McDaniel: Baseball as a business, a historical perspective

From Rachael McDaniel at The Hardball Times on February 23, 2018:

As the offseason has unfolded in all its frustrating sluggishness, I’ve noticed a particular sentiment being expressed a lot: that professional baseball has reached a point where it has become too much and too shamelessly a business, which exists solely to create profits for owners. I’m always interested in the collective experiences of fandom, and this experience—the love of the sport and concurrent disgust for the greed that underpins its existence—is so fraught with emotional and political stakes, has so much complexity and inherent contradiction, I was compelled to plumb its historical depths.

I knew that fans and observers must have had similar feelings over the past few decades, what with frequent labor interruptions, collusion, and steroid scandals. But I found myself wondering just how long baseball fans have wished that the sport they love could be separated from the cold realities of big business—whether this was a relatively modern development, or, rather, a link connecting generations of fans.

So I looked back into professional baseball’s early history, from the late 19th century onwards, scouring newspapers for the freshest, hottest takes on the business of baseball. What I found was that concerns about the business of baseball very familiar to those expressed by fans and writers today have been around quite literally since the game became professional in the latter decades of the 19th century. Here I will share with you some of the most interesting and entertaining of these past takes, as well as the historical contexts that prompted their writing. Whether their familiarity is comforting or disheartening, I will leave to you to determine for yourself—but either way, there is wisdom to be gained here, despite the century that separates us from these writers.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: February 23, 2018. Last Updated: February 23, 2018.