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Baseball, though it is widely regarded as the great American pastime, simply cannot be considered such if one takes a look at the actual inclusiveness of the sport, and certainly not during the Golden Age of Baseball that flowered in the early to mid-20th Century. It was and is a game dominated by men, and indeed, remains that way despite allowing men of non-white races access to the many diamonds on which the game is played across America. Only for brief stints across the American timeline have women been allowed to partake in a sport that they may love, yet are not necessarily welcome in as players, coaches, or officials.
While this was, indeed, the case for many men of non-white races, especially black players throughout the first half of the 20th Century, in the modern sense, there are plenty of black players and even coaches in the sport while women are relegated so far down the baseball ladder that they are present only in quantity at the level of the little league Babe Ruth Leagues.
Still, they share much the same experiences of exclusion and derision that the other share. For black players, they would find themselves assigned to the Negro Leagues with little hope of ever advancing into the pros until Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier (Week 8: Flowering and Fading of the Negro Leagues).
For women, the situation was as dire if not more so as they suddenly found themselves the premier baseball league during World War II, only to be essentially thrown out of baseball when they were no longer wanted at the war’s end (Week 7: Women and other Outsiders).
Indeed, baseball has largely remained a ‘man’s game’ since that time with only sparse attempts to have women participate, and thanks to Title IX of the Civil Rights act, women have been assigned largely to softball leagues for which there is no serious major league analog (Keating).
Still, baseball and the history of the sport can be viewed without looking at it through the lens of the Major Leagues that have so shaped the modern American idea about what baseball is. One does not have to play in the Majors or Minors, or for a college or high school team in order to enjoy the sport. One does not even have to play in uniforms or on an official diamond at all. For many children who fall in love with baseball, black and white, male and female, they fall in love with it just as the players of two centuries ago fell in love with the sport, by playing it in only the most basic of manners. An image of television and movies is the character who grew up playing ‘stickball’ in the streets, and beloved childhood movies like The Sandlot show children in this evnironment, displaying the primal aspects of baseball of fun, camaraderie, and entertainment.
It is not the Major Leagues or even the Minor Leagues then that dictate the trends and patterns of the enjoyment of baseball for all people, rather it is the sheer aspect of playing that dictates what baseball means to people. True, the color and gender barriers to play in the Major Leagues that exist and have existed since the foundational periods of the Leagues continues to haunt those that strive for a greater level of play and seek to make their mark on history, not just in the area of playing either, but for Umpires, coaches and office staff as well. Still, these are lines that either have fallen in the past only to be re-erected or will fall permanently in the future as the talent that drives fans to take in a Major or Minor League game comes up and develops through much more naturalistic means. Jackie Robinson did not, after all, spring into the world a fully formed ball player, but rather developed those skills over years even without the opportunities afforded his white brethren.
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