Baseball and the Production of the Popular
Baseball's 1919 season has been seen in two different ways. First, it has been seen as a triumphant season in which Babe Ruth ended the Dead-Ball Era and brought baseball into a productive Live-Ball Era. Second, it has been seen as disastrous season ending in the Black Sox Scandal, the worst sin in baseball history. Traditionally, the social historical perspective has made sense of these differing views by noting the power of the capitalist owners over their player-employees. In banning the eight Black Sox for life, the owners forcefully removed the offending party and brought their sport into line without addressing the more fundamental labor issues that drove the scandal. However, this perspective cannot make sense of why scandals continued to plague the sport throughout the 1920s, long after the Black Sox were banned. In this article, I argue that baseball's recovery from the Black Sox scandal is linked to the rise of advertising as a cultural force. Drawing from James Cook's article "The Return of the Culture Industry," I show that advertising allowed baseball to fight back against negative images being spread in the press and spread the image of Babe Ruth to form a popular conception of 1919 as a positive, rather than negative, season. This has produced a split consciousness among baseball consumers, explaining how fans can simultaneously believe the positive and negative narratives about 1920s baseball.
Vaughn, Nathan E.
"Baseball at the Precipice of a Watershed Moment in the Production of the Popular,"
Madison Historical Review: Vol. 18, Article 8.
Available at: https://commons.lib.jmu.edu/mhr/vol18/iss1/8