I’m a game. Been around professionally since 1869. Yes, I’m ancient.
Over time, I became America’s game, the National Pastime. Everybody played me at some point in their lives, whether a pick-up game in somebody’s back yard, stick ball in big city streets or a cow pasture on a farm. High schools fielded teams. There were town teams such as the Myerstown (PA) Patriots. Semi-pro and pro levels. All kinds of levels for young kids. The ultimate dream of thousands of kids was to play in the major leagues.
Oh, there were plenty of rough spots and changes spanning a century of time.
I once was a sport. Now, big, big business. Spring training games progressed from giving away tickets to $40.00 box seats. Major league clubs are now worth billions, player salaries in the millions. My simplicity has been analytically analyzed in every possible way, reducing the human element.
Skilled players became professionals, starting out in towns as small as Rehoboth Beach (DE), Carbondale (PA), Lebanon (PA), Huron (SD), Martinsville (VA), Helena (MT). Each town played a part in making me the national pastime. Players were housed by families for the summer, a unique phenomenon. Now, all those towns are without me.
As part of big business there’s been discussion of downsizing the number of teams in the minor leagues. More small cities will no longer be a part of me. Grass roots baseball slipping away. How will it affect my national pastime status?
I’ve lived through the Black Sox scandal, wars, dead ball era, color barrier, franchise relocations, player strikes, collusion, lockouts, expansions, an earthquake World Series, a canceled World Series, replacement players, PEDs, tanking, rule changes, juiced baseballs.
In the year, 2020, the world was crippled by a pandemic. I’ve been shut down as have my other sports friends and my sister, softball.
But storms don’t last forever. I will be back again but under something called a new normal. Can’t wait for the old normal, “Play ball!”
Text originally published at Phillies Insider on May 6, 2020 as “My name is baseball” and republished here by permission of the author.