America and Americans are unthinkable without baseball. A long time ago Walt Whitman precisely defined this connection, â€œWellâ€”it’s our game: that’s the chief fact in connection with it: America’s game: has the snap, go, fling, of the American atmosphereâ€”belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly, as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.” Later many people thought through the baseball reflections of American life, among them Daniel O’Rourke, the author of the book The Spirit at Your Back, who said, â€œBaseball symbolizes this thoughtful steadiness â€“ less â€œshock and aweâ€ and more careful planningâ€¦ Baseball too, reflects our country’s ideal of freedomâ€¦ More so than most sports, baseball is egalitarianâ€¦ Moreover, baseball managers wear the same uniform as the players. Does this democratic nature of baseball reflect something we’ve lost? I think so.â€ (2011) besides the lost of democracy baseball also reflects many other aspects of American life. Therefore tracking its influence and reflections through the years could be very useful and interesting.
Let us start with origins of baseball in the 1840s. From the beginning, baseball performed the leading role of American nation, and it had gone through all the metamorphosis along with the country. Baseball had always had a strong connection with politics and society in the US. Is has its own influence and interaction that are not always as noticeable as one might wish. Baseball was thought as a game for “the wealthy gentlemen” only. Rich people had an intention to leave the baseball for the chosen ones. Though the baseball was considered as the upper classes’ game, nothing could prevent it from widespread popularity among lower classes.Â The game also organized into a professional sport. As Panacy writes, â€œIn 1876, the chartering of the National League allowed baseball to become an occupation for those who could play it well.Â By 1892, 12 eastern cities laid claim to professional baseball teams in the league.â€ Thus, baseball became a game where the poor and the rich were equal and shared the same experience. It reflected a shift in the society conscience.
In 1900s, there was Progressive Era in the United States. In that time, Theodore Roosevelt became the president of the US,and he wanted to change his country and his beloved nation. Baseball was a part and a representation of the Progressive Era. It was time for a new society to appear and so it happened. The country passed from agrarian system to industrialization and baseball clearly approved that. Baseball clearly reflects that fact. As Steven Gelber said, â€œThe baseball was not only a mirror of American life, but also represented the relationship of urban life, business organization and the values that underlay them.â€ Baseball represented all the features and circumstances of business during the Progressive Era. Byron Bancroft Johnson created the American League in 1901, which offered higher wages and better contracts for the players. Meanwhile, baseball was becoming a more acceptable activity. In 1907, Alta Weiss became the first woman to play professional baseball. Graduallybaseball had developed into much more complex game with features that reflected Progressive American society.
In 1910s, America had become a new world power. The country was growing as well as the baseball along with it. The baseball turned out to be a very profitable business. People start to earn money on it, but the baseball players were still poor. Players were becoming very frustrated with it, so they decided to strike for better conditions and higher wages. The first players stroke in 1912. Further strikes and problems alike eventually led to the Black Sox Scandal. Thus, such tension was quite a reflection of tense anxiety related to World War I.
In 1920s, people were disappointed with the war and president Woodrow Wilson. They have had enough of it; therefore, America’s choice was isolationism. Gradually the US passed from a wartime economy to a peacetime economy and then in ten years became the richest country in the world. This decade was called the Roaring Twenties because of huge quantity of new consumer goods. America’s economic boom was combined with baseball attendance and popularity. People started to be curious about a different kind of entertainments (sports, movies, music) This decade is usually considered being a golden era of sport particularly for baseball. Americans’ sense of nationalism increased, and the need for heroes had shown itself. Soon long-awaited heroes were embodied in Charles Lindberg and Babe Ruth (Dizzy Dean, Dazzy Vance,Lefty Gomez, Joseph Wallace,Mel Ott). Babe Ruth was the example of average American for he had risen from low origins and made a success. Because of these baseball greats, the Black Sox scandal and other problems were forgotten. With the invention of the radio, the baseball became a game accessible to everyone and thus became even more popular. The baseball of this decade also reflected tendencies in the attitude towards African Americans who were still considered as â€œ2nd Class Citizensâ€. Such disrespect resulted in a new sense of black pride. The two negro leagues were founded: the Negro National League (1920) and the Eastern Colored League (1923) that later becameÂ the American Negro league (1929).
In 1930s, Great Depression started in the US. It did not only hit the nation, but it hit the ball either. It had changed all the priorities. As far as people had no job, baseball players were just looking for money and did not care about the quality of the game. On the other hand, their fans could no longer go to the game due to the lack of money. Such a despair led many to the thought that baseball is worth suspending till the better days. Luckily, there was a clever president at that time â€“ Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The president knew perfectly that there is no better social distraction during the depression than the baseball. The game was not only a reflection of that time but also a supporter of society’s moral and confidence.Baseball was a part of New Deal (economic program in response to the Great Depression) and successfully fought people’s apathy and despair. It is a well-known fact that Roosevelt appreciated baseball and believed that owners and players are examples of American spirit and dedication. With Roosevelt’s support in this decade, the Baseball Hall of Fame was opened, and the first players were inducted.
In 1940s after the depression the last thing American people wanted was a war, but World War II had started. In that time, baseball was a cure for people again; therefore, baseball had one of its best seasons that summer. Naturally Japan being the enemy of the US denounced the game of baseball as a bad American influence.Players who were drafted still promoted baseball everywhere possible.They were rather playing than fighting: collected funds for the war and to support their fellow soldiers. Soon the girls started to play baseball too. Philip Wrigley wanted to keep up interest in baseball during the war.In order to do so Wrigley formed four baseball teams particularly for women players. He wanted them not only to play good, but to be the model of femininity, as well. It was a reflection of post-war trends when people wanted to forget about the war and return to normal life. It also helped to decrease racial prejudices towards African Americans. Since 1944 African Americans were allowed to be in Major Leagues. Integration in baseball was followed by integration in American Armed Forces.
As we can see,the baseball reflects great part of American life in the first half of the 20th century. To my mind it is for better, for baseball serves as a historical mirror to some extent. The exact words about the reflecting role of the baseball were said by Panacy â€œThe game of baseball is as complex and changing as America itself. Baseball has gone through glory days and periods of desolation, has seen the country through its best and worst and has served almost every purpose to the American psyche.â€ (2011) I agree with that and hope that I am not the only one supporter of the baseball.