Baseball may just be a game, but Major League Baseball has made an undeniable impact on American culture over the past century and a half. Ever since the first professional baseball teams were founded in the late 1860s, the sport has embedded itself into the fabric of U.S. society.
Baseball has long been considered America’s national pastime. The game’s popularity exploded in the early 20th century when professional leagues were established across the country. By the 1920s, baseball reigned supreme as America’s most popular sport, and the game continues to hold a special place in the hearts of many, even though football and other sports have recently challenged its status. For millions, a trip to the ballpark for an MLB game is a beloved summer tradition.
In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke MLB’s color barrier when he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson’s historic debut paved the way for the integration of black players into professional baseball. His courage and skill helped wider acceptance of civil rights at a pivotal time in U.S. history. Other barrier-breaking players like Roberto Clemente further advanced opportunities for Latino athletes. While MLB still has work to do on diversity, its integration was a milestone on the road to equal rights.
Baseball statistics and records are the stuff of legend for fans. Debates over batting averages or who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame rage eternally. The game’s storied history, filled with remarkable feats from players like Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, has made baseball a topic of national obsession. Generations of fans share a bond through the epic moments they’ve witnessed on the diamond. Whether it’s a perfect game or a World Series walk-off home run, baseball creates memories that unite Americans.
While baseball originated in the U.S., MLB has expanded the sport’s reach globally. The World Baseball Classic, founded in 2006, features national teams worldwide. MLB also actively markets the game abroad, attracting rising numbers of players from Latin America, Asia, and elsewhere. International stars like Ichiro Suzuki and David Ortiz have brought diverse cultures into the league. The recent London Series is aimed at broadening its appeal into Europe. Baseball may never achieve true global status like soccer, but MLB’s efforts have boosted its worldwide popularity.
References to baseball permeate American art, literature, film, and music. Writers like Ernest Hemingway have featured the sport prominently in their works. Baseball has inspired everything from Broadway musicals to hit TV shows. Pop culture endlessly celebrates baseball, keeping it relevant through the generations. Whether it’s Casey at the Bat or Field of Dreams, America’s pastime has etched its legacy far beyond the confines of the ballpark.
One trend demonstrating baseball’s cultural relevance is the rise of pitcher prop bets. Wagering on specific player achievements like strikeouts is growing rapidly. In 2021, nearly $57.2 billionwas bet legally on sports, including MLB, with pitcher props being a fan favorite. Their popularity shows that fans are engaged with pitchers’ performances at an individual level. As sports betting expands, prop bets leverage fandom and statistics into a multibillion-dollar industry.
For over 150 years, baseball and American life have been intertwined. MLB will likely continue to reflect shifts in U.S. society while shaping culture itself. Whether as entertainment, business, or shared experience, baseball has become ingrained in America’s identity.