“America Go to the Ball Game”: A British Newspaper Reporter’s Take on the 1956 World Series

One of the things that always fascinates me, and perhaps you as well, is reading about how people in other parts of the world regard the sport of baseball. Baseball is a top sport in maybe a dozen countries around the world, if you include the Netherlands (who, believe it or not, currently place fifth in the world in the IBAF rankings).  We’re talking about a collection of countries that make up only about 10% of the world’s population, though, which means that nine-tenths of the world doesn’t give a flying flip about baseball. To them, it might as well be Olympic handball or water polo. Tragic, isn’t it?

So I find it highly entertaining when anyone from a non-baseball country talks or writes about baseball.  How much do they know about the sport? Or more entertainingly, are they describing it in an awkward or even inaccurate way? But mostly, I’m interested in how they regard the game as a cultural phenomenon. Are they amused by it? Intrigued? Dismissive? All of the above?

The article below is a perfect example of exactly the kind of thing that thrills me whenever I come across it. It appeared in the Times of London on October 10, 1956, just two days after the Larsen perfect game. It was a far different world in the Fifties: there was no Internet or sports-only cable networks, of course, which means no MLB.TV or YouTube or ESPN, so a British subject couldn’t merely seek out a baseball game, or a clip of a game, and simply watch it anytime he wanted. The game had to be presented to him either on telly, or in the cinema on a Movietone newsreel.  Which is to say, only a few Britons ever got any exposure to baseball, and almost certainly very little at that. Most Britons got no exposure to it at all.

So when the unnamed correspondent of the piece below provided his overview of the previous day’s Yankees-Dodgers tilt to his British readers, there were some very basic explanations he had to put across about how the game is even played, in addition to what baseball—or more exactly, what the (amusingly named) World Series—meant to Americans as a cultural touchstone.  The piece is an engaging example of a writer who knows nearly nothing of the game describing the proceedings to those who know absolutely nothing about the game.  The bonus here is the correspondent’s use of standard cricket terminology to put across basic baseball concepts in a way his readers can even begin to understand, which is delightful, even if he did summarize major league baseball as being merely “rounders played by strong men with a hard ball”.  No wonder Great Britain ranks only 25th on the IBAF table, even today.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.  Click on the article below to open it in a separate window and read it in even better definition.

London Times Article
The London Times published this article about the sixth game of the 1956 World Series, the one after the Don Larsen perfect game.

4 thoughts on ““America Go to the Ball Game”: A British Newspaper Reporter’s Take on the 1956 World Series”

  1. Thank you for sharing this fascinating article! I wonder if any British reporter did a writeup of Larsen’s perfect game? I love this SABR media group. The research I have seen here is really great! Best, James Braswell

  2. The lazy criticism of baseball by my fellow Brits – “it’s just glorified rounders” – still persists today. I’ve never understood it; everyone loves rounders!

  3. Hilarious article…a bit condescending, somewhat amused by it all, but the writer of this piece does seem to have some understanding of the game. Britons and New Zealanders I’ve taken to ballparks have figured out the game and enjoyed it.

    Well…one exception. My cousin. His first major league game was the “Pine Tar Game” in 1983. When the game ended, he said, “Does this happen very often?”

    Six months later, when I went to the UK to visit him, I said, “You remember that game you went to? How the Yankees won? Well, they lost.”

    The writer was pretty sharp, though…Mantle was a good shot to break Ruth’s single-season record, and might have done so if he didn’t get that shot late in the 1961 season.

  4. “The Americans have a genius for taking a thing, examining its every part, and developing each part to the utmost. This they have done with the game of rounders, and, from a clumsy, primitive pastime, have so tightened its joints and put such a fine finish on its points that it stands forth a complicated machine of infinite exactitude.” –Angus Evan Abbott, early 1900s, quoted by Thomas Boswell (WaPo 1982) and again by Paul Dickson (Baseball’s Greatest Quotations)

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