What Communists thought about baseball in 1934


It’s been a big couple of days for communism, what with the Cuba stuff and North Korea apparently taking over the U.S. movie industry. So, courtesy of John Thorn, let us look back at what communist baseball analysis was like in the 1930s.

At least from one communist writer, anyway. A man by the name of Mike Gold, who wrote for the Daily Worker. Sports was not his usual beat, but in 1934 he decided to take on the capitalist exploitation of the worker by, more or less, calling Dizzy Dean dean a dupe of the bourgeoisie:

Dizzy seems to be a simple-minded, Ring Lardner “You Know Me Al” ball player, raised down in the Southwest on grits and cornbread, gifted with a powerful pitching arm and a keen pair of eyes. But the stockholders of the St. Louis Cardinals and the racketeers and speculators who infest organized baseball as they do every other national sport in the country today, have a keener eye than Dizzy’s pitching ones and a stronger arm when it comes to counting the season’s profits.

Here I’d normally say something like “that sure is fun!” but it’s decidedly not fun. Indeed, I tend to think that a key part of communism’s ultimate downfall in countries that didn’t bother to have actual revolutions was that it’s a pretty humorless ideology in a lot of ways and didn’t really appreciate that some institutions were important to people and that they could, at least in theory, coexist with communist ideology. It realize the proletariat’s enslavement is Serious Business, but a few more yuks — and the acknowledgment that, in mid-century America you weren’t going to win friends by slamming baseball — may have done the ideology better in the United States.

Of course communist sports writing wasn’t always like this. Later some Daily Worker writers — most notably Lester Rodney — were way ahead of the curve regarding integration in baseball and — importantly — did not just dismiss the enterprise of sports as the opiate of the masses. But in 1934 it was still “to hell with baseball.”

Enjoy, comrades.