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The great depression.

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The Great Depression was arguably the worst economic period this country has faced in its history. People who were well off financially on Monday October 28, 1929 were now broke after Tuesday October 29, 1929, the day the stock market lost $15 billion, and subsequently crashed, setting off the worst 10 year economic period in United States history. People struggled to find food, a place to live, as well as jobs (Watkins, T.H. The Great Depression. Boston: Little Brown and Co, 1993. page 40). With the Depression going on, people needed an outlet. A lot of people wanted to rid themselves of the problems facing their families and the country as a whole, even if it was for a short time. Therefore, some used the entertainment industry as an outlet. Movies, plays and sports were outlets for people facing hard times. Even though some things closed or stopped during the depression, the entertainment industry prevailed (Beaver, Frank. The 1930's. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2000. page 280). Sports were still the biggest outlet for people. People liked sports for the same reasons they do today, the entertainment value, the competition, and the chance to root on individual players or teams. In baseball and football, a new type of athlete emerged, tough, feisty, and aggressive. Sports provided the basis for the ongoing American myth of individual success and competition during a period of stagnation and paralysis. Sports were huge in the depression because they provided a diversion and interest that could be followed cheaply. Athletic activity, which had an emphasis on exertion and winning, stood in sharp contrast to the helplessness many people felt. Sports were a great way to be involved in a part of society that was not screwed up (Noverr, Douglas; Ziewacz, Lawrence. The Games they Played. Sports in American History, 1865-1980. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1983. page 99). Sports were a popular thing in the 1920's. ...read more.


Even with the sales of tickets down, baseball decided not to lower ticket prices. Instead, they raised them. Owners argued that ticket prices had not been raised in 20 years, and it was time for an increase. The National League announced in 1932 it would institute a 10% federal tax on all tickets. All but two teams, Cleveland and Cincinnati increased their prices. It came down to which owners could withstand the losses and which ones could not. The teams that were successful in the 1930's were the ones with money. Because of this, some teams traded the players with the highest salaries to other teams who could afford them. (This sounds like the same way it is today!) It came down to winning and losing money, or losing and breaking even. The New York Yankees spent $1 million on salaries each year during the Depression and won five pennants. The Philadelphia Athletics, winners of three straight Pennants from 1929-1931, sold all their best players during the Depression, and finished near the bottom of the standings every year (Gipe, George. The Great American Sports Book. New York: Doubleday Inc., 1978. page 170.) Baseball did other things to "spice up" the game. One of those was playing night baseball. In May of 1939, President Roosevelt was on hand to turn the lights on at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. Other teams would soon follow, and by 1940, all but two of the 16 teams had lights. The Detroit Tigers held out until 1945, while the Chicago Cubs did not acquire lights until 1989 (www.sportingnews.com/archives). Another significant moneymaker was the construction of Cleveland Municipal stadium in 1932. The park held 78,000 people, and was sold out for the 1935 all-star game. New Stadiums would be the wave of the future. Even the WPA got involved and helped construct some stadiums. The only problem was, some teams would not build new stadiums, and they were losing money. ...read more.


As one can see, sports varied in their individual success during the Great Depression. But as a whole, sports made a difference in people's lives during the worst economic period in American History. Sports gave people just what they needed: an outlet to make them forget about their own problems, and the country's problems, even if it was for a few short hours. Americans latched onto their sport heroes more than ever during this period, because athletes had something the average American did not have at the time: a well paying job, success, and fame. Athletes were people to look up to in this time of great distress. Sports played the role of morale booster and it was a reprive from what was going on in society. The owners and businessmen made their teams/clubs/sports survive through innovation, experimentation and tight economics. Athletes were looked at as survivors, so people wanted to emulate them. As far as the impact of sports caused by the Great Depression, it varied from sport to sport. All sports were affected, but Boxing made the most money, and pro football lost the most, and baseball was everyone's favorite. It could be argued that college basketball was born during the Depression, and pro basketball was created on the success of college basketball during the Depression. Salaries were cut in all pro sports, attendance dropped, but in the end all survived. Each sport came up with different ways to sell its product to the American people. The organization and leadership of sports was huge, in keeping the games going. It is without question that sports played a big role in boosting morale of the country and it brought people together. Although the Depression tried its best to derail sports, it did not succeed in doing so, and it helped shape sports into what they are today: good entertainment, and something that people can come together and enjoy. How Sports Survived the Great Depression Steve Goes Great Depression December 5, 2001 Dr. ...read more.

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