The Millennials can save baseball
This new generation is filled with hardworking team-player Joe DiMaggio types.
Baseball's reputation hasn't been under such a cloud since the "Black Sox" scandal of 1919. Just as Sen. George Mitchell's report identified 104 steroid users among today's big leaguers, nine decades ago a number of players, including some of the game's biggest stars, were widely reputed to be substance abusers.Skip to next paragraph
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Back then, as now, team owners put so much emphasis on short-term gains that they threatened to undercut the game's viability. Players, absorbing this "every man for himself" attitude, even conspired to fix a World Series.
While we haven't quite reached that level of venality today, one of the greatest hitters of our era has been accused of helping opponents at the cost of his own team in return for their assistance in boosting his personal stats. To some observers the game currently has reached such a crisis point that baseball historian Bill James's portrayal of the players of the 1910s as "shysters, con men, drunks, and outright thieves," could also apply to many of this era's all stars.
But just as a new generation of baseball heroes emerged in the 1930s and '40s to save the game's reputation, baseball is already witnessing the emergence of a new generation of Millennial ballplayers who will lead the sport to its next golden era.
Most of the major leaguers of the 1910s and early '20s and again in the '90s and first decade of the 21st century came from a generational archetype labeled "reactive" by theorists William Strauss and Neil Howe. In the first instance it was the Lost Generation (born 1883-1900) and in the second, Generation X (born 1965-1981). In both cases, these generations were raised by relatively self-absorbed parents who left their children to fend for themselves, producing alienated, individualistic, risk-taking adults
Lost Generation players included some of the greatest names – and flawed personalities – in the history of baseball. Babe Ruth's appetites were almost as prodigious as his ability to swat home runs. Ty Cobb was one of the most combative players of his time, and also the most disliked. Rogers Hornsby was the best right-handed hitter of his era, but also a compulsive gambler and member of the Ku Klux Klan. And Shoeless Joe Jackson who, along with seven of his White Sox teammates conspired to throw the 1919 World Series, earned infamy as the object of the plaintive plea that captured fans' disappointment with the behavior of this Lost Generation star: "Say it ain't so, Joe."
Today, virtually all of those who are accused of steroid usage, including Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, and Alex Rodriquez were born within or right on the cusp of the birth years of Generation X.