Baseball's Enduring Connection with American Life

Baseball’s role in American life has been an ongoing subject at the Bush Center since the 2015 Major League Baseball season began.

Baseball’s role in American life has been an ongoing subject at the Bush Center since the 2015 Major League Baseball season began.

In March, the special America’s Presidents, America’s Pastime exhibit opened at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. As part of the launch, President Bush interviewed Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred at a Bush Center event. Manfred didn’t shy away from talking about baseball’s cultural issues, including the game’s popularity in inner cities and the length of games.

In May, the Bush Center hosted pitching legend Nolan Ryan and Texas Ranger broadcaster and former Ranger General Manager Tom Grieve as part of its Engage series. The audience heard wonderful story after wonderful story, including Nolan Ryan telling about his debut in minor league baseball. It’s worth watching this video for that tale alone.

In July, another Engage event brought together such baseball experts as former New York Yankee star Bobby Brown, former Texas Ranger President Tom Schieffer, and Dallas Morning News sports columnist Kevin Sherrington. Dallas attorney and baseball author Talmage Boston led the panel in discussing why the game holds a special place in America’s heart despite its challenges. Brown, a retired Fort Worth heart doctor, helped answer the question by regaling the audience with stories of playing with the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra.

In September, the Bush Center will host another look at baseball. A September 1 Engage event will focus on baseball and the Civil War, with Talmage Boston leading accomplished historians in exploring how baseball grew greatly during that time. Also, Engage will host a special screening on September 10 of ESPN’s 30 for 30: First Pitch. The documentary provides a behind-the-scenes-look at President Bush’s first pitch in Game Three of the 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium, only weeks after the attacks of September 11. (Tickets are available for both events.)

In May, the Bush Institute began interviewing baseball experts, writers and enthusiasts as part of its exploration of the sport’s impact on American life. The list includes Dr. Brown, who later became president of the American League after a distinguished medical career, Dale Petroskey, former CEO of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, and David Brooks, the New York Times columnist who follows baseball almost as closely as he does politics.

Capping off this examination of baseball and American society was the publishing of the Institute’s longform essay, Why Baseball Matters – Still. The piece, which Bush Institute editorial director William McKenzie and Talmage Boston authored, examined the challenges facing baseball while also explaining how the sport connects with Americans. The essay was excerpted in The Dallas Morning News’ Sunday Points section as well as the New America Foundation’s Weekly Wonk digital magazine.

Summer is not over yet, so the baseball season still has plenty of action ahead. We have been honored to be part of this season as it unfolds.