Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Babe Ruth’s parents were German immigrants. Joe Dimaggio (ie, Giuseppe Paolo Dimaggio) was the eighth son of Italian immigrants.
I do wonder what is was like, all those years ago, when my grand parents arrived from Eastern Europe at Ellis Island, so very little in their pockets, but their hearts so full. So full of hope, expectation, and apprehension. Phillip and Rose, who today have a plaque in their honor there, very likely looked up at the Statute of Liberty, and wondered what would be in store for them.
Two world wars, and the Depression. But, they persevered. Both of their sons somehow became doctors. Their daughters, a teacher and a nurse. And the family migrated further, eventually winding up across the country in the City of Angels. All of which led to my listening to a transistor radio for years, and an Irishman named Vin Scully, who told stories in a lyrical way, some of which actually revolved around baseball, and at least as many of which told us about life’s lessons and twists and turns… and humor and pathos. And hope. Vin would say: Listen to the sound of the crowd, to the emotion of the fans. As if to admonish us to listen to the heart beat of the world itself.
Who are we watching today, on the field? When Jackie Robinson opened the door in 1947, it was not only for black players but also for so many immigrants. In the 1940s, less than 5% of major league baseball players were foreign-born, and those mostly Canadian. It has changed considerably.
Last year, 2017, we had 259 players on opening day rosters who were born outside of the United States. This was almost 30% of the leagues’ total players. The Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Cuba were among those well represented. Nineteen different countries all tolled. And this year we have great excitement about the young pitcher who hits as well from Japan, Shohei Otani.
A maximum of 25 players are allowed on the active rosters of each team (before the September 1 expansion). It is of real interest that baseball has such a fixed quantity of jobs, but you do not hear native-born players griping about immigrants “taking” their jobs. Since 1990, average major league salaries have increased over 7-fold, while the quantity of foreign-born players has more than doubled.
It also is fair to say that the quality of play has been enhanced in no small part by foreign-born players, which naturally helps to increase revenues. Ball park attendance between 1990 and 2016 increased from 54.8 million to 73.6 million.
No wonder baseball is a treasured national past time. No wonder we start out with the National Anthem before each game.
In the 2017 All-Star game, seven of the ten offensive hits by the victorious American League were made by foreign-born players.
A game we love so much, a sport for which we have great affection. It is not just hot dogs and cracker jacks, by any means. Baseball is inclusion, diversity, tolerance and sharing.
Gramma and Grandpa would be proud.
Maybe we ought to give the Statue of Liberty a bat to hit the ball out of the park all together.