Few things are as American as baseball. It’s not just because it’s first America’s first or that it continues to be our favorite pasttime; Is also because baseball reflects American values.
America was founded with a emphasis on individualism but not extreme individualism. We have never viewed the individual alone on an island as many on the extreme libertarian left do. We have seen the individual as a distinct member of society, as a building block, but we have also recognized both other levels of society and the limits of individual autonomy.
The individual is the basic unit of society, it is, after all, only the individual that can act, but the individual is not the only unit of society. Arguably, the individual is not even the most important unit to the success of society. Both the family and our common civil institutions have a strong case for that title. After all, it is the family which raises the individual and the civil institutions which unite them together. Without family, there would be no institution to provide us with life long support and train us to be members of society. Civil institutions as well, connect us to others, keeping us from being isolated and alone and allowing us to work together to solve problems on a voluntary basis.
Baseball is very similar. The basis of the game is the individual competition between pitcher and batter. All that matters is them, in the moment, in competition. Even when we expand outward, baseball maintains its individualistic tone. No matter how the pitcher-batter interaction goes, the ball will go to another single player. That player, weather they be a catcher, infielder or outfielder, is responsible for making the play. Here, there is no competition. Just one man and his skills.
But it is completely individualistic. Unlike many sports, one man cannot carry a baseball team to victory. In basketball, a good enough player can dominate to score an obscene amount of points. In football, quarterbacks can will an offense down the field. These sports share individualistic characteristics, but they either become overly individualistic or overly collective. In baseball, one man only protects one part of the field and can only bat once every nine times. Even a pitcher, pitching a perfect game, can only keep runs off the board while he is pitching.
Baseball requires the players to come together but unlike other sports, they do not have to come together to win. Batters can play their own game. It may not be the most effective line up but they can push runs across just by trying to rack up hits. On the other side of the dimand, players work in isolation. They may have to throw to someone who else, but often times they do not.
Yes, a baseball team can win by being nine individuals but their chances increase by playing as one. In essence, the baseball team is the equivalent of the Civil institutions which unite American individuals. The teams unite the individual players.
The virtues of sports cannot be understated. Sports is how we began post Word War Two integration with Jackie Robinson. It’s what unites men and women of different ages, genders and religions for one common cause. Baseball personifies this. As I write this, I think back to footage of when the Philadelphia Phillies were playing the New York Mets and news began to o spread of Seal Team Sixs successful raid against Osama Bin Laden. In that moment, baseball brought thousands together. While it did not intend to do it, it created a great moment of patriotic unity.
The Crack of the bat is as American today as it was when union soldiers played it in the Civil War. Baseball not only embodies the virtues of America but it brings us together.