Baseball: Our One Perfect Institution

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

“The Kids These Days!” or “The Parents Just Don’t Get It!”

—The following is from “The Younger Set,” Editorial, September 4, 1920

No longer is it true that the young are seen but not heard. Not only do they make themselves heard but they shout down their elders in a daily mounting chorus of derision and scorn. Art, literature, education, and economics — all these are being dominated by the reckless, half-formed judgments of youth.

Editorial clipping
The original editorial from September 4, 1920. (Click to view the entire article)

Progress would die if old men always had their way. But it is no sign of settled brain paths to be aware of the rampage on which youth has of late been engaged. The meaningless smudge and blur that makes up so much of modern art; the strange, tortured language which so many of the younger, newer writers use in place of English; and the rediscovered and previously discarded utopias which a host of youthful reformers are so joyfully recommending — are these not signs that youth has been given — or has taken — its head with a vengeance?

 

—The following is from “Parents Will Never Amount to Much!” December 19, 1964

My sister and I don’t know what is becoming of parents this generation. We love our own parents very much, but sometimes we are afraid they will never amount to much.

We know that whatever their little faults, they mean well. But we still don’t understand them. Parents today seem to be living in their own private little world.

Even though they know they should, they never go to bed early. They watch too much television at night. And when they go out with their friends, they stay out to all hours.

Parents have too much freedom these days. They are always thinking of ways to get away from us. When our mother goes on a business trip with our father, why do they always take their bathing suits?

We don’t know where our parents picked up all their bad habits. Certainly not from us. It’s probably their friends. We don’t approve of their friends. They wear too much makeup and they drink.

Sometimes we’re afraid we spoil parents by letting them have their way.

—“Parents Will Never Amount to Much” by Jamie and Suzy Kitman, December 19, 1964

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Read “Parents Will Never Amount to Much” by Jamie and Suzie Kitman from the December 19, 1964, issue of the Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Featured image: Everett Collection / Shutterstock

Numbed by Media: Newspaper Reading as a Dissipation

Over 16,000 newspapers were feeding America’s hunger for news in 1900. People were becoming better informed, but Post editors worried the constant exposure to violence, injustice, and scandal in the papers was making Americans incapable of outrage.

The first peril of careless newspaper reading is that of being morally hardened by constant contact with the physical and spiritual evils of the world, without being called upon to any action with regard to them.

It requires a notable degree of moral culture to keep from becoming “used to” such things; and there are few things worse for us than to grow accustomed to men’s sufferings and their sins, so that these no longer evoke pity, or indignation, or any other emotion in us.

The great minds are those which show the least disposition to become familiar with wrong, so as not to feel indignation every time they see it. They have a moral freshness which is our right and normal condition. They never “get used to” good or evil.

It is very hard for us to keep this freshness of moral impression in our daily contact with what the newspaper tells us of the world’s evil. It is even harder not to be deceived as to the comparative weight of evil and goodness in the world. The newsgatherer is drawn naturally to the former.

—“Newspaper Reading as a Dissipation,” Editorial by Robert Ellis Thompson, March 11, 1899

This article is featured in the March/April 2019 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.