Baseball is the great American pastime! In fact, when Calvin Coolidge was President he actually declared, “Baseball is our national game!” So be it!
In many ways the history of baseball and that of our country go hand-in-hand. The game has evolved as we have grown as a nation; the inception of each closely parallels each other. Albeit, many say baseball was derived from the English game of rounders or cricket, but baseball is definitely a different game! Beginning with base ball(two separate words) and town-ball, our national game has been enmeshed with the growth of our country since the first shot was fired in the American Revolution until the present day. As Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson once said, “This country is as American as baseball!”
The Importance of a SIMPLE Game
1. When Abraham Lincoln was a possible candidate for President in 1860, he was approached by a messenger, during a pickup game of baseball, with important pre-election news. Abe simply asked him to wait as he did not want to miss his turn at bat! The news? Abe had been nominated for President by the Republican Party!
2. During the Civil War, the North and South would play baseball against each other after a “tough day of war”!
3. “Baseball” wrote Mark Twain, “is the very symbol, the outward and visible expression of the drive and push, and rush, and struggle of the …booming 19th Century. Baseball evolved into the favorite American sport because it is fast-paced and physical”.
4. “Baseball is something more than a game to an American boy: it is his training field for life work”. Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis
5. “Next to religion, baseball has furnished a greater impact on American life than any other institution”. President Herbert Hoover
6. On January 15, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt penned his “Green Light” letter to Commissioner of Baseball Landis. The essence of the letter stated that the President felt it would be best for the country to keep baseball going during the war. He said that baseball provided a recreation that was inexpensive, would take people’s minds off the war, and maintain employment for many Americans. The game went on. Moreover, baseball was played as a diversion in both POW and Internment/Relocation camps.
Moreover, baseball terms, expressions, and names were regularly used as passwords.
7. “Baseball makes it easier for the generations to talk to one another”. Joel Oppenheimer
8. “There is but ONE game and that is baseball!” John McGraw and Babe Ruth
9. Jackie Robinson’s “crossing of the color line” in 1947 not only opened the game of baseball to Negroes, but began the movement helping to desegregate football, basketball, and other sports.
10. “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game”. Jacque Barzun, Yale Professor
11. For many years, beginning with William Howard Taft, the President ceremoniously threw out the first ball each baseball season.
12. The growth of “Baseball Diplomacy” in Latin America and Asia has opened the door for increased economic relations/development between the United States and many foreign nations. Moreover, baseball has helped breakdown cultural barriers with exchanges for professional, college, and youth players/teams.
13. The inclusion of many baseball terms and metaphors has become common in the English language. Terms like Grand Slam, “hit it out of the park”, rain check, a ballpark figure, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over”, touch base, “it’s a whole new ball game”, and more have found their way into everyday usage. In fact, enhancing prison sentences is termed “3 strikes and you are out!”.
14. The song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” is not only played/sung at games, but is sung by people of all ages everywhere.
15. The economics of baseball has not just produced billions of dollars for business(and players), but has created unique jobs, cottage industries, and professional opportunities for millions of Americans. Moreover, baseball has lead to the development of foreign manufacturers as well as increased trade and economic exchanges. Baseball at all levels(MLB, minor leagues, college, high school, youth, etc) has provided an economic basis for big business and entrepreneurs alike!
16. Baseball creates an “escape” from everyday life in both vicarious and interactive ways. It is a year-long diversion that encourages regional competition and rivalry, free play, parent-child bonding, a respect for the past, and even “fantasy” activities. Baseball is in all the arts to include movies, television, literature, and even cartoons. It is a recreational game any one can play and enjoy for fun! Baseball’s best moments do not always happen on the field!
17. “Everyday is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is”. Bob Feller(HOF)
18. Baseball provides the essential “life lessons” necessary in the socialization and development of good, solid productive citizens; it is the best “classroom of life”. Within an educational and fun environment, youngsters learn to cooperate, compete, make decisions, problem solve, a strong work ethic, as well as the qualities of being a good sport, self-reliance, integrity, character, NEVER quitting, and of course, the accountability and responsibility of being on a team/family. It also provides an environment teaching physical and mental conditioning, nutrition, and personal hygiene. The “lessons of baseball are the lessons of life”.
19. Baseball provides a FUN arena for social and generational interaction. A game may be a date, a family activity, a neighborhood competition, a shared hobby, or just simple talk among friends and family as to the greatest player, team, era, et al. In many instances, it is the common link between father, son, and even grandparents!
20. “Can learn more about character at home plate than anywhere else in life” Anonymous
21. A game of catch can be a lifetime bond between family and friends as well as creating lasting memories.
22. “If you are not having fun in baseball, you miss the point of everything; it is a game where you gotta have fun”. Chris Chambliss
23. “As a kid, I was taught to charge the ball, stay in the batter’s box, make a good decision, and to do my best”. And, “all that time I thought they were teaching me about baseball!”. Derek Jeter
24. “Baseball gives EVERY American a chance to excel, not just to be good as someone else, but better than someone else. This is the nature of man and the name of the game.” Ted Williams
25. “Baseball has done more to move America in the right direction than all the professional patriots with their cheap words”. Monte Irvin(HOF)
26. “Baseball: An island of surety in a changing world”. Bill Veeck
27. “Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True, and the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona”. George Will
28. “It(baseball) is an American institution, and more lasting than some marriages, war, Supreme Court decisions, and even major depressions”. Art Rust
29. “To be an American and not be able to play baseball is comparable to being a Polynesian and not being able to swim. It is an impossible situation”. John Cheever
30. “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game; the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us of from being nervous, dyspeptic set”. Walt Whitman, poet
31. “Any schmuck can play it, and they do play it, at all levels…” Carlton Fisk(HOF)
32. “The whole history of baseball has the quality of my theology”. Bernard Malamud
33. “When I was a small boy in Kansas, a friend of mine and I went fishing….I told him I wanted to be a real major league baseball player. My friend said he’d like to be President of the United Sates. Neither of us got our wish” President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Lastly, someone once said that to determine the REAL importance of baseball, simply put a baseball and other toys in front of an infant and see which he/she will pick up first….it will be the baseball!! It is simply the FUNNEST game!
Baseball has reflected the language of America and spiced it too. Presidents, politicians, executives, generals and parents “touched all the bases” regularly so nobody would be “out in left field” or “caught off base” in the great pursuits of life. If you did it right, you hit a “Grand Slam home run”, if not, you “struck out”.
AND, in the words of Pogo(comic strip possum): “We has met baseball and baseball is us!”