Why I Love Baseball: History and Tradition

June 2, 2009   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

Why I Love Baseball is a nine-week series that will be posted on Tuesdays. In its second week, the topic is the history of the game.

162 years, 11 months and 13 days ago the first recorded game of baseball was played. Needless to say, a lot has happened since then.

I’m one of those people that when they become interested in something they research it until they know everything they would ever want to know on the topic. I also have a strong passion for history and tradition.

It’s quite convenient for me that one of my favorite sports (actually both of them) is filled with a rich history with plenty of tradition.

History is everywhere in baseball, and the best part is in some areas it’s still quite tangible. In Boston, for example, when you see a Red Sox game, you’re stepping into a stadium that has seen 96 years of baseball since its gates opened in 1912.

This is the place where Fisk’s famous home run in the 1975 World Series, the turn around games of the 2004 ALCS all happened along with various other great moments in baseball lore.

Although I’ve never seen a game at Fenway and need to before I “hit the showers,” I have been to Wrigley, a stadium only two years younger. Wrigley despite all of its problems, is still a place filled with history.

Both ballparks are historic on their own, and their histories are just as interesting as the events that have occurred inside of their confines.

Baseball is so old that it actually gets to have eras. The dead ball era, the modern era, the golden age and the list goes on.

There’s so much history in this game that the famous documentarian Ken Burns created a nine-part series about the history of baseball from its inception to 1994. The total running time of the whole thing is 25 hours long.

Needless to say, there’s way too much to cover in just one post, or a book even. So I’ll just share just a few topics/events from baseball history that have always captured my interest and that I love.

The Negro Leagues

In the face of racism and no chance at a major league career, these men, instead of giving up, kept playing ball. There are so many fantastic players that played Negro League baseball but never saw a major league field.

And even those Negro League greats who finally got a chance after the color barrier was broken were past their prime.

It’s always such a shame for me to think about the fact Satchel Paige didn’t get to pitch in the majors until he was 42 years old, and if his ability at that age was any indication, he would probably hold the majority of pitching records.


The Double

Some may be unfamiliar with what this is, and that’s understandable, but I assure you that there is not a baseball fan in Seattle who doesn’t know about “The Double.”

Perhaps I love this moment so much because I understand the fear that had to be spreading in the hearts of baseball fans in the city and the salvation this event brought.

In 1995 the Mariners we facing threats of relocation due to poor attendance, lack of a new stadium and low revenue. It seemed that Seattle was about to lose its second MLB franchise

Then everything seemed to fall into place, the team started winning and made a comeback in the standings and mounted a 13-game comeback that led to a one game playoff to decide the AL West crown.

Seattle won that game and advanced to the ALDS for the first time in franchise history to face the New York Yankees.

The Mariners quickly fell behind two games to none in the best-of-five series, but they rallied back to tie up the series and send it to a game five. The deciding game went to the 11th where the Yankees took the lead 5-4.

In the bottom of the eleventh Joey Cora and Ken Griffey, Jr. were on third and first with Edgar Martinez coming up to the plate. He hit a shot down the left field line which scored both runners and won the series.

The reason why this play is such a big deal is because not only was it the hit that clinched the first every playoff series victory in Mariners history, but it’s the play that is credited as the one that kept the Mariners in Seattle.

This season and this playoff victory raised tremendous interest in the team and soon after the state legislature funded the building of Safeco Field.


The Black Sox Scandal of 1919

So Chicago has a sort of reputation for being seedy at times. Well in 1919 the White Sox represented their city well. In a time when the mob basically ran Chicago, that reach extended to one of the city’s baseball teams.

In 1919, the White Sox were the overwhelming favorite to win the World Series and when they reached the championship that year they were expected to win it. It wasn’t until the Chicago lost the best-of-nine series 5 games to 3 that it was reported that the White Sox had been paid by a New York mobster to throw the series.

While the eight players accused were acquitted by a grand jury, the first commissioner of baseball Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned the eight from professional baseball for life.

Of the eight was “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, and throughout the years much doubt has been raised about his involvement, and this blog firmly believes he was innocent.

Now if something has this much history, tradition is bound to rise from it. Baseball is full of tradition.

Thanks to the tradition of singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch, that song is the third most commonly sung song in the United States behind the National Anthem and Happy Birthday.

Almost every city has a tradition of some sort, at Yankees games it’s the role call from the bleachers, in Milwaukee it’s the Sausage Race, at Wrigley they raise a flag either a win flag or a loss flag after every game and in my beloved Tropicana Field the cowbells can be heard every game.

I also love the tradition of using a DH in the AL. It makes for a two different types of baseball varying on the league and while many do not like it because it “destroys tradition” or rather it “isn’t real baseball,” I love it.

The National League has a wonderful tradition of making pitchers hit and using double switches, which is fantastic and a link to the old game, while the AL utilizes the DH which makes for a different form of baseball that creates a unique difference between the leagues which no other sport has.

It’s a young tradition (relatively speaking), but the difference it makes is one that I love.

That’s one thing I really love about baseball, the history of the game and the traditions throughout the league.

For me at least, it is great to know that this game is linked through history and that when I go to a game I’m connected to all of the rooters past and present.

I know that when I’m at a game and heckling a player, I’m doing the same thing that has been done throughout the history of the game, and it’s a great tradition to keep alive.

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