Attending a game of America’s favorite pastime is a cultural experience. Scattered across our largest cities and smallest towns, baseball diamonds are famous for their fresh-mown grass, peanut-callers, fighting umpires, and of course, hot dogs and Cracker Jacks. Throughout the twentieth century, The Saturday Evening Post has filled its covers with images of a day at the ballpark.
Traditions big and small helped cement baseball’s dominance in our national sports history.
Beginning with J.F. Kernan’s May 28, 1932 cover Baseball Batter, we see the sport’s uniforms haven’t changed much in the last eighty-two years, and today the atmosphere of a ballpark is much the same as it was back then. Watching from the stands with a beer and a hot dog on a sunny day, one might see a similar batter swinging away over home plate.
And how does America get hooked on the game? Earl Mayan’s cover from gives us the explanation. Sleepy Inning shows a father carrying one tuckered out little boy from the stadium. Pennant in hand, the young fan must have cheered himself to exhaustion.
Many American parents start their children on the sport at a young age with little league or t-ball, sometimes before they’re even strong enough to hit a pitch. We also get hooked as a family, since games are an iconic family event–perhaps more so for fathers and sons–where we make memories and form bonds. In the stands, spectators of all ages watch the game while dads shimmy through the crowd with staples from the concession stands.
Rockwell’s Bottom of the Sixth (Three Umpires) from April 23, 1949 focuses on the dour prospects of a universal disappointment–a rained out game. While two team managers fight about whether a player was safe or out, the umpires focus on falling droplets from rumbling storm clouds overhead. Rockwell’s title connotes dread. If the ballpark has to wait for the storm to pass, it’ll be quite a long seventh inning stretch.
Styles and fads have come and gone with each new decade in America’s history, but baseball has stayed nearly constant. Whether you visit Fenway in Boston or Wrigley in Chicago, fans of all ages still cheer from the stands over the sounds of cracking bats and hollering concessioners. As The Saturday Evening Post covers show, we can relate, at least in one way, to the past through the maintained traditions of this shared sporting experience.
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