Let's start this one by offering the disclaimer first. None of what follows is meant to state or imply that sports were “better” in the old days or, conversely, better now then they were back then. But the evolution that has taken games to big business with a corporate bent has changed things, making the world of sports different for both the athletes and fans alike. At the very beginning, all sports were games, albeit competitive, but games men (and eventually women) could play for health and enjoyment. Winning, of course, was always the immediate goal. Eventually, those playing the various sports enjoyed it so much they didn't want to do anything else. And with increasing numbers of people coming to watch, they began getting paid to play. Professional sports was born.
Baseball was by far the most popular professional sport in the early days of the 20th Century and the most organized. But it was a far different game than today. By way of comparison, let's take a look at two of the greatest shortstops who ever lived – Honus Wagner, who played from 1897 to 1917 and Derek Jeter, retiring this year after starting his Yankees career in 1995. Both loved the game and played with the same fervor, dedication and enjoyment. Even their numbers are fairly similar. But that's where the comparison ends.