In this paper, I have described the state of race and ethnicity in baseball (particularly referring to America) in detail. Starting from the history of ethnicity and racism in baseball, I have also provided the present scenario in the game. In the last part of my paper, I have described the importance of baseball to American society.
Race can be described as an artifact that is constructed by a society and categorizes people on the basis of their physical appearance. Such divisions on the basis of race are amorphous in nature and fluid with the passage of time reflecting a social basis and not a substantial one. As far as ethnicity is concerned, it mirrors the differences between the cultures. In the similar way, an ethnic group is a group of people who have a similar heritage of history and culture and a strong sense of mutual identity.
Ethnicity cannot be regarded as an issue of marginal groups of the society. If truth be told, everyone possesses it (Polley, 1998). As far as baseball is concerned, ethnicity and race have been the most important aspects in the sport since 18th century. It was in the same century that the contemporary adaptation of this pastime gained reputation and regard across the U.S.A. The modern America is dominated by a number of values and baseball has a particular role in embodying those values. According to a number of scholars, "baseball may be perceived as a sort of mirror in which values, power, politics, fashion, class, economics, and race may be viewed in microcosm" (Briley).
With the influx of migrants in the country, this national activity of "bat and ball" was tried on sandlots and diamonds at schools by the non-natives and their brood. Of them, a number of people turned out to be capable enough to pursue professional baseball game and arose as heroes in their relevant ethnic communities. In due course, the commercial importance of ethnic players was sensed by the as they could prove to be very profitable in enhancing the sales of the tickets. In the intervening time, the issues of ethnic typecasting were raised by several members of the press and social commentators as they brooded over the importance of foreign participation in baseball that was basically a national pastime (Kirsch, Harris & Nolte, 2000).
At the same time as these journalists and reviewers brought about offensive analysis of the migrants, they also "celebrated the game as a democratic institution that would assimilate aliens into the mainstream of American society" (Kirsch, Harris & Nolte, 2000). During the earlier phase of 20th century, one could see applauses of the efforts in "Americanzing" the immigrants through sports (baseball in particular) in newspapers and magazines (Kirsch, Harris & Nolte, 2000). Thus, the role of baseball in the evolution of ethnic changes in the American land cannot be ignored.
This ethnic evolution began with the efforts of Anglo-Americans who were the major contributors in forming the game. There were a number of European ethnic groups that made entries to the game and belonged to "Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and other Slavic nations" (Baldassaro & Johnson, 2002). They were either Christians or Jews. As it was a custom in every aspect of life in America to exclude African-Americans, same happened to them in baseball. However, it was later regretted by baseball as the exclusion of African-Americans from the game proved to be a fatal step. Nevertheless, when the color barrier in the baseball was broken before the incorporation of further institutions, it was a proud moment for the game and its fans (Baldassaro & Johnson, 2002).
In this contemporary world of ours, baseball can be regarded as a truly melting pot as it mirrors the transformation of American population than any other activity in the country. If truth be told, there are more and more foreigners included each year in the game particularly the talented individuals from Caribbean and Latin America. This is evident from the fact that "at the start of the 2000 Major League Baseball season, 198 players, nearly 24% of all players on major league rosters, were born outside the fifty states" (Baldassaro & Johnson, 2002) of the United States of America. Astonishingly, those 198 baseball players belonged to 16 foreign countries and Puerto Rico with 71 players just from the Dominican Republic (Baldassaro & Johnson, 2002). Even today, out of every six Major League players, one player belongs to Latin America especially from Dominican Republic (Kirwin, 2005).
For the reason that there has been a tremendous inclusion of foreign talent and increasing interest in the game all over the planet, Major League Baseball has initiated a global strategy for bringing the game to peoples belonging to different races and ethnicities throughout the world. If seen from certain perspectives, it is quite obvious that this strategy is rather the reverse of the trend that prevailed during baseball's first 100 years; the time when the game was influenced by a range of ethnic groups. However, this strategy of global level will guarantee for the future that baseball will carry on to be the diverse pastime and inclusive of the talent that can be anyone from any country or ethnicity (Baldassaro & Johnson, 2002).
The experience of ethnicity in baseball truly reveals the modifying character of immigration to America from the mid of the 18th century to the present. From 1880s till the First World War, the immigrants mainly belonged to Southern and Eastern Europe. However, Latin Americans and Asians are recently the major newcomers. While it is a fact that players from all the mentioned continents experienced similar ethnic behaviors, there is a major difference between the players who belong to the British Isles and Europe (mainly Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany and Denmark) and Latin American and Asian players (Kirsch, Harris & Nolte, 2000).
Those who belong to British Isles and other parts of Europe did not have any baseball heritage from their motherland as the sport was either unfamiliar or had a negligible status in their countries. On the other hand, baseball was a familiar and widely acknowledged sport in Latin America and Asia. Consequently, no European player could influence the game during 18th and 19th centuries. However, during 20th century, talented players were imported by the United States from "Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Santo Domingo, and other Caribbean and Central American nations." Presently, the sport's popularity has been strengthened in Asia and Latin America due to the accomplishments of their national idols in American baseball (Kirsch, Harris & Nolte, 2000).
The foreigners with Irish ethnicity were the first who distinguished themselves in the American pastime. Among the Irish players, the two most prominent names are Michael "King" Kelly and John McGraw. Despite the high inclusion of Irish players and their achievements, they faced public ethnic degradation as they were often linked with excessive alcohol consumption. The authorities were used to of putting restrictions on the Irish players (Kirsch, Harris & Nolte, 2000). They also experienced discrimination as they were asked to demonstrate a super quality performance in order to retain a permanent position in the team. Also, they were usually downgraded by being given less significant field positions. The Irish players who were a regular part of the team were mostly assigned a position that was less significant than their regular one (Remington, 2012).
The foreigners belonging to Germany also made a mark on American baseball during the earlier times of the game. "John Peter "Honus" Wagner, George Herman "Babe" Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and George Edward "Rube" Wadell" (Kirsch, Harris & Nolte, 2000) are among the most renowned German-Americans who made an impact in the history of baseball.
With the emergence of Italy as a tyrannical state and a potential intimidating power to USA, the performance of those players in the American land who originally belonged to Italy and were Jewish assumed a sensitive emblematic significance. When the Second World War started, ethnic baseball stars like Joe DiMaggio and Hank Greenberg put on show both their skill on the baseball ground along with the demonstration of jingoism and their faithfulness to the American doctrine of egalitarianism. During the World War II and after it, there were dozens of Italian players, coaches and managers with exceptional careers. Most outstanding among them include "Tony Lazzeri of the Yankees (known as "Push 'em Up Wop" because he bounced up so often after being hit by a pitch), Ernie Lombardi, Frank Crosetti, Dolph Camilli, Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin, Yogi Berra, Tom Lasorda" (Kirsch, Harris & Nolte, 2000).
Native American Players
The Native Americans or Indians were faced by a rather complex and hard kind of discrimination and bigotry and it was more extreme than the ethnic stereotyping and ill-treatment that the players from Ireland, Germany, Italy and Europe had to experience at the hands of American people. A number of Indian or…