Baseball is one of the oldest American sports. So, what is it about baseball that makes it so captivating? And what qualifies it as the best sport?
History of Baseball
While the actual origin of baseball remains a controversy, most historians agree that it originated from older bat-and-ball games played in mid-18th century England. The famous theory is that it originated from the British game of rounders. Early baseball was called lots of names including ‘base’, ‘townball’ and ‘fetch-catch.’
But it wasn’t until the 19th century that baseball really began to take off, and earned its name as ‘America’s pastime.’ While baseball did start in the United States, it has now become a world sport. Over 100 countries play baseball. Great baseball stars like Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays would go on to leave great impacts on the sport and the world at large.
Why Is Baseball so important?
In the New York Times, Jacques Barzun, a social commentator described baseball as the ‘heart and mind of America’ and stated that baseball ‘still reflects our society.’ The MLB (Major League Baseball) is the oldest of the major professional sports league In the US and Canada and has been around since 1989, over 151 years.
So, what is it about baseball that makes it so timeless and significant? What marks it as the best sport of all time?
- 162 Games Every Season. No other sport offers such a large amount of games each season. While basketball has only 82 games per season, baseball fans get almost six months of games. This gives fans more opportunities to make it to the games, and enjoy their favorite sport. Games are also cheaper because of extra opportunities to market products to fans.
- There’s No Rush. There’s a certain calm to baseball. While other sports such as basketball, football, or hockey are often frantic or fast-paced, sticking to 15-minute intervals and halftimes, baseball is more of a relaxed and fun sport. There is a certain perfection to baseball games; errors are seldom committed and the game is very carefree compared to most sports.
- You have to play out the game. In every other sport, the winning team is allowed to pass time till the game ends; in basketball, the team can dribble the ball till the game ends and in football, players can choose to take a knee. Baseball is the only sport that makes you play out the game until it is over, no matter how big your lead is. This contributes to why baseball has some of the most historic wins ever, with losing teams winning big in the end.
Is Baseball the Hardest Sport?
Most baseball fans and players will argue that baseball is the hardest sport. But all major sports fans and players say that about their sport of interest. So why exactly is baseball the hardest sport of all time?
- Baseball Athletes Have a Very Low Chance Of Successfully Becoming Pro Athletes. Of all the major sports, baseball college athletes have some of the lowest odds of getting selected to play baseball as a pro, and barely 1% of them get into the Hall of Fame. In 2020, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) did a study on the probability of NCAA athletes in baseball, basketball, football, and hockey becoming professional athletes. The table below is an extract from their study results:
|NCAA Participants||Approximate # Draft Eligible||# Draft Picks||# NCAA Drafted||% NCAA to Major Pro||% to Total Pro|
As shown above, baseball and football athletes are highly disadvantaged when it comes to making it as professional athletes.
- It requires a very challenging skill set.
Hitting a baseball is arguably the hardest thing a professional athlete will ever do. Hitting a major league fastball is even more complicated. For those unfamiliar with the sport, let me put this imagery in your mind; imagine there’s a car driving towards at nearly 100mph. You can barely make out the car because of the speed it’s moving at. That’s what hitting a major league fastball is like. Most major league pitchers throw fastballs at 90 mph, so the ball is just a blur.
- The Mental Strain of Baseball. To quote the famous Yankees Catcher Yogi Berra, ‘Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.’ The level of focus and control it takes to not only throw a ball at almost 100 mph but to hit a ball thrown at almost 100 mph is magnificent. Furthermore, most great baseball hitters live knowing that they’ll probably only succeed at their job three out of seven times. This level of failure can easily weigh down people who aren’t mentally strong.
Is Baseball a Dying Sport?
While baseball still holds an important place in world sports, surveys have shown that many sports fans now prefer football. The great American pastime has been declining since 1996 as more young people turn to soccer, football and basketball, even as major league attendance remains steady. The sport has particularly lost its importance among African Americans. According to, 27% of major league baseball players in 1975 were African Americans, by 2010, it had dropped to just 8.2%.
Despite the statistics, baseball has evolved over the years and continues to impact popular culture. Baseball phrases like ‘making a hit’, or ‘striking out’ remain as commonly used phrases in todays society.
Why is this so? In many ways, the advent of baseball was a gift to sports. In its early years, baseball unified America because many Americans were passionate about it. Even today, those who don’t even watch baseball will defend its legitimacy. Overall, baseball is the best sport because it’s entertaining, tasking, and one of the most historic sports ever played.