Date Thesis Awarded
Honors Thesis -- Open Access
Bachelors of Arts (BA)
James P. Whittenburg
John W. Conlee
Baseball has long been considered America's game. From images of Kevin Costner playing catch with his father to political thinkers like George Will authoring entire books about it, baseball has always been embedded in America's national psyche. "Pride and patriotism," one author mused required that the game be truly American and unsullied by English influence: thus the American baseball mythos was created. It was not always this way, however, as the game of baseball started among the elite social clubs of New York City and subsequently trickled down to the masses. Thorstein Veblen once said that only the leisure class and delinquents played sports. It was these leisurely and delinquent masses that expanded the game, forcing the innovations that created baseball as we know it today. Salaried players, commercialized contests, and even styles of play were all the products of the lower classes, especially immigrants participating in America's game. German and Irish immigrants changed the game to the extent that the Knickerbockers never would have thought possible, but by 1902 when Major League Baseball was formed, it was an American institution with participation by all classes. Researchers have previously recognized the African-American component to baseball's innovation and that Irish and other immigrant stars dominated the game and contributed to its development by the end of the nineteenth century, but the actual impact of immigrants and lower class ethnic players has never been fully articulated. Immigrants were not just contributors, but were essential to the professional and commercial development of baseball in the 19th century by both their alteration of the commercial and professional structures that defined the game.
Young, Michael, "Baseball, Immigration, and Professionalization in the 19th century" (2011). Undergraduate Honors Theses. William & Mary. Paper 367.
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