Of all the games of the American pantheon, baseball is perhaps the most ‘American’. Although football stands out more from its progenitors, and basketball and volleyball are true American inventions, baseball has become in many ways more American and more about America. This is as true in our riverfront city as it is anywhere.
Consider for a moment the impact that the pitcher and the hitter have had on our everyday language. Sure, a wide range of sporting terms have entered our lexicon, but baseball surely holds the crown for sheer numbers. Give me a ballpark figure, although make sure it’s in my wheelhouse. You better make sure you step up to the plate, because three strikes and you’re out. I could go on, but this illustrates just how easily the ballgame has influenced other things we do, things as natural as holding a conversation, without us knowing it.
And as easily as we enjoy talking about the game, baseball is a fundamentally easy game to enjoy. Sure, sabermetricians revel in the minutiae of the statistics, but most fans go along for a convivial, familial good time, whatever the level of the game. The natural rhythms of the easy flow of the game allow for more conversation, more eating and drinking, and more quiet contemplation, than say hockey or basketball. Trips out to the game often take the forms of dates or romantic liaisons. Imagining taking a potential partner to a football game (hardcore fans notwithstanding). Not quite the same effect, eh?
Much of American business life, in the past as well as now, is spent on the road. From traveling salesmen constantly in the car and the motel, itinerant workers forced to move from town to town in search of work, employees move around a great deal. The same is true of ballplayers, and even entire teams and franchises. Indeed, our own Bats, before landing at Slugger Field, made their home (in a variety of guises), in Tulsa, New Orleans and Springfield, Illinois. Due to the farm-team nature of the organization of professional baseball, the changes to teams’ location is more prevalent in baseball than in other sports.
Baseball, in all its forms, is widely discussed in literature, local and national, and the breaking of the color barrier by Jackie Robinson in 1947 is commemorated every year on April 15th. Indeed, the contributions made by the outstanding figures of the game, be they players, managers or personalities, are widely recognized and celebrated.