For anyone who has ever tuned in to watch a game, it has been clear for many decades now that baseball is so much more than the sum of its parts. What is, on paper, a relatively straightforward bat and ball game between eighteen players has long since grown into something that cannot be so readily defined. More than a sport, it represents an American institution – the nation’s pastime – and one that has been in development, and continues to evolve, since 1800s.
Now, fans of this sport can celebrate a new milestone – one which will not come around for many more years, and many more innings, to come.
In late May, the New York Times published a pivotal article revealing that, according to the official statistics offered by the Elias Sports Bureau, the sport was nearing 2 million home runs. More specifically – and as of May 25th, 2021 – exactly 1,999,987 home runs had taken place in the time between the 19th and 21st centuries.
The milestone of one million home runs was recorded in 1975 – just over a hundred years after it was initially dubbed the ‘national pastime’ of Northern America, and ninety nine years since it was made a professional, major league sport. And, as the NY Times admits, the fanfare was considerably more subdued this time around.
Still, for any dedicated fan, this represents a remarkable moment for the sport – and one that offers the perfect opportunity to pause for reflection on the changes that have taken place, both on and off the pitch, since 1975 – which is (hold onto your hats, folks) now more than 45 years in the past.
So, how much has the sport changed in that time? In truth, much remains the same (more on that below) but there have been a number of changes to the periphery that have served to alter the ways in which we the fans interact with the sport. Read more below.
Betting on Baseball
If we asked you to name a single one of the most popular sports in America – not to mention the rest of the world – that has not found a remarkable level of popularity among any given punter or bookmaker, you will likely still be mulling it over when the 3 millionth home run of professional baseball is recorded. (Hint: that’s likely many decades away).
The ways in which we bet on baseball is something that has been in development since the sport first rose to popularity in the 1800s, but it is in the past two decades – and owing to the rise of the online betting sites, and its interconnectedness with the rest of the digital sporting milieu – that the bulk of change has taken place. As of 2021, professional baseball enjoys a coveted status as a mainstay of any strong sportsbook within the USA, and beyond.
The Role of Social Media
The rise of social media, from Twitter to TikTok, has had a profound impact on many once-separate areas of life – and professional baseball is no exception.
When we consider the impact, this digital phenomenon has had on the sport, there are, of course, the more obvious examples. For instance, the fact that fans can now foster a much closer relationship with the sport’s leading names, and, at times, even engage in a more or less instantaneous dialogue with them via Tweets and public comments.
Beyond the surface level, however, social media offers an entirely unique platform on which sporting rumours fly around the world at the click of a button. A most notable example of this lies with prominent sports commentators, who enjoy a highly coveted position online, and ensure that the narrative underpinning the sports seminal events never stops, slows, or lulls.
Live Broadcasting Vs Live Streaming
The saying ‘there are two sides to every story’ finds a perfect example in the ongoing rivalry between live network broadcasting and live digital sports streaming. Whereas, traditionally, many of us are entirely accustomed to tuning our TV sets into sporting events as and when they happen, many of us are being forced to quickly get used to the idea of logging into online accounts and streaming the games that way.
For those who have, for many years, maintained something of an at-home tradition around these games, the prospect of baseball broadcasting ‘going digital’ was seen as a little daunting just a few years ago, But, while online streaming platforms have proven themselves capable of offering some notable benefits over the more ‘traditional’ method, the biggest setback for fans is the fact that they require multiple subscriptions in order to be able to tune into all the season’s highpoints.
Still, recent developments have seen a number of services – including Hulu and Google – turn away from baseball, and, potentially, a more ‘even’ playing field begin to open up for viewers. Time will tell whether or not this benefits the viewer, or continues to put their ability to tune in consistently into question, but we can be sure of more change in this arena.
A Note on Consistency Amid Change
Unlike some major sports, baseball has garnered a reputation for remaining relatively consistent throughout its history as a professional sport. Still, that’s not to say that the rules have not been modified to a certain extent over the course of the past century-and-some.
Some of the most impactful changes occurred relatively early on in the sports history – in the late 1800s and the early 1900s. The early- to mid-1970s saw a far few amendments – most notably, of course, the introduction of the Seitz Decision, which enabled major league players to be free agents at last – but, since then a great deal has remained as it was back in the late twentieth century.
As such, and despite a few peripheral changes mentioned above, baseball stands as testament to the value of consistency within the world of professional sports. Yes, baseball can continue to adapt to times of change, but it will never be unrecognizable. Much of modern life is garnered toward change, technology and evolution, but baseball – the nation’s pastime – continues to represent the value of staying the same, practicing old habits, and allowing tradition to continue to find its place within twenty-first century progress.