The idea that baseball is the "national pastime," and "America's game" is true in that it was invented here, flourished here, and has been exported all around the world. It is America's oldest and most important professional sport. It is supposed to reflect American values such as fairness, honesty, and democracy.
As a national phenomenon, baseball has long served to mirror cultural currents and national attitudes. However, from its inception, baseball's racial attitudes have mirrored those of society. Invented, played, and adored by Americans, baseball can only be as good as the society that fosters it. It should come as no surprise, then, that other major American institutions began to integrate shortly after baseball did.
The initial integration of baseball was a lengthy process that was planned out very carefully. That memorable event was the work of Mr. Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers' president, and a young Negro named Jackie Robinson who was chosen to be the first to test the hostile waters that sought to drown him. It was obvious that if the experiment had proved unsuccessful it would have marked more than a personal failure. It would have ruined all chances for minorities to be admitted into Major League baseball at that time. The experiment, however, proved highly successful and Robinson was instantly a national hero among Negroes and many whites as well; coupled with his immediate success as a ball player, he soon earned the respect of most of his white teammates, sportswriters, and fans.
After Robinson's introduction, and the drafting of several other black players by the Dodger organization, the other teams started to follow suit. It would take years from the time the first non-white was signed in 1946 until 1959 when integration of all of the teams was completed.
Baseball has been used in many media to relay a message to the public. It has been a testing ground for change, a marketing ground for commercial interests, and an icon in the American way of life. Baseball has the ability to be all of these things because of the public's fascination with the game. The game is a major ritual in our society. We grow up with it, playing very young, and as we mature it teaches us about fairness and values. When we grow up, we will pass it down to the next generation who in turn will pass it to their children. Baseball found its way into our culture more than 125 years ago and will be played for 125 more.
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