My conclusion sucks and hopefully I can drum up something better and I hope I did a good job of explaining how American baseball impacts our Canadian culture.
While hockey occupies our Canadian winters as our national sport, baseball occupies our summers. It is true that baseball is America’s national pastime (Hayes, 2001, p. 167.) The game was brought to Canada by early British-Americans settlers. The sport is played with American rules and dominantly imported by players from the United States. Many of the early teams, clubs or organizations such as Hamilton Maple Leaf Club Woodstock’s Young Canadian and Ingersoll’s Rough and Ready Clubs was based on American models (Barney, 1993, p.155.) Baseball became very competitive in Canada, especially during the 1920s and 1930s which led to the rise of professional baseball based on the foundations of American professionalism. The implantation of the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays established major league identity in Canada (Barney, p.155.) It is quite evidently that American baseball has a strong impact on Canadian culture and this paper will attempt to explain how American baseball has a strong impact on our Canadian culture.
Baseball emerged as the biggest, most widespread spectacle, participant and professional sport, particularly during the 1920s and 1930s (Lorenz, 2000, p. 209 ) During the Depression, baseball unified millions of Canadians making it easier to identify themselves as members of a community and brought ties between communities. Cultural practices and symbols were exposed as communities built relationships and rivalries with other communities (Lorenz, p.213.) Baseball also helped Canadians cope with unemployment; social and economic problems by helping those pass time and temporarily forget about their problems.
Improvement in technology and communications such as the radio and newspapers brought Canadians even closer together. By 1931, approximately one third of Canadian household owned a radio” (Lorenz, 2000, p.206.) In the 1930s, sport programming was carried regularly by Canadian radio stations, but since Canadian radios were low powered, Canadians picked up on more American radio broadcasts. In turn, the United States were able to reach out to large Canadian audiences, exposing us American baseball, mass market magazines, radio programs, motion pictures, live shows and advertisements for consumer goods. Such example would be Gillette razor blades or beer. In 1939, during the World Series, Gillette promoted their Gillette razor blade, selling 2.5 million sets within four games (Kidd, 1996, p.223.)
When the Americans brought the game to Canada, they brought their rules, their players, their traditions, customs and ideas (Barney, 1993, p.151.) Canadians were also introduced to the popular magazine ‘Sporting Life’ and name brand equipment. Today baseball is still played with American rules, which has since changed a bit to make the game more exciting and entertaining. Magazines such as Baseball Life, Baseball Magazine and Sport Illustrated can be found on the magazine racks in Canada.
Baseball fans in the 1920s and 1930s used telegraph, radio and newspapers to follow up closely on baseball (Lorenz, 2001, p.197.) Today with tremendous advances in technology and communications, people can watch and follow up on baseball using the T.V. or internet. The Toronto Blue Jays have their own website and forum for their fans to keep up to date on game and players stats.
Major League Baseball (MLB) is an American organization with thirty-two American teams and one Canadian team which is the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays may be a Canadian team but the team is predominantly made up of players from the United States or from other countries. Their home stadium - the SkyDome, is financed, privately owned and operated by the Americans. American flags, logos and symbols such as the bald eagle, stars and stripes are decorated in the SkyDome. The players’ salaries are paid in American dollars. (Hayes, 2001, p 168.) It should be noted that Canadians, to be specific, Rogers Communications, now own the Blue Jays, but the Americans own and dominate baseball (toronto.bluejays.mlb.com, n.d.) Prior to opening day 2005, there are only 17 Canadians play for American baseball which signifies that more players head south to play baseball (Valentine, J., n.d., p.261.) Cory Koskie is the only Canadian player to play for a Canadian team – the Toronto Blue Jays. (Slam Sport, n.d.)
In 1992 and 1993, when the Blue Jays won the World Series, ironically, Canada cheered for a team that had no Canadian coaches or players. The Blue Jays winning the World Series symbolized pride, success and resistance for the Canadians. Canada’s victory showed that “we” won and prevailed over America, playing their game, their rules. Baseball brought national identity which situated “us” against “them”. Our pride for our country was expressed through the maple leaf flag-waving, face painting and other Canadian characteristics (Hayes, 2001, p. 175-176.)
Professional baseball began in the 1860s and still continues today (Barney, 1993, p.156.) Baseball was played at fairs and exhibitions and became popular. Regional tournaments and intercommunity rivalries led to the advent of professional baseball in Canada. At all costs to win tournament prizes or championships, teams recruit the players needed to make the team successful Barney, 1993, p. 156. Professional baseball became more acceptable in Canadian culture in the 1920s and particularly in the 1930s. During those years, many Canadian Prairies teams were faced with shortage of players because their home-grown boys would head to south or to other city to play professional baseball (Metcalfe, 1995, p.37.) The Canadian Prairies found it difficult to compete because strict amateur rules made it impossible for local teams and individuals from the Prairies compete with Eastern and Central Canada, without using professional players (Metcalfe, p.37.)
In the 1930s, known as the Depression Years, as Canadians faced massive layoffs, many people were desperate to find employment. Those who could play sport decided to take the chance of making money in professional sport. Many men decided to trade their love of the game for a few dollars in their pockets – to survive, even if it meant going against the amateur code. Today, professional baseball still continues. Players are given signing bonuses, yearly salary, contracts and buyout options. The minimum salary a Major League player can earn is $327,000 and the average a player can earn in a year is $2.5 million dollars. (MLBPlayer.com, n.d.)
As stated in the beginning, it is quite evidently that while baseball is America’s national pastime, the game impacts our Canadian culture. The game is very Americanized with its rules, organization, and American players. The United States use baseball to expose Canadians to their culture - be it magazines, movies, radio, television, or name brand consumer products. The organization of baseball and professionalism is based on American models or ideas. It is with no doubt that baseball has become Canada’s national pastime too, like hockey – but with our own cultural values and identity attached to it.
ReferencesBarney, Robert K. (1993) Whose National Pastime? Baseball in Canadian Popular Culture. In D. Flaherty, and F. Manning (Ed.) The Beaver Bites Back: American Popular Culture in Canada. (p. 152-162) McGill-Queen’s University Press.
Hayes, Sean. (2001) America’s National Pastime and Canadian Nationalism. Culture, Sport Society. Volume 4(2) p. 158-184.
Kidd, Bruce. (1996) The Struggle For Canadian Sport. University of Toronto Press Inc. Toronto, Buffalo, London.
Lorenz, Stacey. (2000) Canadian Mass Media and Sport, 1870-1939. Journal of Sport History. Volume 27(2) p. 195-227
Metcalfe, Alan (1995) The Meaning of Amateurism: A Case Study of Canadian Sport, 1884-1970. Canadian Journal of History of Sport. Volume 26(2), p. 37-41.
MLBPlayers.com (n.d) MLPB Info: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved February 2nd 2006, from http://mlbplayers.mlb.com/NASApp/ml
Slam Sports: Canadian Baseball. (n.d) Canadians in the Major League. Retrieved February 2nd 2006, from http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Baseball/Cana
Toronto Blue Jays : MLB (n.d) Blue Jays Owners. Retrieved February 2nd 2006, from http://toronto.bluejays.mlb.com/NAS
Valentine, John (n.d) Sport and Globalization. Leisure & Sport in Canadian Society : An Historical Perspective. (Course pack) p. 255-275.