The 1920s was one of the golden decades of history in America. Many aspects of American life were making changes, advancements, or simply getting more and more popular. All these changes and increases of popularity were happening so fast that the 1920s came to be known as the “Roaring Twenties.” One of the aspects of American culture that began to rise in popularity was the world of sports. Sports were starting to become a staple in the lives of many Americans. The increased admiration for sports was brought forth by many things. National sports heroes were being made, baseball became “the national pastime” of America, and the radio made it far easier for sporting events to be broadcasted and enjoyed by many. These factors, and many others, contributed to the “roar” of sports in the Twenties.
As the popularity of sports rose, the popularity of those involved in the sports rose as well. Before 1920, most sports stars were heroes locally rather than nationally. Once the Roaring Twenties came around, that all changed. Known as the “Golden Age of Sports”, the 1920s produced many big names in the world of sports. Baseball, football, boxing, and many other sports were teeming with talent. Athletes like Babe Ruth, Red Grange, and Jack Dempsey became American sports heroes. Coming out of World War 1, many Americans had lost faith in the human spirit. They were downcast and saw the world through bleak eyes. Sports heroes changed all of that.
Many American citizens began seeing how a single person could accomplish great things. Due to this, the popularity of national sports heroes skyrocketed. This alone wasn’t the only reason why athletes were so admired. The 1920s weren’t only the “Golden Age of Sports”, they were also the “Golden Age of the Sportswriter.” Journalists made the already impressive athletes seem otherworldly. Sportswriters were the individuals responsible for turning Babe Ruth into “The Sultan of Swat”, Red Grange into “The Galloping Ghost”, and Jack Dempsey into “The Manassa Mauler.” Women like tennis player Helen Wills and swimmer Gertrude Ederle were getting coverage for doing great things in their respective sport. Any great athlete making an impact at the time, became a national hero that others looked up to.
Of all the sports in the 1920s, none was as admired and enjoyed as “the national pastime.” Baseball surged in popularity during the time, and it gained many followers for different reasons. Whether it was because of political scandals, national heroes, or simply for the love of the game, baseball was being talked about. Commonly known as the “Big Fix” of 1919, The Black Sox Baseball Scandal was a topic that many people talked about. During the 1919 World Series, eight members of the Chicago White Sox purposefully lost games and eventually went on to lose the Series. Arnold “Chick” Gandil, Eddie Cicotte, Oscar “Happy” Felsch, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Charles “Swede” Risberg, George “Buck” Weaver, and Claude “Lefty” Williams were the eight players who were in on the scandal. In exchange for money from gamblers like Arnold Rothstein and others in some syndicates, the players lost a majority of their games in the World Series. After failing to receive the money in the ways they wanted, the players became angry and called off the deal. They started playing to win, but the White Sox still lost the Series (Andrews). Another reason baseball was being talked about was the players, and no player was as big as “the Babe.”
Babe Ruth dominated the baseball world in the 1920s. He was breaking records left and right. Being one of the first athletes to truly go above his sport and become a national icon, Ruth was being talked about by many. On his debut season with the New York Yankees, Babe hit 54 home runs – the player who hit the second most only had 19 (Tejvan). With seasons like that all through the Twenties, it was no wonder Babe Ruth was being talked about. These reasons and more were why baseball surged in popularity. During the “Roaring Twenties”, more and more people began going to baseball games, followed the sport, and began to play it. Being the “Golden Age of Sports”, the Twenties were truly where baseball truly became “the national pastime.”
The date was August 5, 1921 on a Friday. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 8 to 5 that day. It was the first time a baseball game was broadcasted over the radio (Rosenheck). The radio changed the way people could enjoy sporting events. It was a brand new form of entertainment that quickly made its impact on American society. People could enjoy the excitement of a baseball game or a boxing match from the comfort of their homes. They could visualize a home run or a knock-out punch by listening to sportscaster talk. Announcers would give play-by-play descriptions of baseball games that thousands of people could all listen to at once. The radio also brought attention to many athletes and emphasized their accomplishments.
Americans heard all about the great things Jim Thorpe did, how Gertrude Ederle swam the English Channel, Helen Wills and Bill Tilden dominating on the tennis court, “Red” Grange making amazing runs during his college football career, and they got to hear how the “Bambino” became a national icon (“Movies, radio, and sports in the 1920s”). In 1927, a large part of America tuned in to hear the championship fight between “The Manassa Mauler”, Jack Dempsey, and Gene Tunney. Even death row inmates listened in on the fight. Before the 1920s and the radio, broadcasting a sporting event or match like this wasn’t possible. All thanks to the radio, the world of sports changed forever.
The 1920s were an era of great advancements in America. With all the aspects of life changing, sports were bound to change as well. Sports have always played a large part of American culture. The “Roaring Twenties” brought the wave of change that altered the world of sports forever. Without certain factors, that wave would have never been possible. If national sports heroes, “the national pastime”, and the radio wouldn’t have come along, sports couldn’t have made the tremendous leap they did. The “Roaring Twenties” will be remembered for many things, but the “Golden Age of Sports” will always be one of those things.