Bigger Than Baseball: Will America's Pastime Help the Healing Process Once Again?
Image courtesy of © Jon Durr-USA TODAY SportsThis last week has rocked our city. Minneapolis continues to mourn the killing of George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis police, and pick up the pieces of the events that followed. Our city has shown great strength and sparked what is now a national movement in the continued fight for justice and equality for the black community.
Better days are certainly ahead of us. Minnesota continues to turn the dials on coronavirus restrictions, and eventually life will begin to resemble normalcy. A big first step in that direction will be the return of baseball.
Baseball is often referred to as America’s Pastime, and we need our pastime now more than ever. From the inception of Major League Baseball shortly following the Civil War, it has played a major role in shaping our society. From kids playing stickball in the streets during the Great Depression to MLB heroes hanging up their cleats to serve our nation during a time of war.
In April of 1947, nearly ten years before the Civil Rights movement began, Major League Baseball broke the color barrier in America when Jackie Robinson made his debut for the then Brooklyn Dodgers. In the decades to follow, Major League Baseball has grown into one of the most diverse sports in the world.
Baseball is played all around the world and Major League Baseball is represented by athletes from many different walks of life and is often a symbol of hope for many who choose to play the game. That symbol of hope is exactly what our city and our nation needs right now.
Major League Baseball also has a history of bringing cities and our country together following tragic events that rocked a city or the nation as a whole. Let’s take a look at some of those moments.
During the 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics, the city of San Francisco was rocked by an earthquake that took 63 lives and injured 3,757 others. The earthquake happened less than a half hour before the first pitch of game three as the country was watching on TV. The nation watched as a city was devastated and wondered if the World Series would be completed that year.
Ten days later, the World Series resumed and helped bring healing to an entire region. Even though the Athletics would go on to sweep the Giants the resuming of baseball brought the entire Bay Area together during a time of great suffering.
In September of 2001, our nation watched as we were attacked by terrorists and nearly 3,000 fellow Americans lost their lives. On the day of the attacks, then MLB Commissioner, Bud Selig postponed all games scheduled that day. The postponement of baseball would last six days. When baseball finally did resume it was a celebration of patriotism and hope as we leaned on baseball to mourn the events of that horrific day.
The New York Mets and Atlanta Braves played the first professional sports game in the city of New York following the attacks and both teams donned hats in support of the New York fire and police departments. This was a very difficult time for our country but we had baseball to bring us together and help the healing.
Later that year, before game three of the World Series, the first game played in New York that series, President Geroge W. Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch while wearing an FDNY sweater over a bullet proof vest.
In April of 2013 the city of Boston came under attack when multiple bombs were set off during the iconic Boston Marathon. The city of Boston would rally behind the Red Sox and their rally cry was “Boston Strong”.
When the Red Sox had their first home game following the tragedy their uniforms did not say ‘Red Sox’, instead their uniforms had Boston stitched across their chest. David Ortiz addressed the crowd that day and had a very powerful message, “This jersey that we wear today, it doesn’t say ‘Red Sox.’ It says ‘Boston.’ We want to thank you Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick, the whole police department, for the great job that they did this past week. This is our (expletive) city. And nobody gonna dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”
The Red Sox would go on to win the World Series in 2013 after finishing last in their division in 2012. The city of Boston had baseball to help them recover.
In August of 2017, the city of Houston was hit by Hurricane Harvey. Thousands of Houston residents were displaced and homes destroyed. The Astros had to play home games at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay, Florida immediately following the devastation.
Although the legitimacy of their World Series title has since been tainted, the city of Houston was able to rally behind the Astros as they won their first World Series title in franchise history later that year. The cheating scandal that captured the sports world earlier this year does not take away from the relief and healing the city of Houston received from the Astros during their title run in 2017.
Baseball is still at its core merely just a game but when our cities and our nation have been rocked by tragedy and turmoil baseball becomes much larger than just a game. Baseball becomes part of the healing process. As the unprecedented events of 2020 continue to unfold we can all look to better days and know that baseball will be there for us as we continue to heal and move forward towards a better and stronger city and country.
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