From Pittsburgh's Hill to San Pedro's
WHAT IS IT about baseball that makes it so compelling, so meaningful to people? I've tried to address that question since I was a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh in the late 1970s. It still comes up just about every time I talk, write, or try to create something about the game. Why do I, and more importantly, why do you and so many other people care about baseball, investing it with emotion, studying it, and, as citizens, supporting it?1
For me, the answer has much to do with how baseball can engender a powerful sense of community—in those who play it and, more importantly, in a larger social sense, for those who identify with a team, whether they be from a neighborhood, city, or nation, or of a group denominated by race or nationality, and sometimes even class or gender. It's that often sociopsychological response to the sport that I see whenever I return to the game.
On an individual basis, belonging to a team gives someone an identity and a status. That belonging can bring forth strong emotions—elation or horror, satisfaction or humiliation, excitement or shame—and the intense connection with teammates whose success and failure you share. Almost anyone who has experienced being a member of a championship team at any level from Little League to professional baseball finds that an unforgettable experience. Even being a part of a good team can be exhilarating. And most ballplayers at any level share some affiliation to a fraternity in which they have been initiated.
Baseball is probably the most thrilling and meaningful to those who encounter it on that level, as players with nothing between them and the game—no mediating forces such as parents, coaches, and owners.
But even those who are not on a team can vicariously experience its emotional, psychological, and social ups and downs. I would like here to