by Harold Friend
Baseball was once the solution to America’s crime problem, and with certain minor changes, it can be again. In 1923, National League president John Heydler, at a gathering in Atlantic City, discussed baseball’s moral influence and America's crime problem. Remember, this was just about two years after it was discovered that some players on the Chicago White Sox had not tried as hard as they could because they were paid to do less than their best.
The World Series Helped America's Crime Problem
Heydler informed his audience that there was almost no crime in the country while the World Series was being played in New York between the Giants and Yankees. “So many minds were centered on the battle between the clubs that no time could be found for mischief.” He hadn’t realized the extent to which crime had dropped. “I did not fully realize just how great a drop it was until I spoke to one of the country’s leading criminologists in Washington. All we have to do is recall the thousands of people who stood before scoreboards in every city, town, and hamlet while the Series was in progress.”
Baseball Helped Church Attendance Increase
The National League president pointed out that Sunday baseball, which had been banned for many years, increased church attendance because, he claimed, individuals who can find amusement in the afternoon will attend church in the morning. “Most people seem to lack the ability to amuse themselves when left to their own devices. A man who spends three hours in the open air, rooting for his favorite players, goes home tired, happy and in much better physical condition than he would be if he had hung around a pool room filled with heavy clouds of smoke.”
America's Crime Problem Must Be Addressed
America's crime problem must be addressed. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. As of June 30, 2007, approximately 2.3 million individuals were in prison, and that number is increasing. Something must be done to combat crime, and it could be that John Heydler had the answer. Before it is pointed out that baseball attendance is at an all-time high and that television ratings are good, one must realize that America’s population in 1923 was a little more that 100 million. Today, it is over 300 million. A vast number of Americans do not attend baseball games or even view them on large screen, high definition televisions.
Sacrifice Individual Choices for the General Good
Americans are willing to sacrifice individual choices and rights for the general good. They are searched at airports, train and subway stations, highway checkpoints, and at all entertainment venues, including ballparks. Congress is confirming the right of telecommunications companies to help the government fight terrorists by allowing the companies to record all telephone conversations, emails, and Internet visits. It is obvious that Americans don’t believe Benjamin Franklin’s statement that "He who would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will lose both and deserve neither."
Vouchers to Attend Baseball Games
It is a small step to implement John Hedler’s solution. All Americans should be given vouchers to attend baseball games. If it would be a travel hardship to attend major league games, there are enough minor league teams to allow vouchers to be used for to attend their games. A selected number of Sunday games would be mandatory, preceded of course, by morning church attendance. Baseball teams would be required to keep a record of all vouchers received, and the data would be sent to the government. Citizens who failed to use their vouchers would be taxed. At home, program recording devices that track what is being recorded and watched will help ensure compliance.
Winter Baseball Leagues
The above is merely a start. Football is a wonderful game, but it glorifies violence. Thankfully, professional and college games played each year are limited compared to baseball games. Those who want to remain football fans certainly have the right to do so since we live in the greatest free country in the history of the world, but such individuals should be encouraged to watch baseball games beamed in from winter leagues during the football season.
We are living in violent times. A forgotten gathering in Atlantic City many years ago by a baseball pioneer may help to decrease the violence. It is certainly worth a try.
“Praises Baseball’s Influence.” New York Times. “7 January 1923, p. S1.