The crowd roars as the first baseman catches the ball that wins the game. Players of orange and grey all run up to each other and give an exhilarating group hug. The United States just finished it’s 113th annual World Series… the Houston Astros became the champions against the Los Angeles Dodgers. But 113, that’s a lot of years that baseball has been sharing such a big event! This would mean that the first World Series started in 1903, near the beginning of the twentieth century; however, baseball didn’t just start as one big event. It had to grow and become approved of society in order for it to thrive and be successful. When baseball first originated in the nineteenth century before the American Civil War, it was definitely not as advanced and professional as it is now, and there were many issues mainly due to the racial discrimination at the time. Since then, America’s favorite pastime has evolved to become what it is today by overcoming the problems that it faced in the past, such as becoming popular during the Civil War and defeating segregation of teams.
Baseball originates from the middle of the 1800s, when there was a dispute on who actually invented it. One englishman, Henry Chadwick, wrote in a sports article that a game in which he played as a young boy–Rounders–was the derivation of baseball. However, the dispute started because other Americans, such as Albert Spalding, claimed that baseball initiated in America. After three years of further research on whether the game commenced in England or America, the men came to the conclusion that Abner Doubleday, an officer of the United States Army, was the one who created baseball–says John Thorn, a baseball historian. The Civil War greatly spread the idea and popularity of baseball. As soldiers grew bored of the daily waiting periods of war breakouts, New York soldiers shared their love of baseball to other soldiers who they were based with. Baseballs were made from walnuts wrapped continuously with yarn and enclosed with horsehide, and bats were made from carved limbs of oak trees. The game quickly spread throughout soldiers everywhere in the Civil War, thus making it so popular. It is also played in the spring since the Civil War started and ended in the spring. Baseball did not really become popular within the rest of society until the 1920’s, after a couple of World Series’ had been played and other reasons. Fans were gained when they saw how interesting the sport was and because of it’s amazing players, making baseball a leading spectator sport. One of these players was Babe Ruth, a player on the New York Yankees. To many, Ruth was a national hero of baseball. His hits were so powerful and far out of the field; this kind of hit was called the home run. Because a home run is such a long hit of the baseball, stadiums were built to have the ball be hit out of, which became the new location of many baseball games. Baseball stadiums started to be built around the country, mainly in larger cities since that would attract most of the crowd. Some of these stadiums included Fenway Park in Boston, Wrigley Field in Chicago, Yankee Stadium in New York, and so on. Another reason that baseball gained popularity was that beer companies helped them. At first, beer and baseball were not good together. When certain stadiums sold beer, the home teams were taken out of the National League since it was deemed inappropriate. But after the second World War, many beer breweries were looking to expand and become more advanced in their finances. Many breweries wanted to sponsor baseball teams to become more popular themselves, and even bought teams. Other breweries worked with baseball teams; the breweries sponsored the teams while in return many players sponsored the breweries by drinking their beer on public display. This became especially beneficial in the 40s-50s when the invention of television grew. These were all reasons that baseball became such a popular sport.
Although baseball was such a good pastime for many people segregation during this time was still a big problem. African-Americans were not allowed to play with the whites and because of this the Negro Baseball League was created. This league allowed African Americans to play baseball without getting beaten or hurt for being the opposite color skin. This created some controversy between the whites and African Americans. Fans of baseball only went to their color baseball games. No one ever went to the other colored skins games because if they did they would get beaten and yelled at. This means that only whites went to white baseball games and African Americans went to their games. Everyone at the baseball games had a great time and enjoyed cheering for their teams. When it came to the time where African Americans wanted to start playing in the professional league they were not allowed. A lot of African Americans were mad that they weren’t able to play in the professional league. Segregation during the 1920’s was harsh and the whites deeply hated the African-Americans. Jim Crow laws made life as an African-American that much harder and none of the whites showed any sympathy for them. No one ever believed that an African-American could ever play on an all white baseball team. Not only was this man the first person to join an all white baseball team but this started the rise of African-Americans to be allowed to play in the all white professional league. You might be wondering who this man was … his name is Jackie Robinson. Who hasn’t heard of him! In 1947 only two years after World War II ended Jackie was asked to play with the Brooklyn Dodgers. This was a hard time for Robinson to be in the all white league because no one wanted him to be there. All the fans would boo when he walked up, but little did they know he would be the best asset to their team. You may not think Robinson could handle this, but he was more than prepared. Robinson did not let all of the crowds get to him because he knew how to handle himself when he stepped out onto the field. Not only did no one want Robinson in the league he actually became the National Rookie of the Year with 12 home runs. Once Robinson was asked to join the professional league that ended a time period in which African-Americans could not play with the whites. This lasted for 60 years and then Jackie Robinson came around and changed that for everyone. After Robinson joined with the Dodgers it just opened up so many opportunities for other African-Americans to join the professional white league. Nowadays pretty much every team in baseball has an African-American on it and they have respect for each and every player the same. Nobody second guesses adding an African-American to their team because people now know that everybody has a skill that they can bring forth to their team.
Baseball has changed throughout the years for the better. Not only has all of the equipment of baseball changed dramatically but also the people on the teams and the fans. In the 1920’s there was segregation that did not allow whites and African-Americans to play in the same baseball league together. Not only would the African-Americans beat the white leagues standings, but it wouldn’t count because of their skin color. One person changed that for everyone, and that was Jackie Robinson. He was the first African-American in 60 years to play on an all white team in the professional league. Also, breweries were not allowed back then and if the home team sold beer they were taken out of the league. Today wherever you turn you will see someone taking a sip of beer. When you think of a baseball game nowadays what comes to your head is beer, peanuts, and everyone just getting together to have a great time and enjoy the sport they love. This changed the whole game of baseball and now everyone can play on whatever team they want and no one is turned down. Baseball is and will continue to stay America’s favorite pastime if we all keep it a fun loving and enjoyable sport; so grab a couple of friends and get out to play a game and see what the fun is all about.
Article by Kaitlyn Vannucci and Deanna Frack
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Negro Baseball Leagues (1920-1950) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed
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