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Baseball and Culture in the 1920's

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The Home Run Industry

The decade of the 1920's was a very pivotal period for the United States. The nation had just endured the first World War and emerged victorious, and had achieved economic success largely from the trading and manufacturing of goods during the war. (Parrish 116). During this decade many aspects of American life especially regarding many social and labor laws changed. One important consequence was shorter work days for workers. People now had more free time to enjoy themselves and could spend money on non-essential or luxury items. With more free time for the average American and a striving economy, the revolution of mass producing goods began. Due to this the popularity of baseball would rise until it became known as our national pastime At the same time, advertisement companies and businesses agreed to do endorsement deals which included radio, newspaper, and billboard ads with major league teams and players. With the development of advertising, technological advances, as well as the game itself, baseball came to play an important role in American society.

Radios were one of the first consumer products that were mass produced during the 1920's. The radio helped bring people together in many different ways, no matter how far away they were. Costing around fifty dollars, radios were more affordable, and in turn became more accessible to the average American family (Parrish 120). Radio distributors and salesmen promised that a radio would provide "even more than education and entertainment to the whole family". (Parrish 120). Over ten million families owned a radio by 1929, compared to just 60,000 families in 1919 due to cheap and affordable radios being massed produced (Parrish 128). Originally the owners were hesitant about the spread of baseball over the radio, however; baseball grew to new extremes during this time period "Initially, team owners were reluctant to broadcast home games for fear that fans would stay home and listen rather than pay to see the games at the ballpark. They soon discovered that local broadcasts only further heightened interest in the game and dramatically increased attendance." (KDKA First to Broadcast Baseball - 1921).

With more and more baseball fans listening to the radio, more and more money was filtered and invested into advertising over the radio waves. The first radio company to send out a commercial advertisement was WEAF radio station in New York City in 1922. (Parrish 180). The radio was also instrumental to the development of the professional sports teams we have today. The radio made it possible for someone who lived in the Midwest to listen to a baseball game being played in New York City. Advertising companies would advertise everything from cars to chewing gum over the airwaves.

By the 1920's, baseball was already a very popular sport. Yet during the 1920's it soared to a new level. "Baseball used the booming economic success and the quest for social satisfaction of people to turn them into baseball fans." (Burns 50). Baseball used the radio to broadcast games and to attract more fans, these games could reach all over the country The first Major League Baseball radio broadcast was in 1921 on August 5th the Pittsburgh Pirates played the Philadelphia Phillies. It was at this game Harold Avery was only twenty five years old at the time when he inadvertently created the profession of sports broadcaster. (KDKA First to Broadcast Baseball - 1921). This would eventually lead to many sports broadcasting jobs. Without Avery's legacy, some of the greatest sports broadcasters like John Madden were paid five million dollars in 2003. Bob Costas and Al Michaels also make an annual salary of three million dollars (Helfand).

Baseball advertisements would eventually overflow into different forms of media. Massive billboards and signs were built all over the country and especially around the baseball stadiums. With many stadiums seating close to 40,000 to 50,000 people, advertising agencies tried to get their product on the field and into the stadium as much as possible. (Stevenson 55). Advertisers and businesses knew the more they could tie themselves and connect with baseball the more baseball fans they would win over and in turn their product would sell more. An example is Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. The thirty seven foot high wall was put in place largely because it created lots of advertising space (Stevenson 86) Even ballparks were renamed in order to help spark a business opportunity, Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, used to be called Cubs Park. It was changed after William Wrigley, owner of Wrigley chewing gum, bought the franchise and changed the name to Wrigley Field in 1921 (Wrigley Field Information - History). Scoreboards and outfield walls would also be painted with wooden advertisements; however the wood would get old and often cause fires in the ballparks.

The invention of the Ford Model-T also helped baseball spark and acquire many devote fans. During the 1920's baseball teams were often founded in economic thriving cities along the upper east coast such as Boston, New York, and Pittsburgh (Bailey 620). There were no major league teams in the southern parts of the United States. This is where the radio helped fans from other parts of the country tune in up to 500 miles away to the nearest ballpark city. However, it was still not the same experience as actually attending a game. The Model-T, was one of the first mass produced cars, The Model-T could be produced and sold cheaply, largely due to the invention of the assembly line invented and later perfected by Henry Ford, owner of Ford Manufacture (Bailey 622). A Model-T could be bought for around 3,000 dollars, which was considered fair and affordable for many Americans (Parrish 130). Therefore the amount of cars built quadrupled from 1.5 million in 1919 to 4.5 million by 1929 (Parrish 135). With a car available to the everyday citizen and family, people began moving all over the country and exploring the destinations they had only heard of over the radio or read about in magazines and newspapers.

The Model-T was not the only reason why people were traveling all over the country. In 1921 Congress passed the Federal Highway Act, which provided funding for state roads. Also, in 1923 a national highway system was constructed. (Bailey 629). Thus, The amount of federal roads doubled in the 1920's. New highways and roads made traveling much faster and easier to navigate for drivers. For instance, a family could travel from Alabama to New York City and see the New York Yankees play in half the time and costs it would be traveling by train or bus. With improved traveling methods and more roads baseball owners began expanding the number of games in a



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