Baseball is as American as apple pie. We’ve heard that quote repeated over an over again. It remains true on this Independence Day. As it will always ring true.
But sports in large have reminded us of what’s great about the America. It’s place in the United States. From helping us return to normalcy following unimaginable tragedy to showing the world what this nation is about, here are eight timess we were reminded of sports place in America.
Lee Greenwood sing anthem
The month fter 9/11, Greenwood gave us this beautiful song. It was at a time that we needed it. Baseball — America’s pastime — helping us return to some sense of normalcy.
“Growing up on my grandparent’s farm in California gave me an appreciation for folks who worked hard and got by on very little” he said, via the NY Times. “My grandparents lost their farm after government regulations prevented them from farming the more profitable fields. But they didn’t question why it happened; they just started a new business. They believed no matter what difficulties we experienced, we would be okay because we were free.
President George W. Bush would throw out the first pitch at a Yankees game in New York City before Game 3 of the World Series. It was something to behold.
All-American Girls Professional Baseball League
The men went to war to fend off fascism in Europe and the Pacific. Left behind was a nation that needed women to fill the void. In almost every industry, that became the case.
These women made the military arms needed to defeat Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and Japan. They toiled in factories. They also took the place of men on the baseball diamond.
See, it was a time that those at home needed some sense of the daily grind. Baseball was an outlet. A ton of star MLB players were overseas or in the Pacific battling the Axis. It might have lasted only 12 years, but the likes of Pepper Paire and Dorothy Ferguson provided it. The nation was awed. Fans showed up in the thousands. And baseball became America’s real pastime.
Jesse Owens takes gold in Germany
The master race. Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler. This was the backdrop to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Germany. A total of 18 black athletes from America headed to the European hub mere years before the world went to war.
With Hitler watching from the stands, track star Jesse Owens took four gold medals. It’s in this that America showed that diversity and humanity could overtake fascism, Nazism and hatred. It acted as a prelude for a war that would be won several years later.
Joe Delaney’s heroic tale
The AFC Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowler in 1981, Kansas City Chiefs running back Joe Delaney had his entire life in front of him. He entered the 1983 offseason as one of the best young backs in the game.
Delaney might have died in June of 1983, but he leaves behind a legendary and heroic story. On June 29, Delaney went with friends to Critter’s Creek in Louisiana to enjoy some pre-holiday sun.
He saw three children struggling in a nearby pond and dove in to save them. Despite his inability to swim, Delaney was able to save one of the children. He drowned. It shocked a nation. American leaders were among the thousands to attend his funeral. It was a representation of the whole being much more than the individual. Delaney displayed this throughout his short life.
Jim Cornelison awes Soldier Field on 9/11 anniversary
The 10 year anniversary of 9/11 was one of remembrance and sadness. It also came during Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season. Like he had done so many times throughout his career, tenor Jim Cornelison sang the national anthem ahead of the Bears’ Week 1 game against the Atlanta Falcons.
It wasn’t just something to behold. Rather, it represented the tireless effort of every American to overcome the tragedy from a decade earlier. Cornelison awed those on hand in the Windy City, leaving many in tears. What a great moment this was.
Harry Kalas’ intro before Phillies game
Baseball players returned to the diamond exactly a week after the September 11 attacks. It was time for Americans to return to the game that they loved so much. Sure the focus was on New York City and the nation’s capital, but Phillies announcer Harry Kalas stole the show with this tremendous intro before their game.
There’s something to be said about words. They can be comforting at a time of of uneasiness. Kalas’ words and intro provided us — not the closure we needed — but the normalcy we sought.
Pat Tillman enlists in the military
A star for Arizona State throughout his college career, Pat Tillman had everything going for him. He was set to earn a contract from the Cardinals in tens of millions. He was a future Pro Bowl performer.
Instead, Tillman’s life took another path. Following the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Pennsylvania on 9/11, Tillman gave up his football career to join the United States Military as a Ranger.
Tillman was ultimately deployed to Iraq during the initial invasion in 2003. After heading back to the states, Tillman was sent to Afghanistan where he was killed by friendly fire in April of 2004.
Tillman’s life tells us many stories. But above all, that patriotism stood out for him more than the glitz and glamour of being a millionaire football player. If that’s not America, we’re not sure what is.
Jackie Robinson breaks MLB color barrier
The late 1940s was a time of racial division in the United States following World War II. We had not yet hit the point of the civil rights movement. Everything remained stagnant.
That’s until a young man by the name of Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946. One year later, Robinson made his Major League Baseball debut and became the first African-American player in league history. Until that point, black baseball players toiled in the Negro Leagues for pennies on the dollar.
Robinson would face racism on the road, from both players and fans. But his legendary tale set into motion what would be the initial stages of the civil rights movement the following decade. To this day, no player in Major League Baseball wears Robinson’s number. He’s among the most legendary and heroic players ever.