Americans didn’t invent baseball. Why do we work so hard to pretend we did?
Baseball is America’s sport. While the popularity of professional baseball has been somewhat eclipsed by football, basketball, and, in recent years, NASCAR, baseball retains a historic position in American mythology. Everyone likes baseball. Look, here’s even President Richard Nixon enjoying a Senators vs. Yankees game back in 1969!
As the United States’ own pastime, it holds an important place in our minds. Whether we grew up in the Northeast or in the desert of Arizona, in a farm community or a big city, there’s always some team and some plays that stick in our collective memory. How about that time in 1989 when the San Francisco Giants’ Kevin Mitchell caught a ball barehanded in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals?
And what’s more, unlike, say, basketball, we don’t have to share it with other countries. It’s all (well, almost all) ours. As Thomas Boswell wrote in the Washington Post in 2003:
In the 19th century, America invented baseball. In the 20th, we dominated the game and polished it to a high gloss. Now, in this century, American baseball and the rest of the world appear ready to shake hands across great distances, each glad for the other’s version of the sport and better for it, too.