Baseball's Place as a Nation Recovers

added 9/20/2001 by Steve Cutchen

Astros 95, Cardinals 91, Cubs 89

Baseball is woven into the fabric of American life. In good times and bad. And in times of national crisis, there have been varying responses to whether baseball should continue to be played.

In 1918, the New York Times criticized baseball's decision to keep playing despite America's entry into World War I:

With an astonishing disregard for the new proprieties and new decencies, the so-called magnates of baseball have proclaimed in both 'leagues' their unswerving adherence to the wretched fallacy of 'business as usual.' That policy is not calculated to make us proud of baseball as an American institution.

On July 20, 1918, Secretary of War Newton D. Baker ruled baseball was a nonessential occupation, saying,

...players in the draft age must obtain employment calculated to aid in the successful prosecution of the war or shoulder guns and fight.

Baseball continued to be played by those left, and indeed a watershed moment occurred during the first 1918 World Series game when the Cubs and Red Sox fans, collecting at Comiskey Park (yes, Comiskey) were roused to song when the band played The Star-Spangled Banner for the seventh inning stretch. It was such a wonderful moment that the event was repeated for all of the games of the Series, Chicago and Boston. And the song became an integral part of baseball and sport.

The perspective of America toward baseball as a patriotic symbol grew over time, though. Just six weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt wrote the following to Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis:

I honestly feel that it would be in the best interest of the country to keep baseball going.

And now, in yet another time of crisis, we again explore what the proper approach is that baseball should take in the life of a disquieted America. This is not an easy question. And the timing of a return to baseball was not obvious. On the day of the attack Oakland A's utility player F.P. Santangelo described the burden of returning to play with eloquence:

There will come a time. Who knows when it's going to be? But baseball is good for people. And whenever we get around to playing it again, baseball will help people heal -- because it always has. It's part of our history. It's part of our past. It's just what James Earl Jones said it was in 'Field of Dreams.' Hopefully, it will help us -- and help everybody -- when the time is right. Just not now.

We returned to play on Monday September 17. We returned to play with thoughts of a newly focused country. And echoing the World Series fans of over 80 years ago, fans joined together in all ballparks to honor the country, honor the heroes, honor the victims and rise together in song, singing God Bless America.

Tonight, President Bush delivered a stirring speech to the nation before a unified joint session of Congress. He stated the following:

It is my hope that in the months and years ahead, life will return to almost normal. We will go back to our lives and routines. And that is good.

So, we recover. And baseball does its part through the symbolism of our remembrances and through the unyielding resolve to remain unbent in the face of this horrible event. And I resume here as well.

May Providence, may God, may Yahweh, may Allah guide our leaders.


I will not recap these first series following the resumption of play. But I have included the status of the pennant race in the tables below.

For the next series, Chicago plays at Houston, where I have the home team taking 2 of 3. And St. Louis continues with their opportunities to play weaker opponents, taking on the Bucs for 4 games at PNC Park. I have them splitting the series at Pittsburgh, 2-2, so there is a chance for St. Louis to gain some ground.

That's my Knuckleball. Try to hit it.

ASTROS

Opponent
Prediction
Actual
+ / -
Cincinnati
2-1
3-0
+ 1
@ Milwaukee
2-1
2-1
+ 1
@ Cincinnati
1-2
2-1
+ 2
Milwaukee
3-1
2-2
+ 1
@ San Francisco
1-2
3-0
+3
Chicago
2-1

St. Louis
2-1

@ Chicago
2-2

San Francisco
1-2

@ St. Louis
1-2

Cubs

Opponent
Prediction
Actual
+ / -
Florida
2-1
2-1
even
@ Atlanta
1-2
2-1
+ 1
@ Florida
2-1
1-2
even
Atlanta
2-1
0-3
- 2
@ Cincinnati
2-1
1-2
-3
@ Houston
1-2

@ Pittsburgh
2-1

Houston
2-2

Cincinnati
3-1

Pittsburgh
3-0

Cardinals

Opponent
Prediction
Actual
+ / -
San Diego
3-0
2-1
- 1
@ Los Angeles
2-1
1-2
- 2
@ San Diego
2-1
3-0
- 1
Los Angeles
2-1
2-1
- 1
Milwaukee
3-0
3-0
-1
@ Pittsburgh
2-2

@ Houston
1-2

Pittsburgh
3-0

@ Milwaukee
2-2

Houston
2-1

Send this story to a friend