January 6, 2005


Play ball!: Embedded in the culture, sport becomes national pastime (Stan Grossfeld, January 6, 2005, Boston Globe)

"I’m watching a 5-year-old swing a stick at an empty half-gallon container and I’m thinking I’m seeing something different there,’’ said Dr. Charles Steinberg, Red Sox executive vice president/public affairs. "That’s a swing. We were supposed to have invented

baseball. But these kids play much better than American kids. It’s a natural feel."

Baseball was introduced to the Dominican Republic by Cubans who fled a 10-year war (1868-78). The passion for baseball here intensified during the US Marines’ eight-year

occupation of the island beginning in 1916.

Today the game is at its zenith. When Vladimir Guerrero was named American League most valuable player this season, he was in the presidential palace as the guest of Dominican President Leonel Fernandez, who declared a national holiday.

Now as Guerrero prepares to play winter ball, he’s asked what he would do if he wasn’t a baseball player.

"If I didn’t have baseball," he said with a smile, "I’d be planting tomatoes."

Baseball has blossomed this year in the Caribbean nation that is slightly smaller than Vermont and New Hampshire. Three of the top four finishers in the American League MVP balloting were Dominican, including Red Sox Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. The MVP of last year’s All-Star Game was their countryman, Alfonso Soriano. Baltimore’s Miguel Tejada is an All-Star shortstop.

Why are these players so good?

"It’s so embedded in the culture," said Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino.

The dichotomy between Haiti and the D.R. is explained almost entirely in one simple observation: soccer, rather than baseball, is embedded in the culture of the former.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 6, 2005 10:40 AM

Well, the fact that Haiti was a French colony might have something to do with the dichotomy too...

Posted by: Timothy at January 6, 2005 11:01 AM

Agreed. Soccer. That IS the problem. I know I can't prove it, but it's true.

Posted by: Twn at January 6, 2005 11:34 AM

That would explain why it takes forever to get anything done in places.

Posted by: Brandon at January 6, 2005 1:57 PM

Timothy hit the nail right on the head. Begins with F and ends with E.

Posted by: pchuck at January 6, 2005 2:39 PM

Soccer = France

Posted by: oj at January 6, 2005 3:13 PM

Oh, the anguish. Again, my beloved soccer.

Posted by: John Resnick at January 6, 2005 3:56 PM

The real difference is that Haiti became self-governing before its population had even the rudiments of civilization, having defeated a rump force of French slavers in the late 18th and early 19th century. By contrast, the DR was colonial until after WWI. BTW, for a period in the 19th century it was ruled by Haiti.

The DR has a professional and oligarchical class to go along with its vast poor population. Haiti has only the merest veneer of people at the top, as they have been killed or chased out in prior coups whether by Papa Doc or by Aristide. The difference would be like Senegal vs. Guinea in Africa.

Posted by: Bart at January 6, 2005 4:44 PM

"We were supposed to have invented baseball. But these kids play much better than American kids"

Yes, that's the kind of self-deluding myth that you Americans excel at.

Reminds me of Homer Simpson's parting shot to the Brits: "our Beatles are much better than your beloved Stones!"

Baseball, of course, is British in its origins, a glorified version of 'rounders' and its ancestor 'stool ball' gets a mention in the Domesday Book. I believe 'base-ball' gets its first literary mention in Austen's 'Northanger Abbey'.

The only ball game invented in the US is basketball (by Dr James Naismith in 1891).

(awaits patriotic backlash)

Posted by: Brit at January 7, 2005 11:47 AM

Ever seen a game of rounders?

Posted by: oj at January 7, 2005 11:59 AM

Indeed, and played many a game myself as a boy scout.

And Naismith was a Canadian.

Posted by: Brit at January 7, 2005 12:11 PM

It's not baseball.

Posted by: oj at January 7, 2005 12:15 PM

Never said it was. It's a near identical twin, but without the hype and hotdogs.

Posted by: Brit at January 7, 2005 6:56 PM

Then what's the point?

Posted by: oj at January 7, 2005 7:32 PM

Keeps boy scouts out of trouble.

Posted by: Brit at January 9, 2005 7:07 AM