The Old Ball Game: Baseball in Folklore and Fiction

The Old Ball Game: Baseball in Folklore and Fiction

The Old Ball Game: Baseball in Folklore and Fiction

The Old Ball Game: Baseball in Folklore and Fiction

Excerpt

Sportswriters argue incessantly whether baseball is the national game or not. On the whole, I think they have decided that it is, but it really doesn’t matter. Baseball certainly is one of our national games, evolving to its present forms on these shores, deeply a part of the heritage of our people. The picture of the father shoving a glove and bat into the crib of his first son is an American cliche simply because it symbolizes something typical about American hopes and fears.

Because baseball is so deeply a national game, many people assume automatically that it is a national folk game, or “our great folk game” as it is sometimes called. But calling baseball a folk game is to mis-name it. Much baseball is too highly organized, too set in its rules, actually too literary to be considered folk. Folklore, you see, is the flow of cultural habits, beliefs, ways of expression that a people who can’t or don’t or won’t write use to perpetuate their manner of civilization from generation to generation. It’s not much different from the more formal, more highly technological matter that people who write use, except that it is not printed and thus is subject to the laws of oral tradition. That is, it will vary and change as it passes from mouth to mouth, ear to ear, and will not become standardized the way written and printed matter . . .

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