I’ve had a fierce love affair with baseball since I first started playing the sport at the age of 10. Ever since I first picked up that spherical piece of stitched horsehide, I’ve been drawn to the game like you wouldn’t believe. I’ve read, memorized, collected and played more baseball than most people I’ve met who are several years my senior and have been fans their whole lives. I’ve been accused of being obsessed with the game, and while that while that is a bit of an exaggeration, I’m not going to completely deny it.
Now, I know that my relationship with baseball is much more intense than pretty much everyone else’s, and I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. However, there is something about baseball that makes it the perfect sport for conservatives to follow.
Of course, I would be a laughingstock if I said that you must like baseball to be a conservative, or that being a baseball fan automatically makes one a conservative. But if you’ll indulge me, I will make three points as to why baseball embodies the spirit of conservatism and how any conservative can relate to it.
To make my first point, what is the definition of conservatism? Technically speaking, conservatism means in part to emphasize tradition. Baseball is nothing if not steeped in tradition and history. From the Dead Ball Age through the Golden Age Fifties and beyond, baseball has a history like no other sport, and it’s not even close. The traditions associated with baseball such as the seventh inning stretch and ceremonial first pitch (which, interestingly enough, was both instituted by President William H. Taft, a Republican) are timeless. In addition, it is common to hear an All-Star like Derek Jeter comment on wanting to carry on the legacy of those who came before him, much like conservatives do with Ronald Reagan.
My second point is that baseball is full of facts and realism, a view shared by famed conservative and Chicago Cubs fan George F. Will. In an interview with the Daily Caller, Will remarked that, “Conservatism is about facts and realism, and baseball is rich in facts.” He added that, “Conservatives are the world’s foremost empiricists. They are interested in facts, data. Baseball is rich in that.” One needs to look no further than the emphasis of sabermetrics in baseball to see that this continues to be true today.
Thirdly, baseball rewards its players based on their own accomplishments, much like conservatives believe that people who live in this country should be rewarded for their contributions to society. Joe Schmoe can’t expect to keep his job if he hits .180 and makes 20 errors in the infield. But if he works hard and continues to refine his skills, he might get a starting position and could even become an All-Star someday. The same is true in life.
The great Rogers Hornsby, who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1942, once said that whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball. Baseball isn’t perfect, and neither is conservatism. But while they could both improve in their own ways, the fact remains that each has had a positive impact on this country. I know that baseball isn’t as popular as it once was, but what Hornsby said is still true today, at least in another way. Whoever wants to understand conservatism and its tenets would do good to learn about baseball as well.