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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, September 14, 1930, Image 97

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BASE BALL S Greatest Year
National atnL • slide /or f/re home sack in a college game. This sphere of base ball, especially
fe> in the Hast, has enjoyed a real renaissance this year.
yg S THE 1930 base ball season wanes,
/m those who know and love the
/J game hail it as the greatest sea
/ t son that base ball has ever
known. Now, if this be true
those prophets who looked through a glass last
Pall and Winter and viewed the future of the
national game with dubiously wagging heads
must feel considerably abashed.
Let us first consider the grounds upon which
the base ball folks pick this as the greatest
year of the game. Only once in the last 30
years have the two major leagues touched
the 10,000,000 mark in attendance and that
was in 1927. They will surely cross that mark
again this year.
While some of the minor league clubs have
not done so well tliis year as in past seasons
and there have been a few cases of leagues
and clubs being disbanded this year, there are
other minor leagues and clubs that have en
joyed greater attendance records than ever be
fore. Such has been the case with the minor
leagues every year for the last 25 years. The
main cause of minor league financial trouble
has not been so much in lack of attendance as
in paying too high salaries for players. The
fact is, in many minor league towns and cities
the attendance at ball games has increased in
the last quarter of a century just as it has in
the major leagues.
IN THE colleges of the country, especially in
the East, base ball has enjoyed a real re
naissance this year. It was a well known and
admitted fact that base ball had declined in
the big American colleges since the halcyon
days back in the nineties, when the games
for supremacy between the Big Pour excited
almost as much interest and drew nearly as
many people as their foot ball struggles. This
year, with the reorganisation of the old Eastern
College Base Ball League, the game took on
new life and interest in schools all along the
Atlantic seaboard.
The college game received more space in the
metropolitan dailies and drew more people than
at any time during the last decade. I quote
from Grantland Rice, the nationally known
amateur sports authority, to prove this asser
tion about college base ball. Grantland says:
“A year or two ago Tale and Princeton played
a ball game before a few hundred spectators.
At one of their games last Spring the attend
ance was reported in the papers to be 10,000.
Cornell and Dartmouth played before 3,000 at
the little town of Hanover. So the game that
was slipping in the East a few years ago has
come back. It is too fine a college game to
be lost, having all the physical advantages of
foot ball without the overemotionalized side.”
JT HAS been asserted for years by those who
do not like base ball or only profess to
feel sorry to see it slipping that fewer boys
play base ball on the town lots and diamonds
of the cities each succeeding year and that,
therefore, there will inevitably come a time
when the big leagues will seek in vain for
recruits for their fading ranks cf the famous
Such statements are metely general and are
supported only by personal observations in cer
tain localities. The fact is that when the
American Legion started its great Americani
zation campaign for boys three years ago by
organizing the junior base ball tournament for
the national base ball championship for boys
under 16. it called some 100,000 boys into com
petition. The next year 200,000 boys took
part. Last year there were about 300,000 and
this year a half million boys entered for the
Legion base ball championship.
In cities like Cleveland, Cincinnati, Mil
waukee and Detroit, where amateur base ball
has a remarkably strong following, the num
ber of boys’ base ball teams has increased
steadily during the last six years aside from
the Legion competition. The competition in
their local championship events has become
keener, the interest and attendance have be
come greater and the organization of their
various leagues has become more compact and
practical, until today base ball for boys in
these cities has reached a state undreamed of
by the town-lot players and spectators of
10 and 20 years ago. In Milwaukee, the smallest
of these cities, more than 5,000 boys are taking
part in base ball and 50,000 spectators have
attended amateur and semi-pro games in that
In New York City there are hundreds of
boys’ base ball clubs that belong to some busi
ness or industrial league that are having mighty
struggles for their local and neighborhood
The pessimists point with a gloomy gesture
to the fact that base ball an the vacant lots
is passing and they deduce from this situation
that boys are not playing ball as much as in
former years.
Base bail on the lots has come to be almost
m&gm* - -a
• 'L i '4:?- ■'''
Playground diamonds and “play" streets
have supplanted to a large degree the
vacant lots of yesteryear as ball grounds
for boys living in the great cities.
a thing of the past. But the reason is as
simple as it is strong. There are almost no
vacant lots upon which to play!
But the cities of the country have provided
regular diamonds on public playgrounds for
the boys. The playing fields are better than
the old town lots. The boys play by rules
and under some league organization. They
play better ball and better players are bfcing -
I sent a questionnaire to 40 park commis
sioners of cities throughout the Nation regard
ing the demand for base ball diamonds and
the supply. Every answer but one stated that
the demand far exceeded the supply and that
new diamonds were being added each year.
I was amazed at the number of regulated base
ball diamonds in some of these cities.
One of the most conclusive tests of the
present love of base ball among boys generally
is found in the American Legion enrollment
for the base ball campaign for boys this Sum
mer. One million boys lesponded—more than
it can care for.
It is hardly fair to judge the strength or
weakness of base ball among the boys of the
land by the response of the boys of a certain
preparatory school or small college to the call
for enrollment on that school’s sport teams.
Burleigh Grimes, veteran hurler, now with the St. Louis Cardinals, giving a group oj California youngsters some inside.
tips on pitching.
Many of the boys attending such a school ate
the sons of rich or well-to-do parents. They
have been brought up to play tennis, golf,
foot ball and track games. To them base ball
has little appeal. Anybody can play base ball,
anywhere and under any circumstances. So
most of these boys respond to the calls for
track, tennis and the more collegiate game of
foot ball.
But for the boy who can never hope to
go to college, base ball is the game of games.
Other sports have taken many fans away
from base ball. So has the automobile. But
there is still an unmeasured wealth of playing
material to draw from In every State in the
Union, as the Legion games have shown.
Every new game and pastime has its first
flourish, its growth, bloom and decadence
through the stern test of the years. We
Americans turn eagerly and wlioleheartedly to
new things, and then we tire of them and turn
to others. But consider: The first base ball
game was played in Cooperstowu, N. Y„ in
1839 and was originated by Abner Doubleday,
afterward a major general in the United States
Army. That was nearly a century ago. The
first league was organized in 1843. The game
had its ups and downs in the GO years up to
the beginning of this century. Big leagues as
well as minor leagues had to change their
franchises for lack of interest and attendance.
Detroit, now one of the best base ball cities in
America, was dropped by the National League
some 30 years ago because of poor attendance,
as was Washington, Cleveland and St. Louis.
Baseball went through every stage of popular
fancy, coldness and enthusiasm. It stood the
test of time. It has lived and grown through
four generations of national life. It has now
become too deeply implanted in the national
mind to perish. Ninety-one years is a real
DACK in 1908 base ball was nearly 70 years
old and was thought to have reached its
peak when the two major leagues engaged in
world series play. In that series, between two
of the most famous teams in the history of
the game—Jennings' Detroit Tigers, with Ty
Cobb, and Chance’s Chicago Cube with Tinker,
Evers and Three-fingered Brown —the attend
ance was only 62.000. For one game of that
series the attendance was as low as 6,000. That
was 20 years ago, when base ball was supposed
to be in its heyday. We still talk of the great
pitchers and mighty batsmen of that pe:il
and the 1-0 games, and sigh for the vanisheu
super-player. Eighteen years later In these al
leged decadent base ball times, the attendance
at the St. Louis-Yankee series of 1926 was
more than 300,000. At one game of this series
the attendance was more than 63,000, which
was more than the attendance for the entire
Chicago-Detroit series of 1908.
In the world aeries of last year between the
Chicago Cubs and the Philadelphia Athletics
the former club, with a park seating 50.000.
had to turn away 50,000 persons for every
game, and the latter club, with a park seating
only 30,000. had to return the checks of 50,000
disappointed fans for every game.
These figures show more strongly than any
argument or assertion the deep and lasting
hold that base ball has on the Nation.
Today there are many arguments over the
drawing power of - Cobb as compared to that
great modern magnet Babe Ruth. No one will
ever know the answer, because it is hard to
say whether Cobb attracted a greater or less
percentage of the fans in his prime than Ruth
did in his. As far as quantity goes, however,
Ruth wins, because more fans are going to
games today, as had been pointed out, than
went 20 years ago.
To me it is always most interesting that the
two stars have been typical of the type of ball
played during their primes: Cobb,' the flash
on the bases, the man of the trigger brain
and the hitter of such consistency: Ruth, the
powerful slugger, the driver of so many home
runs, bringing thrills and joy to the hearts of
the fans.
The passing of Cobb from his zenith of power
brought us Ruth and the home run. The game
changed with his coming. I often wonder if
there will be another great star who will equal
them in fame and provide still a third type of
play to equal theirs in popularity.
Here are some figures that would have ap
peared as an impossible and astounding dream
to the most optimistic base ball men of 20
years ago: During the y.ars 1927, 1928, 1929
and 1930 the two major leagues alone drew
a 40.000.000 gate, which is to say, about 10 -
000,000 each year. The National League broke
into the 5,000,000 attendance mark for the first
time in 1927. It fell a little below that mark
during the next two years, but this season it
will again enter that mighty and magic circle,
Hartford, of the Eastern League,
closed the gates of its ’. all park because of
lack of interest and attendance, it is also true
that Selma, Ala., of the Southeastern League,
a town of only 20,000 population, is having such
a great year that it outdraws cities of 100,000
in that same league and is having the banner
year of its base ball history. Topeka, Kans.,
had to give up its franchise in the Western
League because of poor attendance some 15
years ago, when base ball was supposed to rule
the sports world without a rival. Yet two or
three years ago Topeka, then back in the league,
enjoyed the greatest attendance record in all
its base ball history.
It is true that golf and tennis and track
meets and many other amateur and profes
sional sports activities are now riding high on
a wave of popularity, and they have grown
amazingly in public favor in reoent years,
but it seems only fair that they ought to stand
the test of 50 or 75 years of wear and tear in
the Nation’s sports arena before being hailed as
the national game.
(Copyright. 1930.)

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