Will baseball live? (1893)

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Antique baseball cards

Will baseball live?

Firmly believing in the future of baseball, I have no hesitancy in complying with the request made by the editor of The Call to contribute my opinion on the question, “Will baseball live?”

Unhesitatingly, I espouse the affirmative: Unquestionably baseball will live.

The American pastime

I know it is the fashion in certain quarters to speak slightingly of those who take an active interest in the diamond and in the things and men pertaining thereto. However, baseball is the national game of the United States, and patriotic young and old America will not be forbidden the keen pleasures of playing and witnessing others play the fascinating game.

Periodically, someone says that baseball is soon to be replaced in public favor by football or cricket, or some other foreign game. In the past these prognostications were not only untrue as to their fulfillment, but entirely unwarranted in their prediction by any of the existing facts. I do not hold that baseball should or ever will enjoy a complete monopoly of the favor of those who like outdoor sports. Such a thing would be most injurious to baseball itself, for the public, having no relief at all from the diamond, would soon become surfeited, and be ready to fly off entirely, temporarily at least, to the first outdoor sport that should come along.

But, being the national game, I am convinced that baseball always will hold the larger share of public favor. It is well to indulge in all harmless athletic sports, but baseball will always lead. It has been predicted that this season would see a decrease in baseball enthusiasm, and that the interest would be much less this year than last year.

This is anything but true. On the contrary, baseball is a stronger drawing card today than it was four years ago. People are now taking an interest in the scientific end of the game. They have become critical in their favor, and only the best players will suit them.

There is no boisterous enthusiasm for baseball today, but a quiet, steady, earnest admiration for and knowledge of the national game. Business and professional men patronize the baseball games today as they do the theatres. They calculate and lay their plans for the day or the week, making provision for the particular games they desire to see. It is more than a running and batting game now. It has come to be scientific through and through, and it is the science that has developed in the game that has renewed all the latent baseball enthusiasm that was never dead, but only slept off the effects of drunkenness from overindulgence.

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John Morrill, Boston Beaneaters, baseball card portrait 1887
John Morrill, Boston Beaneaters, baseball card portrait (1887)

More than a fad

Once baseball was a fad and a craze. All kinds of people went wild over the games and the players, and there was much shouting and little science.

All that is changed now. The public interest in baseball today is the same as that in billiards. The game itself is a matter of science. The most scientific teams will make the best average in the season, and the players who are the most skilled in their several parts are the ones who make the best records for themselves and command the highest salaries. Where before thousands shouted and threw their hats in the air for a club or a player, now- hundreds are studying the game from a scientific standpoint and hundreds more are admirers and enthusiasts, even “cranks,” if you will, because they see in the game more than mere brute skill and proficiency.

The ball player with the biggest brain is the most skillful one today. At all events, a player must be intelligent, and the more intelligence he possesses, the higher salary he can command.

As an instance of this, let me cite the case of Mr Griffith, the pitcher for my club. There are other players equally skilled in pitching, but in my estimation, most of them lack t!ie mental capacity to make themselves as valuable players under all circumstances as Mr Griffith is. In these days, the mere proficiency in curving the ball from the pitcher’s box does not suffice to make a perfect pitcher.

To be successful in the box, he must be a man who is capable of analyzing human nature as it appears before him at the bat. He must learn the peculiarities of every other player, and he must do this quickly and accurately. Besides his qualifications in the box, of course, a good pitcher must be a thorough all-around player.

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The most expert pitcher would be of little service to a good team if he invariably struck out when at the bat, or was unskillful in fielding. And so it is in all the nine positions on the diamond. And because baseball has reached this point of science and intelligence, intelligent people are becoming more and more interested in the national game.

The game in cities across the US

All over California, I have found this season unmistakable evidences of a renewed interest in the game. Every town in the State has its two or three or more baseball nines, all with new uniforms and thoroughly equipped for the season.

Amateur baseball teams are double, yes, perhaps triple in number what they were last season. In Los Angeles alone, three new diamonds have been laid out this year by the amateurs, and as many new amateur teams have sprung into existence.

The Native Sons’ parlors all over the state have organized nines, and nearly every secret society now has a club of its own. With the professional clubs the outlook for the coming season is espe cially brilliant. Everywhere evidence is not lacking of wholesome and timely improvement.

All the leagues of the country have weeded out the lukewarm elements which lacked the capital to carry on an aggressive season. The teams have all been reorganized, and most of them are now working on a strictly scientific basis, and there is harmony between them and among the members of each team and each league.

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