Souder: Baseball’s history was shaped by America’s earlier immigrations

From SABR member Mark Souder at the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel on March 1, 2016:

Despair about how each new wave of immigrants will ruin the United States is an American tradition.

In the 1870s, the Boston Red Stockings dominated professional baseball. While writing a chapter about the politics of Boston during this period and the interrelationship with baseball for a book being written by early baseball experts from the Society of Baseball Researchers, I was again struck by the historic conflicts over immigration. In the 1800s about half of Ireland moved to America. It changed the politics of the big cities of the East, including New York and Boston. By 1850 the foreign-born population of Boston totaled nearly 40 percent of the city, and most of them were Irish. The Cabots, Lodges and other Boston Brahmins were not happy. The Rev. Theodore Parker, ironically a leading abolitionist, said the Irish were “idle, thriftless, poor, intemperate and barbarian” and were more like a group of “wild bison” than human beings. The first 60 years of baseball were a battleground between the German, Irish and other heavily Catholic immigrant groups and the establishment Protestant powers. Sunday baseball was the tip of a giant iceberg of Sunday observance conflict.

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Originally published: March 7, 2016. Last Updated: March 7, 2016.