been lookedupon by many as a source of rejuvenation in times of hardship.

America Through Baseball Essay, Research Paper

America Through Baseball”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 ofentertainment, but a mirror of American culture and its society. Baseball has been lookedupon by many as a source of rejuvenation in times of hardship. Baseball is commonlycalled “the pastime,” but most often the game feels and acts like an old friend (Cantaneo4). In World War II many of the men dispatched to Pearl Harbor within weeks of theJapanese attack in 1941 brought along a baseball and a mitt, and each day at dusk playedcatch in front of their barracks. Nearly fifty years later a solider could remember how thesoft Hawaiian breeze reminded him of early spring at home and how throwing a baseballwas great solace, with the American fleet smoldering in the harbor (Cantaneo 5). Baseballis 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 somethingthey can depend on and associate with. This concept is illustrated in Phil AldenRobinson’s movie Field of Dreams through James Earl Jones’ speech: “Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’teven fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway and not even know whythey’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as childrenlonging 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 thebleachers, sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll have reservedseats along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were childrenand cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it will be as ifthey 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 rolledby 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 definitelycome!”Baseball gives one a sense of youth and comfort that can be relived through baseball’sever-changing ways. It is one constant that’s been experienced generation aftergeneration. The game has not only become the most popular in our country, it mirrors oursociety: Baseball is peculiarly American in its temperament and psychology ….It is ournational game not alone because of history and development but by nature andcharacteristics 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 ballgames. 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 growinginterest in the game, new baseball teams sprung up everywhere. People started paying tosee games, opening the door to commercialism. At the same time intense competition ledto the paying of good players so that the sport quickly evolved into a commercializedspectacle. The decade of the 1870’s also saw the rise of baseball journalism. This was sothat people could keep track of their favorite stars. The average price being paid toballplayer 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 ogood players led to labor disputes, as occurs in many other job fields. In 1890 playersbanded together to form their own “Major League” to oppose their owners’ plans ofreducing salaries (Voigt 22). Since then players have tried to unionize, their venturesreflecting the up-and-down pattern of union success in the nation’s economy. Althoughbaseball players don’t belong to a union today, they belong to the Major League PlayersAssociation, an organization comparable to the white collar unions which use strikes andboycotts as weapons in getting what they want (Voigt 25). Players and other workersshare many of the same problems, including retirement. In the case of the ballplayer it’s amuch different problem, since injuries can cause retirement at an unexpected and earlyage. So the most important achievement of the Players Association would be the securingof 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, trickcartoon scoreboards, fireworks, giveaways (including bat days, ball days, and battingglove days) are all used. Such great promotions, and the pursuit of fun, has made baseballalmost an American religion. This then has lead to the struggle between baseball and thechurch. There has been a declining influence of churches on public behavior, and theability 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 whenSunday 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 (Voigt17). But because the owners saw the profits made by Sunday baseball, they bandedtogether against these laws. And then in 1918 a bill was passed through the New Yorkstate legislature and Sunday baseball came to New York (Voigt 18). This set a precedentand soon Sunday baseball was played everywhere. Baseball has become, to menespecially, a form of religion. And as in any religion there is a god or gods; baseball is nodifferent. The years following the advent of Sunday baseball in New York saw the rise ofbaseball’s greatest god: “The Great Bambino.” George Herman “Babe” Ruth attractedworshippers as no player ever has before or since. And many recent scholars havesuggested that baseball has flourished, at least in part, because of what they call the “FolkHero 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 nevereven 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 wasunheard of at the time. But he did contribute a great deal of his money to children in needand made frequent visits to children’s hospitals. Probably the most miraculous thing heever did was hit a home run for a sick little boy in the 1932 World Series. The babevisited the luchemia-stricken boy that day in his hospital bed. All the boy wanted was tomeet Babe Ruth; he met him and Ruth promised him he’d hit him a home run. And onBabe’s first at bat of the afternoon, he pointed to the centerfield bleachers, he swung atthat pitch, and the ball sailed to the deepest part of the centerfield bleachers, exactly wherehe had just pointed (Durant and Bettman 239). He called his shot, and no one has evermatched 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 baseballnever again produced such a god-like hero. There is undeniably an interaction betweenthe game and its heroes, and Babe Ruth certainly reinforced the hold of baseball on thesporting public. Changes in baseball mirror broader changes in American character. This is truewhen we look at how baseball helped many young immigrants “be somebody” in the latenineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the late nineteenth century Irish-Americanssought an escape from discrimination through what they’d hoped would be the quickbaseball 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 Wagnerinspired youngsters with their play. Then there were stars like the great Joe DiMaggiowho inspired young Italian-Americans; Polish-Americans identified first with theCoveleskie brothers, Al Simmons, and later Stan Musial; Russo-American youths lookedto Lou Novikoff and Czech-Americans to Elmer Valo (Voigt 11). This gives us a greatmirror image of the “Melting Pot,” which has been kept alive through baseball. Even though baseball has supported the great melting pot theory by the acceptanceof many ethnic Americans, baseball has a tough time dealing with Black Americans as didthe rest of the country. However, in 1946 Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgersbroke 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 otherblacks not only in sport but in life as well (Stam and Barrett 56). Robinson was warned bythe organization to curb his temper and sit back and take all the racial slurs that werethrown 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 upto admire a Negro” (Voigt 12). As time went on, many learned to accept Robinson, as hewent on to win the National League Rookie of the Year. What Jackie Robinson did wasbigger than baseball, it was an accomplishment that not only opened the door for blacks inthe 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 isAmerica’s pastime. Baseball reflects American life, showing us the trends and structure ofAmerican character. Yes, baseball has faced many of the same problems as the rest of thecountry, 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 itcan be as comforting as a crib blanket amid the changes of America (Cataneo 4). Thebiggest reason for Baseball becoming America’s Pastime is simple: “Baseball’s position inour way of life is due….to its rich history. The fan cherishes memories of ball players ofhis 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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