The Remarkable Time: When Baseball Became the Top Sport in America?



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Are you a newbie interested in baseball, but don’t know when it was considered popular or if it’s even popular any more?

Baseball was deemed the most popular sport in the years 1948 and 1960, but claimed the top spot in 1972 and has been a fan favorite ever since. Its popularity now rivals that of sports like soccer, mainly in the US. While it can’t compete with football’s popularity, there are still a lot of people who favor watching baseball on TV over any other sport. 

The rest of this article covers everything you need to know about baseball and its popularity, while also making comparisons with other popular sports. 

When was baseball at the peak of its popularity?

Baseball is a sport not only popular in the western hemisphere, but all over the world. However, most of its spectators reside in the regions of northern, southern, and central America. 

According to an article on Gallup News, 9% of total sports spectators prefer watching baseball, be it on TV or live matches, as of 2018. The trends over the past show a fluctuation in the popularity of baseball as an American favorite spectator sport, as the American public’s preferences for one sport rise over the other. 

Source: Gallup News

According to the graph above, focusing on the dark green line which symbolizes the percentage of American spectators who enjoyed watching baseball, during 1937, 34% of Americans’ favorite sport was baseball. These trends only rose in the years to come, reaching the peak in 1948 with the highest percentage of public spectators. 

Although the popularity of other sports overshadowed baseball’s popularity in the years after, baseball still remained a public favorite in the years 1948-1960. In recent decades for example 2000s and onwards, baseball rivals the popularity of basketball, having almost the same or slightly differing patterns in spectator percentages. 

Why was baseball popular in some years?

Baseball is a rather gentle-paced, high attention-demanding sport that is similar in nature to cricket, a popular sport in Europe and Asia. This sport is played all over America, in schools and in leagues all over the states, so it’s no surprise that it has become popular within a certain demographic; young adults and elders. 

Baseball became popular when opponents on either side played it as time passed during the civil war of America. What reporters describe as a mania, became a sport that soldiers took back home as remnants of the war and thus it became a unifier of sorts for both sides of the bloodiest conflict in US history. 

Once a time pass became a staple sport for households and a way for them to bond with their kids and relatives. It not only encouraged the feeling of felicity and comfort between people but growing happiness in sharing something together. 

Sentiments aside, baseball is often referred to as America’s National Pastime, according to Baseball Hall, and hence has had a very active role in shaping the nation. Historically, its important links to the times of civil war, and there’s also a National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, to commemorate just what the sport means to an average American. 

How popular is baseball compared to other sports?

Referring to the graph listed above, compared to football and soccer, baseball does not seem to hold much importance now as compared to the earlier decades in which it was introduced. It’s popularity and usage are waning, fans are disappointed in the way more and more spectators abandon baseball as a sport they’d love to watch during their pastime. 

Football overtook baseball in popularity starting in 1972 and has been an American favorite ever since. Soccer also matches baseball’s popularity now, and although both sports have been battling it out for the top spot in popularity, their percentage of spectators in recent decades has still been very close to one another (below 20%). 

How popular is MLB (Major League Baseball) among other leagues?

If we’re talking about major leagues of various sports and their comparison, it’s disappointing to say that the MLB has not been performing very well recently. According to the Daily Trojan, baseball is quickly being overtaken in popularity by the more fast-paced and rough sports like football, leaving baseball and its league way behind in the race for popularity. 

The league has been scrutinized by the public and fans for focusing on the wrong issues related to baseball, focusing on pitchers and whatnot, neglecting the real issues such as the predictability of their games and the mundane nature of baseball matches.

While the numbers for member attendance peaked in 2007, those numbers have faced a steady decline. Not only that, TV ratings have hit rock bottom (being a low 9.8 million viewers), average viewership not doing much for baseball’s popularity. The main demographic audience for the sport is elders, who succumb to time and thus don’t come to games anymore. 

In contrast to this, NBA (National Basketball Association) has had a rise in popularity, compared to the of MLB. Compared to baseball, basketball is much more action-filled, fast-paced, and adrenaline-inducing, so naturally, the audience is attracted to the games more since they want to feel the rush that others feel watching those games. 

What is the reason for baseball’s decreasing popularity?

Among the most obvious reasons is the attention spans of the audience; their attention spans are getting shorter, and they demand a quick and rewarding game with a lot of twists, turns, and action, all of which can’t be offered in the hour-long games of baseball. Thus the fans shift their loyalty towards something more rewarding. 

Why is baseball not considered a sport sometimes?

Contrary to fan beliefs, baseball is not actually considered a sport in the league of basketball and football, according to this article. Their rationale is that baseball is always used as a pastime and means of entertainment for families, and not something that requires actual skill in the field to play, although avid fans will still argue otherwise. 


Baseball is a sport that was widely popular when it was first introduced, but since then has been overshadowed by the widespread publicity of other sports the likes of basketball, football, and soccer. Although baseball still retains its fan following and some semblance of its popularity, the MLB needs to make some changes in the games for it to become popular again.

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