Baseball America's Pastime Term Paper

Pages: 15 (4433 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Sports

America's Pastime: The Importance of Baseball to United States Life and

Culture: in Film, Society, and in Everyday Life

That now timeworn clich?, 'baseball is as American as apple pie' may

in fact nowadays ring (and actually be) less true than in past years;

notwithstanding the views (of perhaps especially) diehard baseball

enthusiasts. The strongest reason may be that in 21st century America;

'apple pie', literally and metaphorically, has become today no more (nor

any less) 'American' than a sushi roll; stuffed calzone or Macho Burrito.

Such changes notwithstanding, I will explore how the long held national

sense of baseball as 'America's pastime' first came to be, and how and why

this sense of baseball remains strongly with us today. Also, I shall

describe how combined, implied social and political importances of

baseball, to the American psyche and realization of the "American Dream" is

powerfully and vividly reflected in films like The Rookie; Field of Dreams,

and A League of their Own.

Baseball, while more popular in America than ever (or anywhere else,

with the possible exception of Japan) nevertheless has a much stronger

international flavor now than yesterday, especially in terms of the

diversity of now billions of fans, players, and others actively or

passively involved, or both. Moreover, scandals, especially many having to

do with alleged abuse of steroids by many of today's baseball standouts

(and others), have unfortunately now sullied some of baseball's long-heldDownload full Download Microsoft Word File
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reputation for integrity and fair play: important American standards and

values (Macauley, "Drugs in Sports").

Still, even in today's complex; culturally-fragmented sports and

entertainment worlds (these overlapping media-driven universes also include

sports once considered too "foreign" for American tastes: e.g., soccer; ice

hockey), America baseball remains perhaps the best-loved and definitely the

longest and most deeply-loved 'American pastime. Baseball in real life and

movies about baseball alike say a lot about us.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Baseball America's Pastime Assignment

Organized baseball has been around in America since as long ago as

1845 ("History of Baseball"), but baseball itself as subject and/or object

of many popular, sometimes even blockbuster American films is, on the other

hand, a relatively new phenomenon of mostly the later 20th and early 21st

centuries.

According to the article "History of Baseball":

The first team to play baseball under modern rules were the New York

Knickerbockers. The club was founded on September 23, 1845, as a

social

club for the upper middle classes of New York City, and was strictly

amateur until its disbandment. The club members, led by Alexander

Cartwright, formulated the "Knickerbocker [sic] Rules", which in

large part

deal with organizational matters but which also lay out rules for

playing the

game.

This, although American baseball is far from being this way today, it

actually started as an elite pastime for the privileged few.

According to the article "Baseball" (Wikipedia, 30 July 2007), an

important part of the general background of what America now calls

baseball, the sport known popularly as "America's pastime" is that:

The modern version of the game developed in North America beginning in

the eighteenth century. The consensus of historians is that it evolved from

earlier bat-and-ball games, such as rounders, brought to the continent by

British and Irish immigrants. By the late nineteenth century, baseball was

widely recognized as the national sport of the United States. The game is

sometimes referred to as hardball in contrast to the very similar game of

softball. Perhaps this is because, like America itself even since pre-

Massachusetts Bay Colony times; when 'free spirits' like Captain John Smith

built from scratch new lives of opportunity, we have been a nation within

which so many have been able to 'pull themselves up by the bootstraps' and

succeed in life in a whole new way - often far beyond expectations.

Baseball players typically embody this dream and fundamental spirit of

America,

Traditionally-speaking, in America anyone, with raw talent, hard work,

practice, perseverance, optimism and patience combined [among these, only

the raw talent part cannot be acquired, with effort] can rise in baseball:

possibly (if still rarely) to megastar status like Babe Ruth; Lou Gehrig;

Mickey Mantle; Jackie Robinson; Hank Greenberg; Joe DiMaggio and other more

recent baseball legends. Those names alone, either on an individual basis

or within a group, alone offer another importance inference to be gleaned,

into why baseball is and always has been considered deeply, fundamentally

American.

Notwithstanding the fact that America, historically and presently,

prides itself on being a 'melting pot'; and on individuals' and groups

within America's having long embraced, and benefited from, the 'melting

pot' concept; the United States has, nevertheless always been (think of

American slave times, in which black Southern American slaves were

Constitutionally considered, for census purposes, to each be just 3/5 of a

person) a place where ethnic; racial; cultural; religious and economic

prejudices run deep.

Within such a long-term national environment of mostly-unthinking,

knee-jerk white Anglo exclusivity in baseball, exclusivity, though;

baseball has long been one (and for quite a while, even, the only one) of

the very few ways of someone who is 'nobody in particular' and comes from

just an average family, or a poor one, still possibly making it big,

whoever you are; whoever your parents are or were. Whichever 'side of the

tracks' your family lives on, if you are a skilled enough player, work

hard, practice a lot, and don't give up, you can, with enough perseverance

and practice, someday perhaps be on the pitcher's mound at Yankee Stadium,

looking out at millions.

And, while clearly many of baseball's super-greats have been of Anglo-

heritage, baseball has also (even if reluctantly at first) eventually

opened its arms to blacks (e.g., Jackie Robinson, the first-ever African-

American Major League player; Hank Greenberg (see The Life and Times of

Hank Greenberg) the first-ever Jewish major leaguer.

Both of these baseball "firsts", which represented enormous

breakthroughs for those two players and, much more broadly, baseball itself

as an ever-American sport, happened at around the same time in modern

American history: just before the worst fighting of World War II, when

America was being sharply reminded daily by overseas casualties of the key

importance of national solidarity and unity. It is perhaps too much to

claim that baseball 'led the way' toward greater, more open ethnic and

other tolerances of one another. But if it was not quite that, baseball,

like no other sport, functioned in a way that allowed us all to see and

enjoy, very positively and proudly, not just our great players from all

backgrounds, but our own greater national inclusiveness. It is in such

ways that baseball has often functioned, and still does, as a sort of

national mirror of our best (and, in more recent times, with alleged

steroid abuse, our possible worst) selves.

But before professional baseball's widespread steroid scandals that

began in the 1990's, rocking the baseball world like never before and that

persist to this day, players from Mexico; Puerto Rico; Latin America;

Europe; Asia; Australia and Africa and/or of those and many other

backgrounds found themselves, beginning especially in the 1970's, newly

welcomed into professional major and minor league teams. Baseball's

billions of fans throughout America (and, increasingly, the world) now and

always have come from all walks of life. While not all Americans are

enthusiasts or even fans; most Americans have been personally touched in

some way by this sport. Most typically this would be through playing

and/or watching, If not that, it may have been from seeing a baseball

movie; or seeing on TV, a great baseball player's inspiring biography, like

Lou Gehrig's.

Another 'American' characteristic of this sport is that it is

accessible. Usually even the poorest American neighborhoods have a few

balls, bats, and old gloves. One can't ski, ice skate, golf or play hockey

without special and usually expensive gear; but baseball equipment is

simpler and relatively cheap compared to most other team sports. Further,

just about anyone of any age can play:kids of all ages; their physically-

fit (or not-so-fit) parents; grandparents; even people with artificial

limbs. This echoes the inclusiveness first encouraged among even the

earliest Americans, by John Winthrop; Simon Bradstreet, and other early

leaders.

Baseball also frequently gives multigenerational families and diverse

groups the bond of a shared interest and pastime. As America continues,

even if unintentionally, to grow into an ever lonelier, more impersonal

place, baseball still draws people together for a shared American

experience, be it in living rooms; bars, or stadiums. Especially within

the past few decades, moreover; popular mainstream movies with strong,

uplifting baseball themes have grown into yet another way of sustaining and

increasing American enthusiasm for baseball. The sport itself and movies

about individual players and/or teams clearly helps to underscore the

positive spirit of baseball, and perhaps America itself, upon whose own

national spirit the sport was established. In the movies as in real life,

moreover; it is never too late to play baseball for fun or even - albeit

rarely - for the major leagues! For instance, in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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