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Butchers, typesetters, draymen, bricklayers, and even clergymen organized baseball clubs.So did Irish Americans, German Americans, and African Americans.In the winter, baseball fans participated in “hot stove leagues,” reminiscing about past games and greats and speculating about what the next season had to offer.The World Series, inaugurated in 1903 and pitting the champions of the American and National Leagues in a postseason play-off, quickly took its place alongside the Fourth of July and Christmas as one of the most popular annual rites.

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But baseball, despite the spread of the game throughout the globe and the growing influence of Asian and Latin American leagues and players, is the sport that Americans still recognize as their “national pastime.” The game has long been woven into the fabric of American life and identity.Novelists and filmmakers frequently have turned to baseball motifs.After the mid-20th century, at the very time baseball at the grassroots level had begun a perceptible descent, baseball fiction proliferated.They associated baseball, or at least the professional version of the game, with ne’er-do-wells, immigrants, the working class, drinking, gambling, and general rowdiness.Conversely, these very qualities provided a foothold for the upward ascent of ethnic groups from the nation’s ghettos.

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