Why Baseball is Important to Immigrants

Aug 13, 2015

All summer, Jewish Museum Milwaukee has hosted an exhibit that views the history of baseball through the lens of the immigrant experience.

Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American features not only the stories of pioneering Jewish baseball players, but those of other immigrant communities.

It is a story that resonates with John Thorn. Thorn immigrated to this country from Poland in the years after World War II and became a baseball fan. His connection to the game grew strong enough that years later, the Beloit College graduate is the official historian of Major League Baseball.

"Baseball is the game that identifies us as Americans to ourselves. It's our family album. It's what connects us with previous generations within our own family and within the larger American family," Thorn explains.

Baseball is a fast ticket for anyone from anywhere to feel like an insider in America. Baseball is not the most popular sport, Thorn says, but it is a sport that allows you to see the entirety of our culture while still showing diversity through its players and those who take interest in it.

"This was one place in life where it didn't matter who your father was or what your wallet held or what your skin color was," he says. "It seemed to me that baseball provided a model for what America might only wish to be or hope to be one day."

John Thorn will talk about baseball history Thursday evening in the Solochek Memorial Lecture at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee.