Article

Eric Miller


The Republic of Baseball

Just a business?

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One can almost see Franklin, and a little while later, Alexis de Tocqueville, smiling. Almost. It would be comforting to imagine that even capital, in the end, must submit to what Fountain calls the "real," this solidity born of human devotion, affection, and persisting ties. But that's not quite the way it works. Just ask Brooklyn.

Yet our abiding, sentimental faith that market-driven enterprise can safeguard and nurture our most necessary ideals, practices, and institutions persists. Haven't we endured enough history by now to know better? If neither education nor government nor church nor the family nor health nor the sky nor even finance itself is safe in the market's hands—despite the vigilance of good men and women striving to make the system work for us, not merely for itself—why should we give baseball over to it?

All fans know that three words, whether spoken by villains or saints, kill the spirit of whatever sport of which they're said: It's a business. Baseball is not a business, any more than is marriage, or teaching first grade, or playing four-square. If we want to raise boys and girls who will come, like the aging Satchel Paige, to preach "the sanctity of the double steal and the blessedness of the bunt," we will find ways to preserve and protect this treasure. And chances are, if our children learn to feel the sanctity of the double steal, they'll come to know other realms of sanctity, too—and perhaps gain the courage to construct ways of guarding them.

Eric Miller is associate professor of history at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. His book Hope in a Scattering Time: A Life of Christopher Lasch will be published by Eerdmans this spring.

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