I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with some of Doug's
analysis. There's long been conflict about how inclusive baseball
should be, but there's no question that it was primarily a
gentlemen's game during the 1850s and 1860s (the era when it
coalesced into a sport by acquiring such basic features as nine
innings, nine players per side, three outs per inning, and tags and
forces for outs instead of throwing the ball at runners). And
collegians played a huge role in popularizing the newly standardized
version of baseball during these years. Students returning from
colleges and boarding schools were responsible for forming the first
organized "regulation" clubs in such midwestern cities as Fort Wayne,
Kalamazoo, Decatur, Cincinnati and St. Louis. They were also darned
good at it; despite not having formal varsity clubs, in 1867, a nine
from Beloit College beat Wisconsin's top club while one from the
University of Michigan beat that state's champion nine.
Baseball became still more popular in colleges during the 1870s and
1880s, when the first formal varsity clubs were formed. All of the
large eastern colleges and most midwestern ones had prominent nines
and they became a large part of college life. Stephen Crane, for
instance, attended Lafayette College and Syracuse and spent much of
his time trying to make their respective varsity teams. He would have
done so, except for the little matter of having to attend and pass
his classes. Fortunately, by then, his writing career had started to
By contrast, during these years, football was just getting
established and basketball hadn't even been invented. So why have
those two sports been so much more successful at the college level?
The biggest reason, I believe, is the simple one that baseball is a
summer sport that isn't well suited to the college schedule. Another
important consideration, as Doug suggested, is that when baseball was
most popular at the college level it was a fast-paced sport,
especially by comparison to alternatives such as cricket. In the
years since, faster-paced rivals have emerged while baseball has
slowly but surely become a leisurely activity, limiting its appeal to
college students (particularly when played in nippy midwestern spring
weather). And I would also agree with Doug that the fact that
baseball has well-established farm systems is another salient factor.
--- In email@example.com, Doug ONeal <tycho2brahe@...> wrote:
> <<The question of 'Professionalism' in sports is critically
important to the credibility of programs in educational institutions.
Football and basketball college programs have become "Farm teams" for
the professional leagues. If the educational program is meant to
further careers in professional sports then as in the farm team
participants in baseball a 'salary' is reasonable.>>
> And this issue, of course, is all because MLB has a well-
developed farm system, while the NBA and NFL don't. I'm sure college
athletic directors wouldn't want to change this, since basketball and
football bring in the huge bucks, while baseball doesn't.
> There's a good historical reason why this situation arose:
baseball was originally a working man's sport, all the way from its
origins in England where similar games were played by the working
classes as an alternative to the cricket of the upper classes --
people who only had two hours to play their game rather than five
days. Football and basketball, though, developed in this country as
sports of gentlemen and educated people, thus they got into the
colleges and universities earlier and/or more firmly than did
baseball. Then (as I say) the colleges didn't want to mess with the
system that developed because it earned money, and the pros saw the
opportunity to use what already existed without paying for their own
farm system, so it became firmly entrenched that way.
> And in our current society, I don't see it changing any time
soon. I would, though, have a BIG problem with paying a football or
(just men's?) basketball player but not the guy on the lacrosse team
who works equally hard at his sport.
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