Baccellieri: A brief history of the many times baseball has ‘died’

From Emma Baccellieri at Sports Illustrated on August 29, 2019:

By August 1939, I started to crack. I’d seen plenty of big outbursts and flimsy claims and weird defenses; I assumed I’d seen it all. Then I read the line about the “embryo Ty Cobbs,” softened by the motor cars.

I was trying to understand how baseball had started to die. See, I’d heard that baseball was dying. I’d heard this for my entire life. This is true for my father and his entire life, and his father and his entire life, and his father and his entire life—because it’s forever been true for baseball. It’s been declared at risk of death since it was born. Of course, the precise causes of death vary by decade and person and context. (Lately, you’ve probably heard about problems with attendance, with home runs, with pace of play, and, obviously, with millennials.) Some are far more credible than others. But the core is the same. There’s someone who believes baseball is dying. There always has been.

I wanted to understand. So I decided that I’d rewind a century and a half, I’d search news archives for “is baseball dying,” and I’d look at 100 articles written on this premise between 1869 and 2019. I’d look for patterns, or I’d find the secret elixir to life with all this talk of death, or I’d simply come to hate the whole endeavor. In any event, I’d survey 100 articles—100 discussions of doom—and see where they led.

Which, eventually, put me in August 1939.

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Originally published: August 30, 2019. Last Updated: August 30, 2019.