It is believed that baseball has its origins in upstate New York, where it was invented by Abner Doubleday in a cow field in 1839. The modern sport, however, is a fusion of cultural influences—Caribbean, Latino, Japanese, and more. It has seen many waves of immigrants adopt it and alter it, just like America.
Those influences take the mound at “¡Pleibol! The Barrios and the Big Leagues” is a bilingual exhibition that was opened at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, Washington D.C. last summer.
Cultural exchanges are not one-way. Cuban student travelers to America in the 1860s brought a first version of baseball from Cuba to the Caribbean. After professional baseball broke the color barrier, Latino players such as Roberto Clemente, from Puerto Rico, opened the door for other Hall of Famers such as Pedro Martinez, of the Dominican Republic, and Mariano Rivera, of Panama, making America’s pastime more international.
The cross-national appeal of baseball has also influenced language. Spanish speakers have adopted many English baseball terms—Strikeout, Secure, etc.—but perhaps Americans should try some of the more vibrant Latino terms. For example, defensive players who are positioned on the outfield grass are called jardineros (“gardeners”), which makes the utilitarian “outfielders” seem just plain dull.
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