United Auto Workers laborers on strike
Three Batter Minimum

Three Batter Minimum: A Labor Awakening

I grew up in a working-class home. It never felt that way because my parents (well, parent until the man I would call Dad entered the picture years later) were the sort of Democrats who felt like they weren’t working-class. To them being working-class was bad in some way, despite the fact that we oscillated between working-class and poor. Instead, we acted more middle class, which probably explains why I had a bad habit upon first entering adulthood of spending well beyond my means.

The effect this all had on me was that I struggled with my place in the world. I knew that I wasn’t one of the rich kids, but I always acted like I was better than the poor or working-class kids. It wasn’t until years later when I would realize why that was and it was baseball of all things that helped me to discover my political and life identity. I’m sure my Grandma would be rolling her eyes if she knew her love of the Chicago Cubs led to me being a Socialist, but she’d also get over it rather quickly.

Pinpointing exactly when my labor and political opinions formed isn’t easy. Even up until as recently as ten years ago I still was more on the moderate Democrat side of the ledger. I do know that arguing over player’s salaries is one of the things that led to my awakening, for lack of a better word. Looking at the owners of the late 1990s and early 2000s versus the players of that same era it never made sense to me why Ken Griffey Jr. didn’t make all the money in the world. Or, why Aramis Ramírez was paid so little when he actually helped the Cubs to win. The arguments I would get into over what players deserved to be paid is what slowly led to me realizing that I valued the labor side of things so much because I had always been labor myself.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I fully dove into being a Socialist, but I realize now that a lot of the arguments I was making were Socialist in every way except for the name. To this day baseball plays a major role in how I view politics and my general views on the world. I can’t look at the present baseball landscape, specifically in Major League Baseball, and the struggle between MLB labor and MLB ownership and not see a microcosm of the greater struggle between labor and ownership.

Baseball is baseball, a great sport that I enjoy watching. It’s also an example of labor struggle, an educator on the power of labor, and a stark reminder of how easily ownership can stifle that power. Most of all, baseball is one of the best examples of the means of production. Players provide all the value, yet owners control everything. If that doesn’t radicalize you, then perhaps nothing will. 

Lead photo courtesy of Bryan Woolston – Reuters

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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