A Note from the Editor, Peter C. Bjarkman:
Even when that laughable Abner Doubleday creation myth of baseball's origin—foisted on the American public by Albert Spalding for crassly commercial reasons—is just dismissed, still the reputed "American origins" of the national game are tough enough to shake. Most current sports histories merely substitutes one "creation myth" for another. Thus Alex Cartwright gets full credit and—presto—the American birthright of the national pastime remains largely intact. But the Cartwright claim itself rests on shaky enough ground: the Elysian Fields contest of 1846 was no more an instance of "fully evolved baseball" than were numerous earlier matches held throughout the northeastern states and provinces of Canada. This native game of "base-ball" was never immaculately conceived but, instead, slowly and painfully evolved—"stool ball" to "rounders" to "town ball" to "Massachusetts game" to "New York game"—and the germinating seeds were always demonstrably European.
Events of the past decade have made the international elements of our adopted national game simply indisputable. A near tidal wave of Latin American imports has inarguably provided the biggest single story in major league baseball during the 1980s. Rival Japan boasts a long-standing professional league which, while never a serious match for our own, nonetheless solidifies the cross-cultural appeal of diamond play. In world amateur contests it is Castro's Cuba that has long been ranking world power, while USA amateur teams are beaten out with disturbing frequency at world-level competitions by squads from Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Nicaragua as well. Throughout the Caribbean basin "beisbol" enjoys equal status as the ordained national game.
This Olympic year—in which baseball first (and at long last) debuts as a medal sport—seems, then, a most appropriate occasion to focus the attention of SABR scholars upon the world baseball movement. Even major league baseball—long a bastion of provincialism—now looks pragmatically in that very direction. Major League Baseball International Partners has recently been created by MLB, NBC and Pascoe Nally (a leading British sports marketing firm) to regulate broadcast and promotion of the international game. The International Baseball Association, based in Indianapolis, has been actively spreading the world baseball message for more than a decade with clinics and tournaments held around the globe.
As the worlds grows smaller and cultures find themselves drawn more tightly into a web of interdependence, it is again the miraculous game of baseball which marches at the forefront of this inevitable parade toward a world community. Baseball in 1992 ironically seems poised to fulfill its global mission at the very hour when runaway salaries and shopping mall stadia have disaffected so many American fans. Yet, as our Canadian SABR colleague Bill Humber has often reminded us, "Who ever said that baseball is an American game, anyway?"