"Middle-Class Paradise"
Commodifying Leisure | Elysian Fields | Wright and the Reds | National Association | William Hulbert
"Middle-Class Paradise" | "Beer and Whiskey League" | A. G. Spalding | The Brotherhood | Unimagined Baseball

the Toledo groundsOf the Chautauqua grounds, William James wrote, "sobriety and industry, intelligence and goodness, orderliness and ideality, prosperity and cheerfulness, pervade the air."1 This "middle-class paradise" was founded in 1874, two years prior to the National League's inception. NL owners sought just such a white-collar paradise within their ballparks.

The League was able to control the demographics of its crowds with two mechanisms: the time and the cost of the games. By banning Sunday play, teams were assured of excluding most lower class laborers, who worked even a half day on Saturdays, from the ballparks. On top of this was the NL's relatively expensive ticket price of 50 cents. New York's Polo GroundsForbidding the sale of alcohol further "humanized" the crowd. Some owners encouraged female fans with "Ladies' Day" promotions, so as to make men "more choice in the selection of adjectives,"2 according to the Sporting News.

The ballparks themselves evidence this cultivation of the middle-class spectator. The stadiums became marketing tools, and owners had to sell an experience. Carriage parking and armchairs for ladies were offered. The ballpark as theater was nearly realized in St. George's Grounds on Staten Island. Sporting Life reported:

The stand is divided into two galleries and will have a seating capacity of about 5,000. In the centre lower will be the ladies' refreshment parlor, and under the north end the general dining room. These unwonted attachments to a baseball stand have been added. . . to make the place a popular summer evening resort.3

On May 25, 1888, the second incarnation of Boston's South End Grounds were opened, with its "cathedral-like grand stand."4 The only two-tiered baseball park Boston has ever known, the Grounds more closely resembled the backdrop for a jousting tournament, replete with the ubiquitous baseball pennant.

1 Alan Trachtenberg, The Incorporation of America (New York: Hill and Wang, 1982) 140.
2 Allen Guttman, Sports Spectators (New York: Columbia UP, 1986) 115.
3 Michael Gershman, Diamonds: The Evolution of the Ballpark (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993) 42.
4 "Phillies Merit Unstinted Praise," The Boston Daily Globe 26 May 1888: 4-5.

Ben Lisle -- American Studies at the University of Virginia -- December 2000