Jan 12, 2018 in Informative

Baseball

Gerald Early, a well-known American writer, noticed “… there are only three things thanks to which America will be known during the whole time from which this civilization is studied: Constitution, jazz, and baseball.” Frankly saying, it is impossible to disagree with him. The USA is known not only for these things. Nevertheless, speaking about America, one cannot but mentioning baseball.

Americans started playing the game, which had been a basis of modern baseball, at the beginning of the 19th century. It had many different names, for example, Round Ball, Bass-Ball, or Town Ball. The historians argue much about the fact who has invented baseball. There were very similar games in different countries that Americans finally began to call baseball, namely English Rounder, German Schlagball, and others.

There is a set of disagreements about a baseball origin. In fact, various historical books indicate some types of senior "relatives" of this game. Worldwide at various times, people loved the games based on hurling back of a ball by beaten (stick) dividing a game field into zones. The Russian lapta is known since the 13th century, the French game La théque is mentioned in the 14th century, and the Irish game Rounders gained the popularity in the 15-16th centuries. However, the USA with its game Townball is considered a baseball homeland in its modern look.

People play the game using a bat and a ball. Baseball is held between two teams that consist of nine players. It is played on a large field that has four bases laid out in a square whose outlines mark the course a runner must take to score.

Alexander Cartwright is considered to be the founder of modern baseball. He created the rules for this game in 1845, the part of which remained till nowadays.

The War between the North and the South in 1861-1865 did not detain the baseball development in the USA and, on the contrary, promoted its distribution among ordinary soldiers from all the country, being gathered in the army parts. Baseball became the most popular form of rest in armies of the North. Some historical sources referred to the match between two selected structures on the Christmas Day of 1862, being held in the State of North Carolina before 40.000 viewers. Southerners faced the game through northerners’ war prisoners and came back home with a new hobby after the end of the war.

In the post-war years, the demand for baseball increased in all cities. The crowds of people showed readiness to pay for watching a match between strong teams. The competition between clubs and cities was heated. America began to call baseball a "national game" in the press. Such well-known writers as Mark Twain and Walt Whitman claimed that baseball became a special reflection of the prompt development and formed consciousness of America.

The clubs were organized on the amateur basis for the purpose of healthy rest in the company of friends, and with time, they were transformed into professional ones. Each club started headhunting for the talented players, offering them new employment. Sometimes such an invitation was accompanied by the employment offer on a new place, and the social origin of the player did not play a great role for the management of clubs any more.

In order to clearly understand the whole America, one should pay his/ her attention to baseball. In this game, everything is accurately verified and cannot be changed: the height of a pitcher's hill, the weight of a ball, and distances between bases. The archaic rules have not been changed for 100 years; it is required to reach perfection heights within the established framework from the players. Baseball can be compared to a staunch skeleton of the American Constitution, with its suspicious and strange relation to human passions, which Fathers of the nation tried to mitigate with the Bill of Rights. America and baseball can be classically strict and romantically soft at the same time. Both the game and the country fluctuate between extremes of freedom and public imperative.

The dreams of ideal America are expressed in the game, what through a baseball prism it had been seen to Hemingway and Updike, its contradictions when the game together with the country resisted to racial integration while Jackie Robinson did not become the first black player in the Highest League.

Certainly, the outcome of a baseball match depends on an individual initiative of players. Nevertheless, it is allowed to develop in the conditions of group (corporate) structure. In baseball, everything is solved not by a hammered ball. Only the players make the decision and work in compliance with the moment. Everything is reduced to an antagonism of two players: the pitcher (throwing a ball) and the batter (beating off it). There is also a catcher who, in fact, is able to have a look at the entire field. The task of a pitcher is to outwit. He plays in attack and protection at the same time. The batter has a real challenge as he does not know what may happen each time. Still, there is a bit in his hands, and if everything comes to an end well and if he manages to beat off a small ball which flies with a speed under 150 km/h, he will become the master of a stadium.

It is difficult for foreigners to understand the appeal of this game and what defines the cult status of the players who are shifting from one foot to other in the corners of the field. Due to a lack of direct collisions and a slow rhythm, this game seems to be an embodiment of political correctness. In the absence of the sport ministries in America, the baseball institute most deeply resounds with the national sport character. Therefore, baseball has served as the most patriotic game, rallying the nation at the difficult moments. Everybody knows the fact which took place in 1942 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed professional players with a request to continue playing despite the wartime. One cannot but mentioning the tradition that has been supported since 1910 when the President of the country makes the first throw of a season.

No wonder that metaphors and images of baseball penetrate all aspects of American mass culture, from Norman Rockwell’s pictures to Robert Redford in the movie Nugget. Fans keep in memory the epoch-making moments in the history of the game and can give out names, records, and other statistics smoothly by years. The baseball traditions are passed from father to son, casting nostalgia on a certain pastoral moment in the country past.

The history of the modern American sport, baseball in particular, traced the roots back in the 1960s — 1970s of the last century. It is closely connected with industrialization process and the development of transport and the mass media. In the second half of the XIX century, the first national sport organizations were formed: The National Association of Baseball Players (1859) and The National Baseball League (1876).

Americans have played baseball almost since the foundation of their country. Clark and Lewis organized the first game near Brooklyn while the Congress was discussing the law on fluent slaves. The game quickly seized the country, and the account of games was published in newspapers near news about Sherman's march in the State of Georgia. Though baseball had been spread over the country, it was not perceived as a game.

It was as idle pastime. John Montgomery Ward, a baseball star of 1870, wrote, “as usual in America it came with a striking speed”. . Presidents and beggars, criminals and radicals were admired by the game, and it remained in many decades of changes. For almost the bicentennial existence of baseball, Americans have hoped the game to become the representative of sacred American belief. Green baseball fields were perceived as a return to the nature. Ranks and privileges did not exist on a baseball field and only great players could rise on a baseball Olympus.

The history of baseball abounds with such names which support this myth: Babe Ruth, the son of the bartender who became the greatest player in the history of baseball, Joe Di Madzhio, the son of the immigrant of the fisherman who captured the imagination of America, and Jackie Robinson, the grandson of the slave and the son of the farm worker. Like a pastoral landscape, baseball got a lot of mythical and metaphorical capacities. It provided an opportunity to escape from the daily life with its problems. Baseball clubs began to be created. The popularity of baseball became very increasing.

Businessmen began to manage baseball with the establishment of the National League. They did not feel nostalgia for leaving orders of gentlemen's baseball. There had been a set of changes in baseball since its emergence. Despite it, myths about baseball have still lived. It remains a symbol of the country past. It is necessary to learn baseball for those who want to understand the soul and heart of America.

Baseball is a kind of sport which awakens many memories in Americans. In the childhood, it (or its version - softball) is played by so many children that this game is considered to be a "national pastime". The game is considered democratic, unlike soccer and basketball, and people of an average height and weight can play it.

Baseball had been arisen even prior to the Civil War in America (1861-1865) and was a very primitive game being played on the sandy platforms. The very first champions in this sport improved it by means of the introduction of certain techniques and elements of the calculation, which are similar to those that have made cricket so popular in England. In particular, the growth of baseball prestige was promoted by maintaining the account and the accounting record achievements. "Today baseball cannot be imagined without records", John Thorn claims in The Baseball Encyclopedia. Certainly, many Americans know that, having made 61 "circular jog" in a season of 1961, Roger Maris broke a record of "Kid" the Rue in 1927 equaling to 60 jogs, than the fact that 525 electoral votes gathered by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 surpassed the achievement of Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he received 523 electoral votes in 1936.

Baseball reached its maturity in the 1920-s when "Kid" Rues (1895-1948) led the New York Yankiz team to a victory in several draws of "the world series" and became the national hero thanks to the "circular jogs" (cases when the ball cannot be played as it is beaten out of field limits). For decades, there were great players in each team. Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) was one of them. He is considered a talented and courageous athlete who became the first Afro-American among players of the leading baseball leagues in 1947. It is worth stressing that black athletes had played only in the "Black League" before Robinson appeared.

Since the 1950-s, geographical frameworks of baseball started extending. Baseball on the professional, amateur, and youth levels is popular in North America (particularly in the United States), Central America, parts of South America and the Caribbean, and parts of East Asia and Southeast Asia.

In the cities of the western coast, there were teams that were entirely enticed from the East or created of the players provided by existing teams. Up to the 1970-s, owing to very rigid contracts, the owners of baseball teams, as a matter of fact, owned the players. Since then, the situation has changed, and the players have the right, in certain limits, to offer their services to any team. As a result, the fierce fight for the strongest players is held, and the stars earn million dollars a year. From time to time, as a result of disagreements between the labor union players and the owners of teams, the game stops for some months. Considering baseball both as a sport and business at the end of the XX century, many indignant fans believe that the element of business gets the best.

In should be admitted that the American League was founded in 1900, and since 1903 (except in 1904 and 1994), the winning teams of each league have played a postseason championship.

In his book To Every Thing a Season, Bruce Kuklick (1992) found that, “Shibe Park was a place where unusual affairs gave people a sense of community. In its exceptional beauty, the game at Shibe Park rose above the drawbacks of its businessmen, its players, and its fans”.

Without doubts, Kuklick has made an impressive work of research. He has written with authority, perspective and compassion about the social and economic forces that brought major league baseball to North Philadelphia and then drove it out in the years after the World War II. 

In the book Only the Ball Was White, Robert Peterson mentions the story of the excluded professional players. In such a way, the writer gives them the recognition they have been so long refused. Restoring the old Afro-American Leagues from modern sports publications and accounts of games in the black press, Peterson brings to life the fascinating period that stretched from shortly after the Civil War to the signing of Jackie Robinson in 1947 (Great Baseball Books, 2012).

Baseball represents a sport inclined to different observation of traditions. One of such steadfast traditions was the so-called gentleman's agreement concluded by lords of baseball, "National sports number one," providing preservation of racial purity. Everything began in June, 1884. The exhibition match between Chicago White Socks against Toledo had to take place on this day. The manager of Chicago Edrien Enson's "Cap" removed the team from the field when he saw a black player, Fleetwood Walker, in the ranks of players of Toledo. Enson rised a hysterics and told that if managers of Toledo did not move away Walker from a field his command would not play. The managers of Toledo had to obey Enson's requirement. The following year, Enson again organized a demagogical attack and demanded the New York Giants should refuse to buy George Stouvi, a black pitcher, in one of teams of the lowest league. Giants also obeyed Enson's hysterics.

Enson's claims reached the culmination in a wish stated at the winter meeting of clubs of the highest and lowest leagues, consisting, first, in the offer never to sign contracts with the blacks, and secondly, in the requirement that the teams of the lowest league, which had similar players, immediately dismissed them. Though the official agreement remained unsigned, the gentlemen's arrangement was concluded. For more than six decades, Cap Enson's fanatical heritage remained a part of the baseball tradition, despite some attempts to prove that the agreement did not cost even the paper which it was not written down on.

On January 31, 1919, the person who was fated to break the developed racial traditions was born. His name was Jack Robinson.

According to Rader’s book Baseball: A History of America's Game (2002), there is a certain balance between a clear love for the game with its inspirations on the field and baseball's failures, corruptions, and myths. The timeline of his book runs about the ball games played during the Revolutionary War up to the home run race between Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs and Mark MacGuire of the St. Louis Cardinals and in 1999. We, the baseball admirers, are walked through the golden age of baseball which Rader defines as the first half of the twentieth century. "Never before did the game occupy such a central place in American life," he says and describes how the men in charge of organized baseball "erected great civic monuments in the form ballparks made of steel and concrete."

According to Amazon.com Review (2012), the voices of the remote game's past continue to be reflected by an excellent freshness in Lawrence S. Ritter's The Glory of Their Times. An oral history of the game for the first two decades of the century, Glory sends its impressive list of players to tell their own stories. The protocol of results included Babe Herman, Rube Marquard, Smoky Joe Wood Stan Coveleski, and Wahoo Sam Crawford.

In his book In Past Time, Tygiel (2000) writes that, “we are given a seat behind home plate, where we catch the ongoing interplay of baseball and American society. We observe a real birth of modern baseball with the development of its elaborate statistics--the brainchild of English-born reformer, Henry Chadwick.”

It should be mentioned the importance of the first Baseball's commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis. He helped to return public confidence in baseball following the Black Sox scandal of 1919. Landis issued laws providing the absolute power to the owners and allowing a contractual freedom to hundreds of minor leaguers.

Summing it up, it should be noted that baseball has become a rather popular in the United States. It is known as the country's "national pastime."

Baseball has become popular in many other countries as well, especially in China where it is being actively promoted by the American leagues as they try to make it the world's number one bat and ball game (English Club, 2012).

The growing popularity of the game and the growth of clubs' number have led to that baseball has gradually ceased being purely amateur sport as it was initially. The game is supported by sponsors, and players receive money for participation in games.

Baseball is a widespread phenomenon in the modern sporting world. The popularity of this game is witnessed absolutely on all continents. First of all, baseball is given the world fame due to the fact that competitions at the highest level have been held for more than 100 years in the USA and Canada. Teams from various states and cities compete for a rank of the champion of the Major League of Baseball (MLB). Besides, the sport is absolutely available, it is not hockey or tennis where expensive regimentals are necessary.

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