So baseball is not as important as housing or atomic fallout. Nevertheless, when it was announced that the Brooklyn Dodgers may go to Los Angeles and the New York Giants to San Francisco, several million Americans felt much as if they’d just been evicted or irradiated. To them and millions of others, the chief present passion in living is connected with the winning or losing of today’s ball game. Giants and Dodgers fans almost literally felt like a baby whose father deliberately drops it on its little soft head. The baby tried to understand that Father had his reasons and ended by wondering whether it really liked Daddy very much. The poor thing was in trauma.
The episode gives a wonderful example of anti-social skulduggery piously masked in “necessity,” and a skillful confusion of issues which the press for some time seemed unable to disentangle.
Ball clubs have moved before, most recently the Boston Braves to Milwaukee, the Philadelphia Athletics to Kansas City and the St. Louis Browns to Baltimore. But these cities were one-club towns that were overloaded with two clubs. New York City is certainly not a one-club town. The Dodgers are at the moment the world champions of major-league baseball. The Giants have the longest history of greatness in the sport. If these two clubs are moved, baseball calls for an investigation, which Chairman Celler of the House Judiciary Committee seemed disposed to give it.
Celler was needed. A corps of sportswriters who can be deeply shocked by Ted Williams’ spitting were unmoved by the much more anti-social moves of President O’Malley of the Dodgers. The double standard as between magnates and players had split too wide; the sportswriters’ courtesy toward the magnates was obsolete. The picture of O’Malley as a heavy-hearted business man was too repulsive. It was time and overtime for the reluctant sanitation department. Let’s clean this up quickIy.
First, is an established ball club primarily a business man’s gang of twenty-five workmen hired to keep a ball moving around smartly to amuse an audience? Certainly not. In essence, it is a Myth, supported in the air of the land by invisible jets of hope, anxiety, identification—call it all love—steaming from a million fans who may never go to the park. If there is no Myth, there is really no club. When a New Yorker says that he loves America, the Giants—or the Yankees—are a good part of what he means. There are people in the wastes of Brooklyn who hate everything about America except the neighborhood bar and grill and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Second, is baseball a business? Walter O’Malley of the Dodgers is confused. One moment he says that, because it is not a business, New York City should buy him a $50,000,000 park. At the next moment, he says that it is a business he controls and that he can move it to Los Angeles. The fact is that the US Government, by exempting baseball from a good many laws other business must submit to—labor laws, anti-trust laws, wartime priorities, etc.—has acknowledged that baseball is not a business. It can of course revoke these special considerations, if Mr. O’Malley insists. Soon after, baseball would probably be dead, in the Myth sense, and Mr. O’Malley ought to provide the burial plot.
Third is the issue of expanding the major leagues across the country. In all these discussions there is a peculiar drift toward setting up inter-city feuds, such as the celebrated one between the Giants and Dodgers. The major cities mentioned come in feud-pairs: Los Angeles and San Francisco, Dallas and Houston, Minneapolis and St. Paul, and that about finishes it, except for Toronto and Montreal.