home | many pasts | evidence | www.history | blackboard | reference
talking history | syllabi | students | teachers | puzzle | about us
search: go!
advanced search - go!

Poet William Carlos Williams Describes the Crowd at the Ballpark

Baseball’s growing popularity in the 1920s can be measured by structural and cultural changes that helped transform the game, including the building of commodious new ballparks; the emergence of sports pages in daily urban newspapers; and the enormous popularity of radio broadcasts of baseball games.Baseball commentators and critics expended much ink during the 1920s discussing the exact nature and composition of this new and expanding fan population. Some derided the influx of new fans to urban ballparks, in part because of the growing visibility in the bleachers of the sons and daughters of working-class Italian, Polish, and Jewish immigrants, and in part because the game seemed to be straying from its origins in traditional rural and small-town America. Poet William Carlos Williams evoked the growing diversity of baseball’s fans and their impact on the game in “The Crowd at the Ball Park,” published in the Dial in 1923.

The crowd at the ball game

is moved uniformly

by a spirit of uselessness

which delights them—

all the exciting detail

of the chase

and the escape, the error

the flash of genius—

all to no end save beauty

the eternal—

So in detail they, the crowd,

are beautiful

for this

to be warned against

saluted and defied—

It is alive, venomous

it smiles grimly

its words cut—

The flashy female with her

mother, gets it—

The Jew gets it straight—it

is deadly, terrifying—

It is the Inquisition, the


It is beauty itself

that lives

day by day in them


This is

the power of their faces

It is summer, it is the solstice

the crowd is

cheering, the crowd is laughing

in detail

permanently, seriously

without thought

Source: William Carlos Williams, “The Crowd at the Ball Game,” Dial, 1921.

See Also:The National Pastime in the 1920s: The Rise of the Baseball Fan
Journalists Pay Homage to Babe Ruth and the House That He Built