Baseball reflects an all-important element in American society: family relationships. Although any sport may help parents and children build solid relationships, no other sport is so rich in family tradition as baseball.
The parent-child connection has received the most attention. A universal image of growing up in the United States is father and son playing catch in the backyard, perhaps in a park. Fathers often buy infants a baseball glove before the child can even walk. Then there is the first ball game, a moment that people relive well into their later years. One of the greatest collections of writing on this theme is a volume of essays by poet Donald Hall, Fathers Playing Catch with Sons.
It is important to recognize that mothers and daughters capture the spirit just as well. Doris Kearns Goodwin, a biographer and political chronicler, writes extensively about her youth with the Brooklyn Dodgers and her father, how her father taught her to keep a scorecard so that when he came home from work they could go over the day’s game together. “Wait ’til next year” became a declaration of faith and hope that she later passed on to her children, as their own trips to Fenway Park in Boston recalled her earlier games at old Ebbets Field.
Among other works of literature on baseball and family is the moving autobiographical account by Ralph Schoenstein, recounting the story of daughter Lori and the incomparable thrill he felt as she belted out “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” with her father and thousands of other fans at Shea Stadium. Fictional narratives like W. P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe and Philip Goldberg’s This Is Next Year tell of Shoeless Joe Jackson, the father’s favorite player, as instruments of reconciliation between father and son; and a fictional Brooklyn family, their love for the Dodgers, and the long-awaited 1955 world championship season.
There are various explanations for why baseball has this hold on the imaginative and emotional lives of parents and children. It seems the right kind of sport, one that goes back into the early days of our country so that it is part of the passing of generation into generation. It also is something of a peaceful sport, lacking the violence of football and hockey, the