The Empire Strikes Out

Robert Elias is up front about his politics.

Of Ronald Reagan, Elias says that the former president’s work recreating baseball games in a radio studio was good training for “mastering the art of impromptu fabrication that later served him so well in Washington.”

Elias recalls Oliver North’s witless contention that the appearance of baseball fields in aerial photographs of Nicaragua “proved Cuban influence because, as everyone knows, ‘The Nicaraguans play soccer, not baseball.’” “Of course,” writes Elias, “North was ignorant or lying, or both.”

This is refreshing stuff, as is Elias’s thoughtful and thorough demonstration of the ways in which professional baseball has served the interests of the empire. From the 1888 world tour with which Albert Spalding attempted to plant baseball and create customers for his equipment business all over the world to the various ways in which Major League Baseball is attempting to control the current market in players and baseball-related products, the masters of the game have served the masters of the nation.

None of this is to suggest that baseball is unique in its aims. In fact, at the end of The Empire Strikes Out, Robert Elias suggests that football may be baseball’s best hope for becoming a game rather than just another strategy for promoting the politics of the homeland. Of baseball he writes, “It might do better by letting football beat the war drums while baseball instead pushes the nation to live up to its ideals.”

This program aired on March 4, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Headshot of Bill Littlefield

Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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