Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Baseball: America looks to baseball amid uncertain times.
While we here at The Dynasty Guru almost exclusively discuss baseball from a dynasty fantasy context, with the (rightful) delay to the start of the season we’ve got a bit of a different piece for you. – Ian Hudson, Baseball Editor.
As what was supposed to be opening week arrives, baseball parks across the country remain closed. Many players are home with their families, as it remains to be seen how long the impact of the Coronavirus will last. At present, it is unknown if there will be a partial season, a half-season, or if a full 162 schedule this season. These are certainly uncharted waters for all.
In the past, Americans have looked to baseball to help it find its footing forward.
Here is a brief look at some of those times.
During the first game of the 1918 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, as World War I is drawing to a close and Americans are looking for a way to move forward, a U.S. military band plays its version of the “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Fred Thomas, the then third baseman for the Boston Red Sox, is on military leave and attending the game. During the playing of the song, he stands, turns toward the American flag, and gives a military salute. The rest of the fans in attendance follow his lead, stand, face the flag, and place their hands over their own hearts, thus sparking the beginning of a new baseball (and sports) tradition. At that same moment, baseball introduced a new way for a country of grateful citizens to express their patriotism following the war.
Then, in response to The Great Depression, Major League Baseball introduces several new features that help downtrodden Americans overcome the new reality they faced. Sure, some of these innovations might have been self-serving for the sport, but they also help the country rebound during a dire time. The birth of the All-Star Game allows people the opportunity to see a “game of dreams,” pairing all of the days’ greatest players against one another in one game. Night baseball becomes a common practice, allowing America’s working-class the opportunity to still attend games while working hard to provide for their families. And perhaps most impactful of all is the rise in the offering of radio broadcasting of games to fans. For the first time, even people who cannot afford to go to games can listen to what their favorite players and teams are doing each night. It is also during this time when the National Baseball Hall of Fame springs into existence, inducting its first-ever class in 1936. All of these responses by Major League Baseball offer Americans ways to renew their hope in the face of the harsh realities that exist. All of this helps renew a country’s broken spirit.
Next, during the World War II era, the sport contributes more than 500 major league players and over 4,000 minor league players to the War cause. All games were canceled on June 6, 1944, in observance of America’s military efforts on D-Day. But through it all, baseball played on, all the while entertaining fans at home in an effort to offer them some sense of normalcy.
And who can forget Major League Baseball’s help in a country’s effort to heal following the tragedy of September 11, 2001? After all of the games are canceled for nearly a week, the game returns with a contest between the Atlanta Braves and of course, the New York Mets in none other than New York City. And when Mike Piazza hit his home run in the bottom of the 8th inning, life at that moment begins its return to a new normal.
Of course, Major League Baseball has its flaws. However, with the coronavirus at the forefront of America’s consciousness, suddenly, concerns such as the Astro’s cheating scandal and pace of game don’t seem as important. With a game that many consider to be broken and obsolete, a look back offers a reminder of how the sport is important to the thread of the American spirit. Soon enough, the sound of the ballpark will return, players will take the field, and people will be heard rooting for their favorite teams and players. When that moment comes, America will be ready to move forward to another new normal.