Baseball: Our One Perfect Institution

In the wake of the 1908 World Series, Post editors mused about baseball's enduring power.

Baseball catcher looking up at a ball in mid-flight.

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In 1908, the game was untarnished by cheating scandals and drug abuse. The top ballfield heroes were Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner, and the new song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” became a hit. With the World Series just ended, the editors looked back on the past season with satisfaction and pride in the national pastime.

In an imperfect and fretful world, we have one institution which is practically above reproach and beyond criticism. There is no movement afoot to uplift it, like the stage, or to abolish it, like marriage. No one complains that it is vulgar, like the newspapers, or that it assassinates genius, like the magazines. It rouses no class passions, and, while it has magnates, they go unhung with our approval.

This one comparatively perfect flower of our sadly defective civilization is, of course, baseball — the only important institution that the United States regards with a practically universal, uncritical, unadulterated affection. The fact doesn’t fit any theory, for baseball is somewhat of a trust and monopoly and is operated with an eye to the gate receipts.

The strength of baseball is simply that it gets results. Politics bores, the newspaper irritates, the drama frequently, at best, leaves you in doubt as to whether you have had a pleasant evening, a cold in the head takes the perfume from the rose of matrimony. But there is no doubt, no bar, no discount upon the thrill of the double play, or the deep joy of the three-bagger.

—“Our One Perfect Institution,” Editorial, October 31, 1908

The original editorial, "Our One Perfect Institution," that ran in The Saturday Evening Post's October 31, 1908 issue.
“Our One Perfect Institution”
The Saturday Evening Post
October 31, 1908

Featured image: Robert Robinson / SEPS

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