Baseball: America’s favorite pastime . . . or past its time?

(Graphic by: Brett Ferrin)
(Graphic by Brett Ferrin)

“Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is a song most Americans have heard at least once in their lifetime. But it would seem that fewer and fewer Americans would actually like to be taken to a ballgame, or watch one on TV.

Baseball has long been known as ‘America’s pastime,’ but now it could be considered America’s past-time. The NFL is now the most popular sport in America, with baseball coming in second. In a recent poll by ESPN’s SportsNation, football was the most popular sport, bringing in more than 28 percent of the first-place votes. While baseball had 19 percent of the first-place votes, the second-highest amount, it finished in fifth place out of 12 sports, also finishing behind college football, college basketball and the NBA.

This last season, Game 4 of the World Series fell on a Sunday. Alongside this primetime game was a regular season NFL game with the New Orleans Saints against the Denver Broncos. The NFL regular season game had 16.7 million viewers, compared to the 15.5 million viewers of the championship game in baseball. The San Francisco Giants went on to win the game and the series with a four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers.

There are a few reasons why baseball might have fallen from its pedestal: the pace of the game, low scoring and not wavering from tradition.

“I think, because it’s a slower sport, and people like more fast, hard-hitting stuff, football gained popularity and kind of took over baseball,” said freshman Cameron Erickson, a lifelong Giants fan. “So, I guess baseball fans went to football, which lost baseball’s popularity a little bit. It’s not as violent, I guess you could say, like something like football, and nowadays people like violence and action.”

There is no time limit in a baseball game. Players are slow to get to the plate and can take time if they need it. A string of foul balls can prolong any at-bat. After every half inning, the players switch from the field to batting, which takes time for players to get into the dugout and the others to get out onto the field. A lot of this can go with the lack of patience that has become more prevalent in society.

“Baseball is played a lot slower than it used to be,” said Colton Hanson, vice president of WSU’s baseball club. “In the ’40s, the pitcher would throw the ball to the catcher and he would throw it right back for the next pitch. Now, pitchers have their routine that slows the game down.”

Secondly, baseball is often a low-scoring affair. Some games end with the score being 1-0. Some of these games even have to go into extra innings to get that run. For many, it is hard to get excited about lousy hitting and great defense, unless the pitcher is working on a perfect game. Audiences want the touchdown, the slam dunk, the home run, even the interception, especially if it is returned for a touchdown. With baseball, a player who gets a hit three times out of 10 is considered a great hitter.

The last and perhaps the biggest reason baseball has fallen from the top spot is its unwillingness to change from tradition. With the world continually moving forward, baseball has stood relatively still over the course of the past century and a half. With video technology, baseball is unwilling to use instant replay, except when determining if a ball was a home run. While most would not want a computer to call balls and strikes, more effort could be made to bring baseball up to speed with other sports and reduce errors in officiating.

WSU sophomore Kyle McDermott offered a suggestion for better enjoying baseball.

“Try going to a park,” he said. “Go watch the Ogden Raptors, because when you are actually there, it is a totally different thing than just watching on TV.”

Erickson had another suggestion.

“I would encourage people to study the game, to really understand it,” he said. “Then they can see the beauty behind it and why it’s America’s pastime.”