Baseball: An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture

By Edward J. Rielly | Go to book overview
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Preface

This book, as the title indicates, concerns both baseball and popular culture. Were it strictly a history of baseball, it would be a different type of book—a worthwhile book, to be sure, but a different one. The idea is to present ways in which certain aspects of baseball—individuals, teams, events, works of art, or social and technological changes within the game—affect and reflect the broader society in the United States. The focus, therefore, is twofold: baseball and society. This dual perspective can be imagined as interlocking circles that move around and through each other, with baseball altering American society and society impacting the game often known as America’s national pastime. Further, baseball is not separate from popular culture but part of that culture. This book therefore explores how baseball interacts with other dimensions of popular culture. The phrase “popular culture” requires some explanation. The term is widely used but has no definitive definition. The word “popular” generally refers to “the people,” meaning the large majority of “common” people rather than the intellectual and social elite. To be popular, something must be widespread and widely accepted or practiced. Almost every statement made about popular culture, though, requires qualification. In the case of baseball, individuals who otherwise would be considered among the social elite may attend baseball games and rub shoulders with the masses. In fact, many do just that. This author not long ago sat at a minor league game immediately in front of the governor of his state. Clearly, individuals shift into and out of the category often referred to as “the common people.” At the same time, an activity enjoyed or practiced by a relatively small number of people would not qualify as part of popular culture.

So what is “culture”? That term, although subject to many definitions (like all of the terms referred to here), is best defined broadly. So let us think of culture as the way of life of a group of people— a not uncommon way to use the term. In this case, the group consists of the people living in the United States, who, of course, interact through baseball and many other aspects of popular culture with people from other nations. So “popular culture,” as used in this book, refers to the way of life of large numbers of people who have lived in, or are now

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