Why did prize fighting, horse racing, and baseball become the first three professional sports in the United States?What moral problems did prize fighting and horse racing have to confront that...

Why did prize fighting, horse racing, and baseball become the first three professional sports in the United States?

What moral problems did prize fighting and horse racing have to confront that baseball somewhat avoided?

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brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is opinion of course, but all three of those sports started at a very local, informal level, and as they grew in popularity, they turned into professional leagues as they went.  That is, these were grass roots sports that caught on slowly.  What really turned the corner for all three of them in terms of being national pastimes, to me, was the invention and popular sale of the radio in the 1920s.  All three of these are easily broadcast over the radio to mass audiences who didn't have the money or transportation to get to these matches/races/games.

For quite a while, crowding around the one radio set in the neighborhood on a Saturday night listening to Max Baer and Jimmy Braddock pound away, or to hear Seabiscuit and War Admiral race during the 30's, or Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig become champions on the airwaves as Yankees in the 20s, was what people did on the weekends.  The radio took these sports to the entire country, and aided in the formation of professional leagues and associations, at least at a much faster pace.  While there was already professional baseball, for example, by the 1920s, it would never have reached the professional heights it did, or perhaps even survived at all, without the radio and later television.

The main moral problems associated with horse racing at the time, I would think, were the weight issues and treatment of jockeys who were heavily exploited and usually died penniless and early, and the treatment of the horses, long before animal cruelty laws were in place.

marbar57 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, it's pretty obvious why Baseball became a professional sport in that it was invented in this country and was pretty much one of the first sports played in this country.  I guess it's been around for about 150 years.  Basically, it's a pretty clean sport if you discount the tobacco chewing, spitting, and swearing.  Although there have been some scandals through the years, I don't believe there's been any professional betting.  If there has, it's not been condoned by Major League Baseball.

Why did prize fighting and horse racing become professional sports?  Because they were something even the common citizen could go and watch, they were exciting, and people clammored to get to participate. 

Prize fighting and horse racing, though oldtime sports, pretty much originated in Europe and Asia and came to America with the immigrants.  Betting seems to have come with the sports and has been carried on for years, ultimately leading to other vices such as murder, drugs, theft, graft, corruption, and extortion.   It seems people will do anything to earn money so they can go to the races!  Sometimes they get into trouble because of their betting and then it become a vicious circle until they get in deep.  Sometimes they can't get out!

If I had to choose between the three sports, it would definately be baseball!

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Interesting question to ponder.  The moral issues are much more pronounced and complex in horse-racing and boxing than in baseball for several reasons, I think.

First, they are individual sports and therefore much more prone to the "fix."  Both are strongly connected to betting/gambling and a single person can manipulate an outcome much more easily than in baseball (though we know it has been done, at times).  Where money is involved, morality often takes a back seat.

Second, both put the health of the athletes at risk.  Anyone who's ever seen Rocky knows boxers are at great risk in the ring; and the more often they fight, the greater the danger.  Many boxing stories have depicted this world and its hazards, including Cinderalla Man and Million Dollar Baby.

In horse, racing, the jockeys are at risk, as mentioned above.  The horses are the greatest athletes in this sport, and their health and well being are ensured only when and if they're winning.Both are expendable, just like prizefighters.


amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the first post has some truth in it.  Seems to me that prize fighting bloomed from boxing which was one way to keep young men off the streets and out of trouble.  I think of the Irish as they came over and how some of them actually made their living challenging the local champions and getting a portion of the bets. 

Much like boxing, horse racing is also another way to make a little through betting. 

Baseball, on the other hand, is not a sport that has openly encouraged betting unless you think of Pete Rose.



accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is interesting that there is an obvious difference between baseball and the other two sports in that baseball is fundamentally a team game, wheras prize fighting and horse racing are very individualistic sports. I wonder whether this has had something to do with baseball's appeal in history. In response to #6, surely prize fighting and baseball have more of a tradition of drinking and gambling than baseball?

drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Prize fighting and horse racing have always been associated with gambling and wagering on the outcomes. (Unfortunately, so has baseball, but it didn't start out that way.)

The same interest groups that have been historical anti-alcohol and anti-gambling would of course object to professional sports that involve large quantities of both vices.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
The first thing that came to mind for me was that these are all major gambling sports. During the nineteenth century and early twentieth centuty, these were sports that could have made people money. Since it's gambling, there could definitely be some moral issues.
lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say that the biggest moral issues would revolve around gambling in horse racing and boxing. While there is also gambling on baseball I don't think it is as prevalent as in the other two sports.

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