Origins Of The Game
Baseball is a sport that has been around for well over 100 years. It’s a game with a rich history and culture and an important role in American society. It’s simple enough that anyone can understand but complex enough that there is always an opportunity to learn more. It has a dynamic mix of strategy and athleticism.
With 162 games played each season, baseball offers many opportunities for fans to watch their favorite players compete – and for players to hone their skills through practice and playtime with teammates on the field.
First referenced in a 1744 British publication called A Little Pretty Pocket-Book. By the 1830s, early forms of baseball were being played in North America and by the late 19th century became the most popular sport in the United States. Since then, baseball has become popular in Central America, part of South America, the Caribbean, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.
While other sports have more constant action, baseball remains the best overall sport. Let’s discuss why baseball continues to grow in popularity worldwide and why I believe it’s the greatest game.
Reason #1: America’s Favorite Pastime
Why is baseball called America’s favorite pastime? For one, baseball was arguably the original sport in the country that was developed and loved by the masses. It has survived many national difficulties over the years, including the Industrial Revolution, Civil War, World War I, World War II, and The Great Depression, among others. People from all walks of life, ages, and races enjoy the game, the ballparks, and everything associated with the game.
Reason #2: Great Rivalries
Rivalries are present in any sport. The NFL has the Bears vs. Packers, the NBA has the Celtics vs. Lakers, while collegiate rivalries include Michigan vs. Ohio State and Duke vs. North Carolina. The facts are that no rivalries are as long-standing and storied as those in Major League Baseball.
Take the Dodgers vs. Giants, the Yankees vs. Red Sox, and the Cubs vs. Cardinals, to name a few. They are long-standing, and the teams meet each other an extraordinary number of times per season.
With a Major League schedule of 162 games each season, rivals square off nearly 20 times per season, which could be even more if they battle in the playoffs. The rivalry goes far beyond the players to the fans and media alike.
Reason #3: Ballparks
Unlike any other sport, baseball fields have a tremendous amount of variety. Whether from the youth league or the Major Leagues, every field has something uniquely characteristic. Examining a professional park, each has different dimensions and atmosphere.
While the game is played the same way with the same distances to the bases and pitcher mound to home plate, concessions stands and activities in the seats and other parts of the stadium make for an entertaining and unique experience.
One activity that has become increasingly popular is the post-game fireworks display. While this used to be relegated to once per season around Independence Day, fireworks can be seen many times per season in nearly every stadium in Major League Baseball.
Reason #4: Opening Day
For baseball enthusiasts, Opening Day is like a holiday. When baseball resumes after a long winter layoff, it comes back with a spirit like no other. Generally, Opening Day games take place during the day, and although people work, stadiums are still packed with fans taking off from work for this important day of the baseball season.
Going hand-in-hand with Opening Day are first pitches. To start the season, and often during the season, a special guest will throw out the first pitch. Of course, the pitch doesn’t mean anything and isn’t even thrown from the pitcher’s mound, but it’s a long-standing tradition in baseball. Many famous people have thrown out first pitches, from presidents to actors, to entertainers to current or former professional athletes.
Reason #5: Seventh-Inning Stretch
A tradition with origins that are difficult to pinpoint, the seventh-inning stretch occurs in every professional game. It’s generally when fans stand between halves of the seventh inning and stretch or walk around.
While this doesn’t seem like much of a big deal, the seventh-inning stretch features the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” The song has become so popular that it has been seen in movies and television shows over the years.
Reason #6: Home Runs and Foul Balls
Any ball hit into the stands for fans attending collegiate or professional games becomes a souvenir. Kids can have a memory for a lifetime of catching one of these balls. Perhaps an even more incredible thrill for a young fan is having his or her favorite player toss a ball to them between innings.
Baseball is unique in this way because in no other sport are spectators allowed to keep balls that go out of play. It’s even more exciting if that ball is a home run by a favorite player or one that puts a team ahead to win the game.
Note that in many cases, home run balls hit by opposing players will get tossed back into the field of play by fans not wanting to keep such balls, or perhaps it has become more of a tradition.
Reason #7: No Time Limit
Unlike other team sports, a baseball game isn’t dictated by time on a clock. Professional football has four 15-minute quarters. The NBA has four-12-minute quarters, and the NHL has three-20-minute periods. Baseball could technically go on forever since it takes three outs per inning for both teams to complete a game for nine innings.
The longest professional game was a 33-inning contest between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings on June 23, 1981. The game lasted a mere 8 hours and 25 minutes. That is a dream to baseball fans, getting nearly four games of innings for the price of one.
Reason #8: Difficulty of Hitting a Baseball
This is arguably the most challenging thing to do consistently in all sports. A few athletes (Bo Jackson, Brian Jordan, and Deion Sanders) have succeeded in baseball and football. Still, perhaps the greatest athlete in team sports history failed to transition to baseball. Michael Jordan struggled to hit above .200 in AA baseball after topping the basketball world.
Remember that successfully hitting the ball well enough to get a hit 30 percent of the time is considered a success. What other team sport can you fail 70 percent of the time and be an all-time great?
The pitcher controls the ball and hurls it at upwards of 100 mph, with various speeds, movements, and locations from just 60 feet away. Its amazing players can hit the ball as frequently as they do.
Reason #9: For Kids of All Sizes
Size isn’t nearly as important a factor in baseball as in other sports. After all, a game like football requires a lot of physical contacts. Therefore, size is more important, particularly as kids get older. Speed is essential in other sports, generally basketball and soccer. Baseball players come in all sizes, shapes, speeds, and physical strengths.
The skills developed in baseball are not height specific; However, many of the top power pitchers are taller and bigger in stature, many successful pitchers are smaller in frame (Pedro Martinez, for example). One of the amazing things about baseball is you get MVPs as short as Dustin Pedroia (5’9) and Jose Altuve (5″6) and as tall as Giancarlo Stanton (6’6).
Reason #10: Pitching a Baseball is Extremely Difficult
While hitting is the most difficult thing to do in sports, pitching the ball where you want to is also very difficult and hard on the body. Not only is it difficult on the joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles in the pitching arm and hand, but throwing the pitch exactly where you want to is very challenging.
Not only must a pitcher locate pitches, but they must also do so with enough on it to prevent the batter from making solid contact. Anyone with an accurate arm can throw the ball with moderate velocity down the middle of the plate, but that is only good for batting practice. A pitcher doing that in a game won’t last long and must find another position to play or try another sport.
Reason #11: Less Athleticism Required
It must be pointed out that there are plenty of tremendous athletes to play Major League Baseball, but compared to other sports, needing supreme athleticism isn’t as necessary. Baseball is a game of fundamentals, and baseball-specific skills that don’t require you to be able to run the fastest, or be the strongest, to succeed.
Babe Ruth had far from an athletic frame; we all know his place in baseball history among the greatest ever played. John Kruk, who hit .300 while playing for the Padres, Phillies, and White Sox from 1986 to 1995, said it best, “I am not an athlete. I’m a professional baseball player.”
Reason #12: Lowest Odds of Going Professional
When thinking about the odds of making it to the Major League level, one should think more before booing a player that is having a bad game. Only about 5.6 percent of those playing a senior year of high school will play at the NCAA level. About 10.5 percent of those playing NCAA baseball will get drafted by an MLB team.
About 1-in-200 boys playing at the high school level will get drafted by an MLB team. How many of those drafted actually play a game at the MLB level? That is likely around 1 in 100. You can see the odds are far against anyone playing at the MLB level. This will make you appreciate what you see on the field even more. Remember, even the very worst Major League player you see is still among the best players in the world.
We just touched on all the reasons why baseball is still such a tremendous game nearly 200 years after it was first played in North America. Consider everything mentioned above the next time you attend a game in person or watch it on tv. Relax and enjoy the great game for what it is. America’s pastime is all and well and will continue to thrive for future generations.
Baseball is the greatest game because of its history, how it is played, and the memories it creates. The game has been around for over a hundred years and has seen many changes, but the basics remain the same. Baseball is a sport that everyone can enjoy, regardless of age or gender.
It is a game that teaches important life lessons and instills values such as teamwork and sportsmanship. And finally, baseball creates lifelong memories that can be shared with family and friends. Whether you’re catching a ball at a Major League game or hitting balls in your backyard, I believe baseball will always be the greatest game.