My passion for baseball runs deep, much deeper than baseball card collecting (which I did during middle and high school), deeper than fantasy baseball (which I did most of my adult life), and even deeper than getting a San Francisco Giants tattoo on my upper arm (and I’m thinking of getting a 2nd one soon). In 2011, I became a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (or SABR). SABR promotes research into baseball among it’s members, and many of the baseball media are SABR members. While I do not do any original research, I read a lot of other member’s papers, through the weekly email newsletter and the semi-annual print publication. There are committees that focus on several different areas, including the different eras of the sport (pre 1900s, deadball era, etc), the business of baseball (one of my current fascinations), and the Negro Leagues.
But my favorite part of being a SABR member is attending meetings for the local chapter. The San Francisco Bay Area is home of the Lefty O’Doul Chapter (named after a famous San Francisco native who played in the major leagues from 1919 to 1934). Over the years, we’ve had tours of AT&T Park and Candlestick Park (the current and former home of the Giants), watched several baseball documentaries (including meeting the people who created them), and attended games with the local minor league teams. I’ve met so many wonderful people who are passionate about this great game. While we don’t always root for the same teams, we appreciate the skill and history that this game provides.
One event our chapter hosts every year is the Pacific Coast League (PCL) reunion, held every August in my very own hometown. The original PCL offered high level baseball competition on the West Coast (prior to the Dodgers and Giants moving to California in 1958). Over the last 22 years, my SABR chapter has held this reunion and brought back players from that bygone era, to remember their history as well as honor their memories.
Unfortunately, none of us are getting any younger, and the former players coming back are shrinking in number. But it’s still great to hear all the wonderful stories the old ballplayers tell, even if we hear them every year.
Yesterday, our chapter had a meeting on SABR Day (when most of the worldwide chapters had gatherings all on the same day). I hadn’t attended a meeting since last August, so it was good to see my friends and make new ones. I took my wife with me to this meeting; though she is not a member, she knows a few of them and loves baseball all on her own. We packed the private room of a local sports bar and listened to 3 local authors talk about their new books, as well as watch 2 different documentaries. There was also a VERY difficult trivia contest (out of 18 questions, I only got 4 answers right!) and reminisced about some retired players that had passed away in 2016. At the end of the meeting, we had a raffle for some prizes, which essentially became a book swap. I ended up donating two bobbleheads to the raffle and walked away with 12 books. Not a bad trade in my opinion.
While I do love baseball and SABR, I do have one strong misgiving about this organization. At yesterday’s meeting, we had at least 50 members and guests attend. At 40 years old, I was easily one of the youngest attendees (maybe 2 or 3 others were younger). The majority of the members are retired or close to it. And this age distribution is not relegated to our chapter; the organization skews toward the 60+ something crowd.
One of the authors wrote a book on the future of baseball, and the aging demographics is a concern for MLB. While older people have to the money to spend on the game now (especially with ticket prices increasing every year), the younger generations are not enthralled by baseball en masse. Other sports, video games, and the internet in general competes for the time and attention of young people, and fewer and fewer are interested in baseball. And even fewer are interested in the history of baseball. While the sport is making hand over fist right now ($9 billion in revenue in 2016), this level of interest may have peaked. One hundred years ago, the two most popular sports in this country were boxing and horse racing; now, they are niche sports, barely registering in the consciousness of the nation. Baseball may be headed that way in the future.
Beyond the the lack of interest or even recognition of the past for my favorite sport from my peers, this naivete seeps into the greater group-thought for politics and current events. The progressive left is outraged by the executive orders and mandates that are coming out of President Trump’s office. They are shocked by Trump’s insistence on building a wall at the Mexican border. Protests are being held at airports nationwide in response to the ban on accepting refugees. And so many are distraught at the upcoming loss of affordable health care (even by people who voted for Trump who didn’t even realize they were covered by Obamacare).
Looking at the long view of the nation, I don’t see anything original. Despite what some of my peers may think, hatred of the other (racism, sexism, nationalism, etc) has never gone away; it’s just more overt now. And politicians that care more for their own well-being (and those of their immediate peer group) is nothing new. Several of our leaders in the history of this nation have had similar agendas as President Trump. But we only think about the here and now, never about the past.
Nevertheless, we are faced with some troubling current events. Whether you are directly effected by these drastic changes, there may be long-lasting repercussions. Are we willing to pay more for our food and other goods (though the proposed 20% tax on Mexican imports)? How about seeing our favorite restaurants go out of business (due to a lack of staff after the mass deportation of immigrants)? And will our services from our local municipalities be cut if the federal government punishes so-called “sanctuary cities?”
In the end, we must decide if we will respond. To do nothing in response is a vote for this new status quo. But all forms of resistance can be very powerful. You can call your local, state and federal representatives and express your feelings on these matters. You can take to the streets and join one of the many protests planned in cities all around the country. You can boycott businesses that are directly or indirectly related to the President.
I plan to resist in a very different way. My goal is simple: I want to talk to people close to me and ask them what they think about all this. I want to hear their stories and their thoughts and emotions. I especially want to engage with people who may think differently than me. While I understand that this is probably a very scary proposition, I don’t think I find a more impactful act of resistance. If we can understand each other on a personal level, then there is hope for compromise, which is the hallmark of this nation’s democracy (as well as all human relationships). If there is no learning and no understanding, there is no hope to make any concrete changes. We’ll just go around and around, constantly cycling and repeating the same mistakes of our ancestors. We can still honor those different than us and still disagree with them. But we have to honor them first.