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Baseball is a mirror of American liberty and of the virtues necessary to sustain it.BLACK FLIGHT This sport of fathers and sons is under strain in those precincts of our culture where fatherhood itself is in trouble.The data from Major League Baseball are the most readily available: By 1975, almost three decades after Jackie Robinson arrived, the proportion of African-American players reached a high of 27%.
At his less than princely salary, we watched Yankee games from the bleachers or high in the third deck." In an essay on her brother Paul's appearance in the World Series, "Coming to the Plate, One Family's Ethos," Molly O'Neill tells of a baseball-mad father who "never seemed to remember any of his sons' names until he heard them announced over the public address system at the Little League park." The most powerful testimony comes from Amiri Baraka, the radical black nationalist and Marxist, who recalls that "the specialest feeling was when my father took me down to Ruppert Stadium some Sundays to see the Newark Eagles, the black pro team.
Very little in my life was as heightened (in anticipation and reward) for me as that....
My grandpa Earl, of the Northwood Team, is down on one knee, leaning on a massive wooden bat.
Young Russell, meanwhile, stands beside him wearing the baseball outfit his mother sewed for him, one hand on his dad's shoulder, the other holding a slimmer bat, grinning ear to ear.
Kids play what they love, which is not determined by rational calculation, nor foreclosed by poverty (at least not in the case of a democratic game like baseball).
In the past, city kids without resources were resourceful enough to play stickball — and a farm boy like my dad learned to stitch together the leather on his one baseball to keep it playable.Football is to baseball as heavy metal or rap is to classical or jazz.Some commentators have claimed that the disappearance of American blacks from baseball is rooted in economics.This strikes me as rational-choice theory gone haywire.When youngsters head out to shoot hoops or play catch, they aren't calculating the odds of professional success (if they were, they would concentrate on school instead).Meanwhile, the percentage of white players has remained fairly level since the 1970s, with the difference being made up by the influx of Latinos and Asians.As for spectators, they are increasingly and overwhelmingly white. Before 1947, during the era of the Negro Leagues, play was segregated, but audiences crossed the color line.A little big-eyed boy holding his father's hand." Because of the way in which baseball links the generations it has been a channel through which vital traits of American character are instilled.The health of baseball concerns all of America, and the health of America — perhaps especially the American family — finds itself reflected in the state of our national pastime.It is striking that there has been no similar decline in enthusiasm for basketball or football; the racial compositions of the NBA and NFL have held steady at 75% and 66% black, respectively. For starters, we might note that baseball is an acquired taste, whereas the other ball sports have a certain natural appeal.Jacques Barzun, in his essay "God's Country and Mine," observes that in baseball, "The ball is not the center of interest as in those vulgar predatory games like football, basketball, and polo." To put it bluntly, kids don't need fatherly guidance to appreciate "vulgar predatory games." Football, in particular, as a collision sport, is the stuff of adolescent male fantasy.