Mitchell Nathanson, a professor of legal writing at Villanova University School of Law, has a written a book titled A People’s History of Baseball. He joined Bill Littlefield this week from Philadelphia.
He begins with the assertion that baseball and America have long been considered synonymous, then points out that those who have run the baseball establishment have used that assumption for their benefit. The first Major League club owners got to define baseball as THEIR game…a game in which the players were expected to consider themselves fortunate and play by the rules the owners had established while keeping their mouths shut unless they wanted to work in a factory or on a farm.
Similarly, Nathanson posits that America has been defined as the land of opportunity by folks with a stake in that definition, according to which those who have failed to take advantage of that opportunity have only themselves to blame for homelessness, poverty, getting run off their tribal lands, losing their retirement money to Wall Street sharpies, and various other misfortunes that never would have befallen them if they’d worked harder, since there’s certainly nothing wrong with the system itself, any more than there was anything wrong with baseball’s reserve clause.
I don’t know if Professor Nathanson had Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States in mind when he chose his title, but I think Professor Zinn would have enjoyed this illuminating take on baseball and America if he’d had the opportunity to read it.