Baseball as a Reflection of America By Ron Eisenman Table of Contents Racism Immigration and Ethnicity The A’s and the Counterculture Racism
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By Ron Eisenman
Ever since the first African slave came to this country in 1619, racism has been an integral part of American society. Soon after slavery was abolished following the civil war, the Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Furguson that having separate facilities for African Americans was constitutional. This system of segregation, known as Jim Crow, was a way of life in the south until the civil rights movement successfully challenged it in the 1950’s.
Jim Crow laws requiring segregated waiting rooms at a train station.
During the first 20 years of professional baseball, black and white players played together. In 1890, rules were enforced preventing blacks from playing baseball in the national league. For the next 57 years, blacks and whites were segregated. Finally, in 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier and jump started the civil rights movement which completely changed American society in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Satchel Paige is considered to be one of the greatest pitchers ever, but he played in the Negro Leagues most of his career.
America is said to be a land of immigrants. Prior to 1890, most immigrants came from either Africa or northwestern Europe. From 1890-1920, southern and eastern Europeans made up the bulk of immigrants. Today, Asians and Hispanics constitute the bulk of immigrants.
The Statue of Liberty which represents a land of opportunity and second chances for oppressed people around the world
Most early baseball players were Americans of Northern European descent. Over time, immigrants to the US became American, which included a passion for its pastime, baseball. Italian Americans rooted for the Yankee Clipper Joe DiMaggio. Jewish immigrants idolized Hank Greenberg, while Hispanics praised the great Roberto Clemente.
In the 1960’s the Bay Area, which includes San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, became the center of the student free speech and hippie movements. This era challenged American attitudes toward politics and the war in Vietnam, music, drugs, and sex.
The Grateful Dead, one of many bands based in San Francisco, defined the 1960’s.
From 1972-74, the Oakland A’s won three consecutive World Series Championships. Although the owner termed this team the “Swingin’ A’s,” the players often said they played so well as a team due to their universal dislike for their employer. This free spirit, along with colorful uniforms, facial hair, and eccentric nicknames seemed to capture the countercultural spirit of the city and the times.
The A’s owner paid his players to grow moustaches. The most famous moustache was that of Rollie Fingers, an outstanding relief pitcher.
For 140 years, Americans have embraced baseball as its most popular sport. In fact, it is referred to as America’s pastime. America and baseball are uniquely connected. By looking at baseball, we can see America. It reflects both the beauty and the warts of America.