How the 1920s Forever Changed Baseball
It should come as no surprise to a majority of Americans that baseball is considered America’s national past time. In fact, for many people baseball has always been an enormous part of every day life. People are exposed to baseball through multiple mediums such as television, newspapers, and even the radio. When did this obsession start for the citizens of America? The 1920s is known as the Golden Age of Sports. While many sports started to emerge during this decade, baseball was already established in 1875 and rapidly gaining popularity. Multiple factors affected the way that baseball changed during the 1920s. Due to its increased popularity of baseball and certain aspects of the game, the 1920s created what is known as modern day baseball.
Previous to 1910 a rubber-centered ball was used, which had “less resiliency than the modern cork-centered baseball.” When baseball switched to the cork-centered ball in 1910, “batting averages shot upward phenomenally, but the managers continued long afterwards to employ the ‘scientific’ strategy” (Mandell 131). Before the cork-centered ball, the game was dominated by extraordinary pitchers and batters who had difficulties hitting (Mandell 130). Walter Johnson was considered the decade’s best pitcher and totaled 3,497 strikeouts and 113 shut outs in his career (Mandell 130). Once the ball was changed the game became more interesting by having the game now balanced between the offense and defense. This made it possible for listeners to be entertained listening to a ball game instead of constantly having to go to watch the game. During this decade and the decade before, mass production made the radio a staple in most households in the United States. The wide scale production made radios much more affordable for common families. “By 1925, 40 percent of workers in the United States earned at least $2000 annually … and many enjoyed shortened workweeks, which gave them increased leisure time” (“The 1920s: Sports: Overview” 1). With the excess money that the workers now possessed, they would go out and buy, “among other items, automobiles, radios, and tickets to movies and athletic events” ((“The 1920s: Sports: Overview” 1). Swarms of people were going to stadiums to watch their favorite team compete. “More people went to baseball games, more people followed baseball, and more people played baseball for fun than any other sport” (“The Golden Age of Sports” 1). No other sport was as prominent as baseball was during the 1920s.
A major draw to baseball was that it was a new form of theater. “The sheer drama of baseball was yet another attraction. Baseball had a cast of well-defined heroes and villains, familiar plots, comedy, and the unexpected” (Rader 129). Baseball proved to be able to produce larger-than-life characters, or the “heroes,” time after time. To name a few there was, most notably, Babe, Wahoo Sam, and Bugs. In every game, the umpire served the purpose of the villain (Rader 129). While people in the 1920s might not have had the financial excess to spend money on seeing a Broadway play or other large-scale theater productions, baseball games had the same attraction for a lesser price.
While many well-to-do people did attend baseball games, “… every mother’s son from banker to bum is eligible for membership in the Benevolent Brotherhood of Baseball Bugs” (“The National Pastime in the 1920s: The Rise of the Baseball Fan” 1). Everyone was welcome to play participate in baseball, whether it be as a spectator or player. At this time baseball was not just for one race either. People of all races and backgrounds played baseball. For example, in 1920 Andrew “Rube” Foster founded the Negro National League, NNL, so that when baseball was finally integrated the black and Hispanic players of the time would be ready for the challenge (Heaphy 39). Even men that did not come from well-respected upbringings were...
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