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The Effects Of Baseball Culture On Society

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In the twentieth century, many sports were introduced to the United States, however none of them would grow to be as influential on society as baseball. Baseball is known to many American citizens as “The National Pastime” and “as many as 11.5 million people play baseball in the United States” (“How Many People Play Baseball in the United States?”). This number is continually growing not only nationally, but also globally due to many improvements to the game that allow a variety of cultures to play. A couple of these improvements include many safety regulations such as new helmets and gloves, and a standard field size for players of all ages. Throughout the history of baseball, many changes such as the addition of free agency, the acceptance of black players, and regulations to improve safety have been implemented to drastically refine the game to make it the game today. These implementations to the game have made the game not only safer and more enjoyable, but it has also had a great influence on American society.

The beginnings of baseball is a bit controversial when it comes to the debate around the original founder of baseball. According the National Baseball Hall of Fame (NBHF), the founder of baseball was Abner Doubleday. “Abner Doubleday was a U.S. military who served as Union general during the Civil War” (Staff, History). However, Doubleday was a “bookish man” (Staff, History) and “never knew he had invented baseball” (Thorn). Abner Doubleday would have been surprised by the belief that he had created baseball because around the time of the first recorded baseball game, Doubleday was still on military duty and “he had never claimed to have anything to do with baseball” (Staff, History). This myth was created by A.G. Spalding, who is now known as one of the biggest equipment manufacturers in the sport of baseball. This myth has since been proven false and the true beginnings of baseball surround a baseball club by the name of the New York Knickerbockers.

The New York Knickerbockers were founded in 1845 and are believed to be the first organized professional baseball team. One of the players, Alexander Cartwright, has been credited with fabricating the rules for modern baseball (Staff, History). Cartwright created rules that have remained crucial to the game of baseball including “a diamond shaped infield, foul lines, and the three-strike rule” (Staff, History). The New York Knickerbockers created new ideas and started a new era of change to the sport of baseball.

The 1940’s is both a high and a low point when talking about the history of baseball. This is because during this time period, many innovations were installed to change the game for the better. However, many of the games greatest players left the league after being drafted into the army. One of these players was Ted Williams. During this time, many team owners faced the struggle of the constant need for new players. “The baseball executives, the press, and the public began to wonder whether the sport should continue during the war years” (“Baseball” 4). This event proved to be very difficult for the game at the time and left baseball’s executives scrambling for solutions. The baseball executives finally decided to consult president Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) about their concerns for the sport. FDR disagreed with the ideas of shutting down the game during the war and encouraged the executives to keep playing. In the long run, FDR’s decision would lead to be, “financially crucial to the game’s future” (“Baseball” 5).

The 1940’s was not only a time of struggle for the owners, but it was also a time of great integration in the sport of baseball. While many of the baseball greats of the time were overseas fighting World War II, baseball spread from the northern to the southern region of the United States. This caused many of the black men in the south to take up the sport of baseball (“Baseball” 5). These men decided to create a league specifically for only black men. This league would later come to be known as the Negro League. The war had a big impact on team owners as,“The war itself caused a reassessment of American racial attitudes, as the Nazi ideology of racial supremacy discredited American ideas of white superiority” (“Baseball” 5). However, for many years, baseball would not have a black professional player until manager Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers, “was moved by postwar agitation over baseball’s segregation, and in 1945 he took it upon himself to integrate major league baseball” (“Baseball” 5).

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In 1945 Branch Rickey took his beliefs of integrating the sport and made it known to the public that he intended on creating a league for black players (“Baseball” 5). This league was known as the ‘Minor Leagues”, a name which still is used today. One of the athletes that was among the first to join the league is Hall of Famer and the first black major leaguer, Jackie Robinson (“Baseball” 5). Jackie was a superb athlete in multiple sports such as baseball, football, and basketball. In his first year in the minors, Robinson had an outstanding year which caught the attention of Rickey. Soon after, Rickey offered Robinson a contract but only under very strict conditions. Rickey made it clear to Robinson that in order to be accepted by the fans and to stay in the league, Robinson would have to keep his cool even under the most grueling of conditions. Robinson was determined, and he excelled at remaining calm even while fans called him racial slurs and threatened him with hate messages. (“Baseball” 5). This move by Rickey would remain crucial to the game’s future of integrating the sport of baseball.

The sport of baseball has always had its fair share of scandals that range from gambling to drugs that enhance player performance (Leventhal;135). During the 1990’s and early 2000’s, many of the games biggest stars were caught partaking in these scandals. However, long before that, baseball scandals can go back to its beginnings with teams throwing games to earn money from gamblers. The first recorded scandal in baseball was in 1877 when, “five players from the Louisville Grays were banned from baseball for accepting money from gamblers” (Leventhal; 135). This scandal would start one of the biggest problems in baseball history: gambling.

Although gambling had been a problem all throughout the baseball history, the “the first prominent player in the twentieth century to be implicated in fixing games was Hal Chase…”(Leventhal; 135). This would eventually result in Chase being suspended in 1918. The first nationally covered scandal was in 1919 when the Chicago White Sox were paid to throw the World Series. All of the eight players that were involved in the incident were permanently banned from Major League Baseball.

Although scandals involving gambling have always been a problem in the sport, in recent decades a larger problem has arose including players’ use of drugs. Players utilized drugs to help have a competitive advantage and it paid off for a while. Many of the players that consumed these drugs were some of the best players at the time. It was a hidden secret that was kept from league executives until star players such as Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco admitted to using these drugs and that many other players in the league were consuming drugs as well (Leventhal;135). In 2005, The United States Congress held hearings to review the Drug Policy within the MLB (Leventhal;135). However, one of the biggest names of this time was involved in a separate, federal investigation: Barry Bonds. Barry Bonds is known to many as the all-time leader in home runs but when his name is brought up, many people may think of a more negative connotation. Barry and his trainer were being investigated under the allegations that they were distributing steroids (Leventhal;135). “Some critics contend that all of Bonds’ accomplishments since 1998 should be completely discredited” (Leventhal; 135). Another major consequence of Bonds’ steroid use was that despite his major accomplishments while in the MLB, the NBHF did not allowed him to be voted in due to his use of steroids. Drug use and gambling have been a major problem throughout baseball history and the problems continue to grow with the ever changing technology.

The Economic History of baseball is an important role in which the sport grows and evolves through the decades. The cost to join the league has substantially risen over the years as “The first professional league, The National Association, founded in 1871, charged a $10 franchise fee. The latest teams to join MLB, paid $130 million apiece for the privilege in 1998” (Haupert; 1). For many years, players in the MLB were not given a choice of what team they wanted to be on, nor were they able to negotiate with executives for better salaries. This all started to change in 1970 a player by the name of Curt Flood had been traded to the Cincinnati Reds (Haupert; 1). Flood was opposed to the idea of leaving St. Louis and declined to go to Cincinnati. This would cause major controversy in the league. “Commissioner Bowie Kuhn ruled that Flood had no right to act in this way, and ordered him to play for Philadelphia, or not play at all” (Haupert;1). Flood would soon start a legal case against the MLB for antitrust laws (Haupert;1). The case, however, would rule against Flood and these conditions would persist for many more years. In 1975 the addition of Free Agency had been implemented in baseball after a long standing disagreement between players and the Commissioner of Baseball. This addition allowed the players to be able to negotiate their salaries. This caused the “average salary [to skyrocket]” (Haupert; 1) and over the next 8 years the salaries rose from “$25,000 in 1975 to $289,000 in 1983”. (Haupert; 1). The salaries for the players would continually grow in substantial amounts and in the twenty- first century, “the average salary for the major leaguers was $2,476,589” (Leventhal; 134). This increase in salaries is all in thanks to Curt Flood who had started the movement and fought for better conditions. Baseball would also help other industries grow such as travel, television, and radio due to its popularity throughout the country (Haupert;1).

In conclusion, baseball would prove itself to be one of the most prominent games in the history of the United States due to its always changing rules and culture. Baseball helped shape the lives of many Americans as it opened up more job opportunities for black men, and supported other commercial and industrial economic growth. Baseball not only helped shape other industries, it also revolutionized within itself by improving safety regulations and equipment, the integration of all ethnicities, and providing more satisfactory working conditions for the players. Although it has had its share of good and bad times, baseball has always managed to maintain its popularity and relevance with its fans as a result of broadcasting networks and social media. These are just a few of many examples of the great impact that baseball has served on this country.

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The Effects Of Baseball Culture On Society. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from
“The Effects Of Baseball Culture On Society.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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