The Roaring Twenties of this country was a time when the entire sports world blew up into the major worldwide business that it is now. Baseball was one sport that really profited from the country’s sporting obsession, and baseball became one of the most popular sporting events to attend. Not only was it a game played by adults but it was also a family event that entire families could go to. By the beginning of the decade, baseball had it’s first $100,000 deal when George Herman Ruth was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees for $125,000. The game became more than a game, it became a business. It was the emergence of the superstar, and players were making a living off of being a professional baseball player. Babe Ruth became more than a player he became an idol that was more noticeable than the President of the United States.
Other superstar players emerged along with Ruth in the twenties, such players as Lou Gehrig, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, and Ty Cobb became players that were in a way bigger than the game. They became the superstars of the league, partying like college frat boys with endless amounts of money and the celebrity to take them anywhere. They became names that were common in households nationwide and became heroes for young children to look up to and play after.
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The 1927 Yankees known as one of the best baseball teams ever, were around with stars like Ruth, Gehrig, and Tony Lazerri, is still considered one of the best teams ever assembled. This is the team that young little leaguers would play dreaming one day to play in the pinstripes of a Yankee uniform, playing under the lights of the House that Ruth Built. Players were now accepting a whole new role as baseball players, becoming idols of children, and they started gaining the celebrity that some of the Hollywood stars did not even have.
Babe Ruth’s impact on the game of baseball was almost as mammoth as his home runs. When Ruth entered the league it was in its fragile, fledgling stages, and the enormous awe-inspiring slugger brought the game back into its flashy superstar filled game that it was. Ruth was different than most stars of the league; he won the fans over with his charismatic, flashy, and frivolous lifestyle. Ruth’s play on the field was remarkable, hitting some of the most home runs ever by the player, and currently is second in all-time home runs. “The only real game, I think, in the world is baseball.“ Was said by Babe Ruth expressing his love for the game. Baseball was his and other player’s lives, they lived for the game with a fervent passion and the game exchanged with them with high salaries and the celebrity that they desired.
The myth that followed some of these players was something that followed them into the hearts of the country. One example of the on-fields myths that followed those players was the one that Babe Ruth called a home run in Game three of the World Series, and Ruth never confirmed or denied the reports that the prediction was true. Ruth lived the lifestyle of the superstar athlete and enjoyed the reputation that followed him. Ruth’s impact on the game was more than anyone can think of. He was the game and paved the way for an entire generation of athletes to come. “It was impossible to watch him at bat without experiencing an emotion.”
A lifetime .342 hitter, Babe Ruth is second all-time to Hank Aaron in homers (714) and RBI (2,211). The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Ruth revolutionized the game, changing it from a pitcher-dominated, scratch-out-a-run contest to a homer-hitting, dialling-long-distance event. From 1920-33, he slugged 637 homers, an average of 45.5 per season. From 1926-31, from ages 31 to 36 when he was supposedly past his prime after a sub-par 1925, he averaged 50 homers, 155 RBI, 147 runs and a .354 batting average. And is still considered one of the greatest players ever.
Around the time of Ruth was the start of the Negro Leagues, a league for the black men that were banned from playing in the Big Leagues played in the Negro Leagues, which was started by Rube Foster. In 1919, severe riots broke out in a number of American cities. Andrew “Rube” Foster, a highly successful black businessman, coincidentally began forming the Negro National Baseball League in Chicago, the year of the riots.
The purpose was to provide the north’s new black citizens with professional baseball of their own. It was Foster’s objective, he said, “to create a profession that would equal the earning capacity of other professions, and keep coloured baseball from the control of whites,” and “do something concrete for the loyalty of the race.” This newly founded league proved to have an enormous sociological effect on the country. The new league gave all of the African Americans a chance to play professional baseball away from the racism of the Major Leagues. The Negro Leagues proved to pave the ways for players to eventually make their way into the Major Leagues, which was no easy task.
Not until 1945 did a man from the Kansas City Monarchs signed a contract with Branch Rickey and the Brooklyn Dodgers. The young athletic star from UCLA College, signed in 1945 and played minor league baseball in 1946 and eventually making it to the Big Leagues in 1947, winning rookie of the year honours. Playing professionally was no easy duty for the young Robinson, who was met with a racist country that awaited him at every game.
Not only was Jackie Robinson’s effect felt on the field as well as off the field, with the civil rights movement. “Life is not a spectator sport . . .. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion, you’re escaping your life.” Robinson said this in 1947 when asked about why he broke the colour barrier. Robinson felt that you couldn’t get through life with just watching everything, and felt that people need to act, instead of just talking. “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”
1997 was the fiftieth anniversary of Robinson’s joining the league, and the country was constantly reminded of the impact that Robinson had on the game. Robinson has had without a doubt the largest impact on professional sports of any player ever. He opened the gates to diversifying the teams and was the scapegoat for many insecure racists. In 1997 all players on all teams wore a patch on each of their sleeves throughout the year, letting it be known what a major impact Robinson had on the league. No other players have had such an impact on the league. Robinson joined the league in one of the most racist times this country has ever seen. No player has changed the game in such a large way like Robinson has.
Even long after his playing days on the field, Robinson worked on the civil rights movement off the field. He worked with such leaders as Martin Luther King Jr. for the civil rights movement. Even at his death in 1972 many of the players and supporters that played with Robinson came to his funeral to pay his respects to the great ballplayer.
Fellow infielder and teammate Pee Wee Reese was on of the pallbearers at his funeral and said about the fallen hero, “He did well.” The small statement summed up the significance that Robinson had on the game and how he dealt with the controversy. Having captured the attention of the American public in the ballpark, he now delivered the message that racial integration in every facet of American society would enrich the nation. “A life is not important, except in the impact it has on others.” Robinson’s strong fight to make this country equal has affected all of us by seeing the good in people as equals.
The man that signed Robinson was known as a shrewd businessman that thought he might find a diamond in the rough by breaking the colour barrier. He was known as the architect of the minor league farm system. He recognized segregated baseball as unfair. When general manager Rickey Branch of the Brooklyn Dodgers offered Robinson the chance to break organized baseball’s powerful but unwritten colour line, the fiery ballplayer not only accepted, he also agreed to Rickey’s condition: that he not respond to the abuse he would face. Which made the contract more remarkable because he could not respond back to the hatred.
In 1919 the Black Sox scandal was major because it showed a new side to sports that many people were not used too. The scandal shows the corruption in professional sports, which shows even more in today’s sports. Players on the Chicago White Sox team were charged and persecuted with deliberately losing games in the World Series for which they were paid. Details of the scandal are still very sketchy but several players such as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson were involved and were kicked out of baseball for life. This had a bigger sociological impact than appears the eye.
The scandal made a front new story on every major newspaper across the country that every family in the country heard about. It was not good advertising for the game and put out a bad message overall for the Major Leagues. Baseball looked like a game played by players that had no morals and would do anything for the money. The little children that looked up to these players are left with the impression that ballplayers are wrong and put out the wrong picture for professional baseball.
Ted Williams, was considered one of the greatest hitters of all time, led AL in batting 6 times, and HR’s and RBI 4 times each; won Triple Crown twice (1942,47); 2-time MVP (1946,49); last player to bat .400 when he hit .406 in 1941; Marine Corps combat pilot who missed three full seasons during World War II (1943-45) and most of two others (1952-53) during Korean War; hit .344 lifetime with 521 HR’s in 19 years with Boston Red Sox.
Both players had unbelievable stats, and both became the next big superstars, who were almost bigger than the game. At one time DiMaggio was more recognizable than the President. Williams’ impact was significant because it showed the American public that ballplayers were normal Americans and served the country proudly. Williams was often critical of the fact that many other ballplayers declined to not fight in the war. Williams who is one of the greatest hitters of all time served his country and showed his patriotism, earning a medal of honour fighting in the war.
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