The Ballpark Community
“Next to religion, baseball has furnished a greater impact on American life than any other institution,” mused President Herbert Hoover, who knew both offered his fellow citizens solace during the Great Depression. In times of crises and beyond, ballparks can serve as settings for fans to express a sense of unity and commonality, with shared songs, symbols, rituals, and rites. “The Star Spangled Banner” was first regularly performed at ballparks during World War I and became a traditional pre-game event in World War II. Crowd participation at the game is expected, from cheering and chanting to passing chow and change down the row. For decades grandstands were filled with spectators dressed in their Sunday best but by the mid-twentieth century baseball caps were common fan-wear. In the 1980s, ball clubs began licensing mass-market sports apparel to the faithful, prompting an extraordinary sea change in ballpark attire. Today waves of logoed T-shirts and jerseys ripple through the stands and matching hats bob in an ocean of team colors.