Should baseball's Opening Day become a national holiday?

Budweiser sells a lot of beer during baseball season, and this week the company started a campaign with Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith to have Major League Baseball's Opening Day designated as an official national holiday. The idea produced an online petition that's going to the Obama White House.

Author of the popular "Don't Know Much About" history books, historian Kenneth C. Davis joined the "CBS This Morning: Saturday" co-hosts to discuss how a baseball day off might stack up against other major holidays.

He said the significance of federal holidays is that they are expensive and they shut the government down.

"Usually businesses also shut down, the markets and banks for instance," he said. "So it does have a cost to the economy. But that doesn't stop us from thinking about it might be a good day to take all the kids out to the ballpark so they don't have to play hooky."

According to Major League Baseball, more than 22 million people over the age of 21 have admitted to playing "hooky" to get out of work or other commitments to attend an Opening Day game. The Wall Street Journal released a poll saying 62.9 percent of people think having Opening Day as a holiday is a good idea, while 37.1 percent do not.

While many people may think having this petition approved is a longshot, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which was the most recently added federal holiday, was a struggle to get signed into law.

"Holidays, going back to the very beginning, are not an ancient idea in America," said Davis. "They don't go back to the beginnings of history. Even though we think of the Fourth of July as the first holiday, it actually didn't become an official federal holiday until 1870, when they created the first four national holidays, including New Year's Day, Christmas and the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving."

He said that this occurred in 1870 because President Ulysses S. Grant thought it would be a good idea to have national holidays to bring the country together after the Civil War.

"An idea that these were days that all Americans could celebrate together," Davis said.

Originally, there was resistance to Thanksgiving being a national holiday.

"People resented it from the very beginning for this very idea of state government versus federal government. That's a very powerful idea," he said. "They didn't want George Washington to proclaim a Thanksgiving Day because they didn't think the president had the right to tell the states which days to take off."

Similarly, while Labor Day might seem inherently American, it also has an interesting backstory. Davis said this was another example "where a political group has a lot to say about the holiday."

"It was 1895. Labor groups were trying to get the government to help them," he said. "Instead troops were being used to put down strikes. So, kinda to throw a bone to the labor movement, Labor Day was created in September."

To see the full interview with Kenneth C. Davis, watch the video in the player above

  • Shoshana Davis

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