Why baseball has survived & thrived for more than 100 years

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Why baseball has survived and thrived for more than 100 years

Note: This article may feature affiliate links to Amazon or other companies, and purchases made via these links may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Find out more here.

Will baseball live? An article from 1893

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.

http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/bbc.1983f

Will baseball live?

Baseball history: The American pastime (1893)

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.

 

Ed Lennox, Brooklyn Superbas, baseball card portrait

 

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.

New York base ball club 1894
Photograph shows 17 players on the New York Giants baseball team posed in front of forest backdrop; players: (1) Park A. Wilson; (2) Charles A. Farrell; (3) George Van Haltren; (4) Roger Conner; (5) Jouett Meekin; (6) Huyler Westervelt; (7) Amos Rusie; (8) W. H. Clark; (9) Lester German; (10) John J. Doyle; (11) John Ward; (12) M. J. Tiernan; (13) George S. Davis; (14) W. B. Fuller; (15) Edward Burke; (16) James Stafford; (17) W. H. Murphy.

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.

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

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.

Ed. M. Reulbach and James P. Archer, Chicago Cubs, baseball 1912

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.

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.

 

Bert Daniels, New York Highlanders, baseball card portrait 1912

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 especially brilliant. Everywhere evidence is not lacking of wholesome and timely improvement.

Tim Jordan, Brooklyn Superbas, baseball card portrait

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.

The Giants of New York are greatly improved this year. This team and the Chicago nine naturally hold the key to the national baseball situation, and it is an excellent sign that both of them have been strengthened and improved in many ways this season.

Our league on the coast compares most favorably with the minor leagues of the United States. I do not believe there is a minor league in existence as strong in every respect as the California Baseball League.

In none of the others are the clubs so uniformly strong and harmonious as they are out here, and do not believe that in any of the minor leagues is there a club as strong as The Oaklands.

Neal Ball and Geo. T. Stovall, Cleveland Naps, St. Louis Browns, baseball 1912

Of course, there is a good and sufficient reason why the California League contains the best material. It pays the highest salaries. The difference between the California and National Leagues is simply one of experience in the players, and an instance going to prove this is shown in the fact that Lang went from the California League into The Chicago nine.

I take it that all these things show a greatly increased interest in the national game, and they presage a brilliant future for it. Another sure sign, I think, is the great interest taken in the game by the institutions of learning all over the country. There is not a college or university where there are not one or more crack teams, and every athletic club of any standing has taken hold of baseball with vim and vigor this season.

Spalding’s Official Baseball Guide 1913

From a financial standpoint, there is every indication to show that that baseball will not lack support this season — that its profits, in fact, will be greater than for many seasons back.

The season has opened thus far with better attendance and larger receipts than ever before. They were better than we expected. Even with all the rain and disagreeable weather of the first week, our receipts were equal to an average week of the previous season.

In Oakland, the season was opened with much genuine enthusiasm and a very large attendance, despite the bad weather, which made it necessary to forego all demonstrations of a public character. And this, too, when Oakland is known as the poorest show town on the coast.

The Sunday morning after the opening, we played a postponed game at Piedmont, and I take it as a striking evidence of the real interest manifested in baseball this season that church members on their way home from ser vices stopped in the street to chat with me and ask me which team won and what the score was. I think this shows how really alive the people are this year on the baseball question.

Curt Welch, St. Louis Browns, baseball card portrait 1887
Curt Welch, St. Louis Browns, baseball card portrait 1887

Yes, baseball will survive

Assuredly, baseball will live. And one of the things that will tend to its longevity on this coast is that the teams are better managed this year than ever before. They are being handled on scientific principles. The best baseball material in the world may make a very poor team if it is not first put together as it ought to be and then handled on scientific principles.

It will be interesting, I imagine, as the season advances, to watch the progress made by the clubs of the coast league — and more especially so from the fact that they are composed of such different material.

Take the San Francisco team, for instance. It is made entirely of heavy timber, and quite different from the Oakland club. The Stockton team is likewise composed of heavy-weights, if one or two members are excepted.

The weather has been so bad thus far this season that the grounds have been heavy, and these heavy teams have not had a fair testing. The Oakland and Los Angeles teams are of much lighter material, and, so far, have been more successful.

Antique baseball cards (1)

Personally, I am in favor of heavy men. Look at the “Giants” of New York, and the Chicago club — all heavy-weights. I think the New York team is a pattern that cannot be copied after too much. It has proven abundantly the advantages of heavy players.

But in spite of my preference for the big men and those heavily built, I do not believe the San Francisco team will be the winners this season. My observation is that they do not work together with the harmony and singleness of purpose that is necessary for the success of a team.

Stockton’s team is an unknown quantity so far. It is a mixture of good men of various kinds who have never played together before. One or two changes will undoubtedly have to be made in it ere long. I consider its pitcher, Mr Harper, one of the best in the country.

The one weak point in the Los Angeles team is, in my belief, their lack of unanimity in action. They are agile in the field and good base runners. They seem to be a little timid in their play. When this feature has been overcome by them, as it undoubtedly will be, as they get more and more warmed up to the work before them, the Angels will prove a splendid team.

There is this much to be said in favor of the lighter men on this coast; The heavier men require a much longer time to get shaped up in this climate, and that is a circumstance quite necessary to be taken into consideration.

Morrissey, Milwaukee Team, baseball card portrait 1887
Morrissey, Milwaukee Team, baseball card portrait 1887

There is another phase of the so-called baseball “craze” that ought to be remembered. It is a harmless, invigorating outdoor sport, and as such, it deserves to be encouraged by those who have the welfare of young America at heart.

To be only a spectator, one must go outside into the sunlight where there are grassy lawns and the green things of nature. It means fresh air and health if one never takes a bat in hand himself.

But the great majority of young men interested in baseball are not content to sit quietly and see others do all the playing. For every professional game they witness, it is more than likely that they take part in two amateur games.

And this is the side of baseball that must receive the encouragement of every thinking man and woman. If every young man were a baseball enthusiast, even to the point of becoming a member of some amateur nine, there would be less sickness in the land today, and our young men would be brawnier and of tougher muscle than they are.

Dyspepsia and nervousness, so readily contracted by indoor occupations, are the deadly enemies of baseball. The indulgence in one will unfit a man for a complete enjoyment, of the other, and this relation is entirely reciprocal.

This is no off-hand statement of mine, but a matter of solemn truth that is recognized by the faculty of every university and institution of learning in the land.

Antique baseball cards (2)

The health factor

An abundance of outdoor sport is indispensable to the rearing of strong and healthy boys, and grown men and women are coming to realize the necessity for outdoor amusement. The ladies who are seen at the ball games oftener than at the theatres are the ones usually with the glow of health on their faces and complexions that need no artificial heightening.

Truly there are no valid claims to be urged against baseball, and much more to be said in its favor than I have mentioned. It is not a brutalizing sport; there is but little or no betting connected with it, and no objectionable features of any kind whatever.

It is a harmless and innocent game to witness, or sport to indulge in, yet very fascinating.

Indoor people often wonder what others can find so interesting in baseball, but the game has a peculiar fascination of its own that grows on one who is willing to be interested in a pure and healthful sport. Yes, baseball will live.

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