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The Roaring Twenties of this country was a time when the entire sports world blew up into the major worldwide business that it is now. Baseball was one sport that really profited from the country’s sporting obsession, and baseball became one of the most popular sporting events to attend. Not only was it a game played by adults but, it was also a family event that entire families could go to. By the beginning of the decade baseball had its first $100,000 deal when George Herman Ruth was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees for $125,000. The game became more than a game, it became a business. It was the emergence of the superstar, and players were making a living off of being a professional baseball player. Babe Ruth became more than a player he became an idol that was more noticeable than the President of the United States.
Other superstar players emerged along with Ruth in the twenties, such players as Lou Gehrig, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, and Ty Cobb. They became players that were in a way bigger than the game. They became names that were common in households nationwide, and became heroes for young children to look up to and play after. The 1927 Yankees known as one of the best baseball teams ever were around with stars like Ruth, Gehrig, and Tony Lazerri, and is still considered one of the best teams ever assembled. This is the team that young little leaguers would play. Players were now accepting a whole new role as baseball players, becoming idols of children, and they started gaining the celebrity that some of the Hollywood stars did not even have.
Babe Ruth’s impact on the game of baseball was almost as huge as his home runs. When Ruth entered the league it was in its fragile, fledgling stages, and the enormous awe-inspiring slugger brought the game back into its flashy superstar filled game that it was. Ruth was different than most stars of the league; he won the fans over with his charismatic, flashy, and frivolous lifestyle. Ruth’s play on the field was remarkable, hitting some of the most homeruns ever by player, and currently is second in all time homeruns. "The only real game, I think, in the world is baseball.“ Was said by Babe Ruth expressing his love for the game.
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A lifetime .342 hitter, Babe Ruth is second all-time to Hank Aaron in homers (714) and RBI (2,211). The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Ruth revolutionized the game, changing it from a pitcher-dominated, scratch-out-a-run contest to a homer-hitting, dialing-long-distance event. From 1920-33, he slugged 637 homers, an average of 45.5 per season. From 1926-31, from ages 31 to 36 when he was supposedly past his prime after a sub-par 1925, he averaged 50 homers, 155 RBI, 147 runs and a .354 batting average. And is still considered one of the greatest players ever.
Around the time of Ruth was the start of the Negro Leagues, a league for the black men that were banned from playing in the Big Leagues played in the Negro Leagues, which was started by Rube Foster. In 1919, severe riots broke out in a number of American cities. Andrew "Rube" Foster, a highly successful black businessman, coincidentally began forming the Negro National Baseball League in Chicago, the year of the riots. The purpose was to provide the north's new black citizens with professional baseball of their own. It was Foster's objective, he said, "to create a profession that would equal the earning capacity of other professions, and keep colored baseball from the control of whites," and "do something concrete for the loyalty of the race." This new founded league proved to have an enormous sociological effect on the country. The new league gave all of the African Americans a chance to play professional baseball away from the racism of the Major Leagues. The Negro Leagues proved to pave the ways for players to eventually make their way into the Major Leagues, which was no easy task.
Not until 1945 did a man from the Kansas City Monarchs signed a contract with Branch Rickey and the Brooklyn Dodgers. The young athletic star from UCLA College, signed in 1945 and played minor league baseball in 1946 and eventually making it to the Big Leagues in 1947, winning rookie of the year honors. Playing professionally was no easy duty for the young Robinson, who was meet with racist country that awaited him at every game. Not only was Jackie Robinson’s effect felt on the field as well as off the field, with the civil rights movement. "Life is not a spectator sport . . .. If you're going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you're escaping your life." Robinson said this in 1947 when asked about why he broke the color barrier. Robinson felt that you couldn’t get through life with just watching everything, and felt that people need to act, instead of just talking. “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”
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Even long after his playing days on the field Robinson worked on the civil rights movement off the field. He worked with such leaders as Martin Luther King Jr. for the civil rights movement. Even at his death in 1972 many of the players and supporters that played with Robinson came to his funeral to pay his respects to the great ball player. Fellow infielder and teammate Pee Wee Reese was on of the pallbearers at his funeral and said about the fallen hero, “He did good.” The small statement summed up the significance that Robinson had on the game and how he dealt with the controversy. Having captured the attention of the American public in the ballpark, he now delivered the message that racial integration in every facet of American society would enrich the nation. “A life is not important, except in the impact it has on others.” Robinson’s strong fight to make this country equal, has affected all of us by seeing the good in people as equals.
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