Five Reasons Why Baseball Matters In America [VIDEO]
Five Reasons Why Baseball Matters In America [VIDEO]
The crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd — yes, friends, baseball’s Opening Day is upon us. And while baseball is a slow-paced and rather nerdy sport, there’s something, well, magical about it.
Both Deanna and I are fans — she of her Seattle Mariners and I of my beloved Kansas City Royals. So we thought we’d collaborate and come up with Five Big Reasons as to why we — and you — should appreciate the great American game of baseball.
1) Baseball Broke the Color Barrier Before Government Did.
The names of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey ought to be known in every history classroom across America. Sixteen years before Dr. King gave a speech about a dream in Washington D.C., seven years before Brown v. Board of Education was ruled on by the Supreme Court, and a year before President Truman signed an executive order to integrate the military, Jackie Robinson put on a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform and became the first black player on a Major League team.
To say that this was a radical move on Branch Rickey’s part is understating the facts. To say that Jackie Robinson was a strong character who was hand-selected for an impossible task is also understating the facts. But baseball was at the forefront of the civil rights movement before the civil rights movement even existed, and began proclaiming to the American public that merit, not skin color, determined how much a person could achieve.
Also, if you’ve never watched the underrated but excellent movie 42, released in 2013 (starring Chadwick Boseman before he was Black Panther, and Harrison Ford in an amazing performance as team owner Branch Rickey), go check it out. It’s worth your time to remember what a different world this used to be, and how baseball helped to change that.
2) Teams are Multicultural, but through Merit, not Government.
Thanks to the example and legacy of Jackie Robinson, baseball has a long history of accepting players of all races and all nationalities. One can look at the starting lineup for any major league team and see a multitude of countries and ethnicities and backgrounds represented, from the college kid who got a baseball scholarship, to the Cuban refugee who had to flee the country to play professional baseball. Baseball has no affirmative action; it doesn’t need it.
During the World Baseball Classic in 2017, many major league players who participated opted to play for their home countries. But when the tournament was over, players from Venezuela and Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and Cuba and Japan and the Netherlands all came back to their major league teams to play together. On my (Deanna) own Seattle Mariners, the opening day starting pitcher is from Venezuela. Game 2’s starting pitcher is Canadian. The designated hitter is from the Dominican Republic. The newly re-signed veteran outfielder is a Japanese superstar. You know what we call them? Ours. It doesn’t matter where they came from, only that they belong to our team, and that they can hit the ball out of the infield or get that sinker to drop at just the right moment.
3) Baseball is For Families.
With a long legacy of Little League teams and sandlots, baseball is a kid-friendly sport – which makes it a family-friendly one as well. And while ticket prices for professional sports games have gone significantly up in recent years, tickets to baseball games can still be affordable. Major League Baseball still goes out of its way to cater to kids and families, because they realize that being a family-friendly sport is good for business.
In my (Deanna) family, we have made going to ballgames part of our family entertainment budget. Yes, it would be cheaper and easier to watch those games at home (especially on nights when the game goes into extra innings, and little eyes get mighty tired), but I can’t teach my kids a love for the game from a TV screen. They might learn to appreciate winning, but not the game itself. It’s better to hear the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd in person, than over the TV speakers or over the radio. As I sit and talk to my kids about pitch counts, balls and strikes, winning years and lean years, we are spending time together and building memories together. I can’t think of a better definition of a family outing than going to a baseball game on a summer evening.
4) Baseball Brought Us Together After 9/11.
The nation was still reeling after the terror attacks of 9/11, but we still had baseball to take our minds off the grief. After all, there was a World Series to be played, having been postponed since the attacks. We had to know who would take the Crown — the New York Yankees or the Arizona Diamondbacks.
But the best game of the series was Game Three, held at Yankee Stadium. Who can forget President George W. Bush, striding boldly to the mound in an FDNY jacket and throwing out the first pitch? It was memorable, and a perfect middle finger to the terrorists who thought they had us by the short hairs.
And finally. . .
5) Baseball IS Summer.
Yes, I know, there’s the beach and vacation trips, but my summer happy place is sitting high up in the stands at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. For Deanna it’s at Safeco Field in Seattle. I especially love night games — the heat of the day turning into the cool of the evening, watching the sun set, and seeing the stadium lights come on. There’s the seventh inning stretch where you sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” or John Fogerty’s “Centerfield.”
It’s sitting with 30,000 of your neighbors watching your favorite players step up to bat, sighing if they strike out, cheering if they make a base hit. You’re watching the starting pitcher, wondering how many innings he’ll last, and who will step in from the bullpen when he’s done. And then the jumping and screaming when someone hits a home run or — miracle of miracle — a Grand Slam.
There is nothing like it. Now it’s baseball season again. And people will come. Vin Scully says so:
People will come as they have since the days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and Ernie Banks. Since the days of the Damn Yankees, the Negro Leagues, and the Curse of the Billy Goat at Wrigley Field. And now, after a long winter, it’s time to return to baseball for another glorious season.
For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.
Ernie Harwell, longtime radio and TV announcer for the Detroit Tigers, would recite this (Song of Solomon 2:11-12) on the first Tigers broadcast of spring training. We’re past that for 2018, and here in southeast Michigan it may rain for opening day tomorrow, the closest thing to flowers are daffodil shoots just poking out, the turtles are probably still sleeping in the mud down at the lake, but the birds are singing in the morning. OK, 1 out of 4, so PLAY BALL!!!!
Thank Capitalism for baseball’s desegregation. A smart entrepreneur wants good employees, period – people who help the business thrive. Robinson was an excellent player, who gave the Dodgers an edge. He happened to be black but would have been a great addition to any ball club. Rickey helped open the flood gate of an untapped source of good baseball players – guys who were being overlooked basically because of the Democrats’ Jim Crow tradition. Capitalism won, racism lost. To this day, people of all skin tones are chosen to play based on their skill, not color. There’s no affirmative action in baseball.
But get the creeping politics out of it, or baseball will go the way of the NFL—into oblivion.