Increasing Popularity of Sports in the 1950s

by admin - October 12th, 2017

By Amanda Babbitt

Although sports had been around long before the 1950s, many factors lead to the increasing popularity of spectator sports in this time. Since it was common for a household to own a television, sports became much more accessible to the average family. They no longer had to go to a sports game in order to watch it and they now could enjoy it from the comfort of their own home. “Sports franchises began to operate more like businesses,” (Dunar 242). Sports games became more profitable because so many more people were watching which benefited the sports franchises. Instead of playing the game just for fun it became more of a business for the companies.

Jim Brown, an African American, all-American fullback at Syracuse University. Joined Cleveland Browns in 1957.

During this time African Americans began playing a more dominant role in sports than they had in the past. Players such as Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby were African American baseball players that were able to escape the race barrier previously in the way of showing their full potential. Although discrimination still occurred making it harder for an African American to become part of the team than it would have been for a white man, “African American athletes began to transform the game of baseball in the fifties,” (Dunar 242). . African American players played important roles in the professional basketball and football teams along with the baseball teams unlike ever before. The Boston Celtics Red Auerbach and Bill Russell were basketball athletes that excelled in the sport transforming their team in a positive way. As for football, Jim Brown had a very successful athletic career despite his race which would have been an issue a decade earlier.

Baseball, basketball, and football were all popular sports and are usually still considered some of the top sports but back in the 1950s bowling was remarkably popular. “Bowling alleys sprouted up across the nation and Americans by the thousands entered local leagues,” ( making bowling the United State’s most popular participation sport. College football became more popular than pro football with teams like Ohio State as top competition. Boxing was another sport that was prominent in the ‘50s. This website goes more into depth on various sports and highlights and top players in these sports throughout the 1950s.

If it weren’t for the major increase in interest and accessibility of sports games in the 1950s, what we know and love of sports today may not have existed or existed to the extent it does. Sports generate a large amount of revenue for places like colleges and professional teams. They provide a way to connect people of a city or people from all over that support the same team as others. Sports are a major source of entertainment whether they are being watched on the television or in real life it is something many people not only in the U.S. but all over the world enjoy. Sports also provide a means of staying in shape and providing physical activity for athletes while doing something they are able to enjoy doing. The 1950s were an import time for the sports we know and love today.

Works Cited
“1950s Sports: History, Facts, MVPs & Champions.” RetroWaste. N.p., n.d. Web.

Dunar, Andrew J. America in the Fifties. N.p.: Syracuse UP, 2006. Print.

“The 1950s Sports: Topics in the News.” U*X*L American Decades. 10 Oct. 2017 <>.

3 Responses to “Increasing Popularity of Sports in the 1950s”

  1. Meagan Perro says:

    I wish that sports franchises never began to operate more like businesses, because I think many things would be different/ better. If sports made no profit, I think many people who play would stop playing and this would give the chance to people who really want to be there. I agree that sports became a major part of the Civil Rights Movement, allowing segregation in sports. Sports would be very different if they were separate today. Your comment on bowling is interesting because I never thought of bowling as a sport, never mind the most popular sport in the 1950s. Sports are a major part of life today and life would be very different without the rise of popularity in the 1950’s.

  2. Hoang Vo says:

    Wow, bowling was the most popular sport in the 1950s? That is surprising, I would not even consider bowling as a sport. I disagree with Meagan’s comment on sports became more like businesses, I think professional sports exist because it’s the place for the best of the best. These players get pay unreal amount of money because of their talents and hard work. If sports made no profit, it certainly would not interest good players who were willing to spend years to practice and get better just to earn nothing. Although, it would give the chance to people who really want to play, it would not interest the audience. Imagine watching a high school football game on T.V, as compare to a professional game. The skills and fascinating plays are what attracting the audience, if these elements are missing, I don’t think sports would be the same. I also think that there must be a correlation between sports’ popularity and new business industries such as bars or restaurants that host sport games, fast food businesses and advertisement. After all, the evolution of sports in the 1950s provided many opportunities such as new businesses and hopes because of the racial diversity in sports.

  3. Erin McCormack says:

    The idea about college sports rising to popularity was interesting to me because I did not know that it was popular back in the 1950s. Today, college sports are a huge part of the sports industry and as Amanda mentioned in her post about the 1950s they can be just as popular, if not more popular than professional sports. College football is a huge interest of many Americans, particularly in the South and March Madness for college basketball is also very important to a large percentage of Americans. Also, in regards to Meagan and Hoang’s comments on the business side of sports, it may be interesting to look into a documentary that I saw last year which highlighted the business of college sports. The documentary is, “Schooled: The Price of College Sports” which researched into whether or not division I college athletes should be paid or not because of the tremendous amount of money the NCAA makes off of them. I found it very interesting and it connected well with the conversation revolving around the business side of sports.