Baseball Is The First Professional Sport Essay

Baseball Is The First Professional Sport Essay

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In the early 20th century, baseball became the first professional sport to earn nationwide attention in America. Because it was our first national professional team sport, because of its immense popularity, and because of its reputation as being synonymous with America, baseball has been written about more than any other sport, in both fiction and non-fiction alike. As baseball grew popular so did some of the sportswriters who wrote about the game in the daily newspaper. Collectively, the sportswriters of the early 20th century launched a written history of baseball that transformed the game into a “national symbol” of American culture, a “guardian” of America’s traditional values, and as a “gateway” to an idealized past. (Skolnik 3) No American sport has a history as long—or as romanticized—as that of the game referred to as our “national pastime.”
In the early 20th century, as baseball’s national appeal expanded and its popularity exploded, there emerged a journalistic culture in which sports writers were not merely reporters of the news, but guardians of what they perceived to be America’s national treasure. In an era in which sports writers glamorized the games they covered and conferred heroic status upon the men who played them, Ring Lardner (1885-1933) was a notable exception. As a columnist who covered the Cubs and the White Sox for the Chicago Tribune, Lardner was considered one of the America’s most expert and authoritative baseball writers. He gained national prominence when he began to write fiction stories for The Saturday Evening Post. Though Lardner did not write exclusively about baseball, his fiction about the “national pastime”—specifically the collection of “Busher” letters that later comprised You Know Me Al (1...


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...s function as a metaphor America, as emblematic of America’s culture and values. In this paradigm, sports become not merely a game, but a symbol of the American Dream ethos. Writing in the introduction of Connie Mack’s autobiography, My 66 Years in the Big Leagues (1950), historian Francis Tevelyan Miller articulates the symbolic significance of baseball, which he believes to be, “democracy in action; in it all men are ‘free and equal,’ regardless of race, nationality, or creed. Every man is given the rightful opportunity to rise to the top on his own merits … It is the fullest expression of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly in our national life.” (qtd. in Orodenker 18) The democracy of sports was unwelcoming to women and people of color, and that is reflected in a sports literature that has been written almost exclusively by white men.

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