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After having provided more than 600 women an opportunity to play baseball and to entertain several million fans, the league folded in 1954.
But, even if unable to heal conflicts arising from fundamental social divisions, baseball exhibited an extraordinary capacity for fostering ties.
While baseball possessed enormous integrative powers, the game’s history also has been interwoven with and reflective of major social and cultural cleavages.
Until the first decades of the 20th century, middle-class Evangelical Protestants viewed the sport with profound suspicion.
They associated baseball, or at least the professional version of the game, with ne’er-do-wells, immigrants, the working class, drinking, gambling, and general rowdiness.
Conversely, these very qualities provided a foothold for the upward ascent of ethnic groups from the nation’s ghettos.
“It’s our game,” exclaimed the poet has the snap, go, fling of the American atmosphere—it belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly, as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life. Perhaps Whitman exaggerated baseball’s importance to and its congruency with life in the United States, but few would argue the contrary, that baseball has been merely a simple or an occasional diversion.
It was nationalistic sentiment that helped to make baseball “America’s game.” In the quest to obtain greater cultural autonomy, Americans yearned for a sport they could claim as exclusively their own.
Baseball terms and phrases, such as “He threw me a curve,” “Her presentation covered all the bases,” and “He’s really out in left field,” soon became part of the national vocabulary, so entrenched is baseball in the ordinary conversation of Americans. As early as the 1850s, baseball images began to appear in periodicals, and, in the 20th century, popular illustrator Norman Rockwell often used baseball as the subject for his Take Me Out to the Ballgame” remain among the best-known poems and songs, respectively, among Americans.
United States is credited with developing several popular sports, including some (such as baseball, gridiron football, and basketball) that have large fan bases and, to varying degrees, have been adopted internationally.
But baseball, despite the spread of the game throughout the globe and the growing influence of Asian and Latin American leagues and players, is the sport that Americans still recognize as their “national pastime.” The game has long been woven into the fabric of American life and identity.
Novelists and filmmakers frequently have turned to baseball motifs.
After the mid-20th century, at the very time baseball at the grassroots level had begun a perceptible descent, baseball fiction proliferated.