Make no mistake–I am de-light-ed to see the San Francisco Giants win the first two games of the 2012 World Series. And I still think the ballpark ranks among best in all of American professional sports (See The Giants Ballpark and the Architecture of Fun). But this time I’m a bit more interested in the relationship between baseball and newcomers to America.
The first game coincided with a day full of errands I had to complete because I’m hosting a dinner, a pair of rehearsals for my play The Land of Hope & Dreams, and my mother for the next several days. I could not take the night off to watch the game; I had to do the laundry (the life of an artiste is ever so very fascinating). I figured I would be the only person in the laundromat. Boy, did I figure wrong. I forgot about the TV.
Multitaskers filled the place, cleaning their clothes and watching the game at the same time. All of them supported the Giants, of course, many wore orange and/or black, and every single one felt annoyed when our washers and driers stopped and we actually had to do something about our laundry. But about half of the customers came from other countries, and they interested me.
One woman, Hispanic, 45-50, bounced up and down in her seat whenever Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval (and wasn’t the Kung Fu Panda astonishing?) took their turns at the plate. Quick check of Wikipedia on my iPhone: both players were born in Venezuela. I wonder if she came from there, too. The elderly Asian couple who seemed literally inseparable from each other (they stayed side-by-side even when they tended to their clothes) kept up a furious conversation with each other and didn’t seem to like any of the umpires’ calls against the G-Men. A South Asian couple kept to themselves in back and kept asking questions of each other in their own language accompanied by much shrugging of the shoulders, but whenever the other fans cheered, they took their cues and did the same.
Football is America’s most popular professional team sport nowadays, and yet baseball seems to draw the attention, fascination and adoration of newly-arrived Americans. This has been true ever since the 1930s at least, when thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing Europe became Detroit Tiger fans because of Hank Greenberg. But even today, the less popular sport overall remains popular with new arrivals. Perhaps it’s because baseball players in uniform look more human than football players with their helmets and armor. Perhaps like the possibly Venezuelan woman, the number of foreign-born baseball players makes it easier to connect with individual players. Who knows? I don’t, but baseball retains its power to intrigue, entertain and to make all of us American, and for that I can feel grateful.
Vonn Scott Bair