Institute for Immigration Research

Baseball: The (Inter) National Pastime

Birthplace by league for players in the 2017 all star game
By Marissa Kiss, M.A. and James Witte, PhD

Compelling sports stories are often about much more than sports. Typically, these focus on individuals or specific teams and are stories of dominant success or humbling failure, themes captured in the tag line for ABC’s long running Wide World of Sports: “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” But as sociology tells us, individual stories should also be seen as grounded in broader social forces. As demographics have changed the face of America, the demographics of professional sports in American have changed as well. The integration of Jackie Robinson in the MLB in 1947 marked an increase in the social acceptance of non-white players into the league. Additionally, the passage of the 1965 Nationality Act (Hart-Celler Act) not only increased the opportunity for individuals to migrate to the U.S. but also provided opportunities for foreign-born and U.S. born minority athletes to play in the MLB. Similarly as globalization increasingly has transformed the U.S. economy, so too has it transformed the business of professional sports. Taking a focused look at Major League Baseball—using two examples, the 2017 All Star Game, and the Division leading, Washington Nationals—illustrates how changes in professional sports mirror and foreshadow the broader impact of demographic change and increasing globalization.

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