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Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

You know, there's nothing better than a baseball game to take one's mind off the troubles of the world. The other night, after a typically frustrating day serving the public at America's Largest Orange Themed Home Improvement Store™, I found myself driving around simply to listen to the Twins on the box. Hauling around with my windows down, I could smell an approaching storm. Thunder crackled on the AM. Behind Herb Carneal's mellifluous voice, the crowd murmured with a soothing roar like a you'd hear in a conch shell. For a moment nothing mattered but baseball.

Then someone—either John Gordon or Herb or maybe my own memory—mentioned Bud Selig. Tampa Bay was now being considered for the chopping block. Out of my revelry that recurring anger began to swell in my chest. Then I remembered that Alex Rodriguez is making a quarter of a billion dollars to play baseball, and my throat began to hurt. As Jeremy Giambi pulled out another late inning whallop, I was reminded that, once again, the New York Yankees have bought themselves whatever they need to roll the red carpet straight to the next fall classic. Oh, that's right—the post-season might vanish in the undertow of another strike. My hands gripped the wheel tight and I wondered if there was ever going to be a time when I could just be a fan again, and not feel like a victim.

It got me to thinking. What to do about this mess? Surely the owners are to blame. And the millionaire players. Oh, yes, and Donald Fehr. We can write to our legislators, and hope that they'll do what their predecessors haven't done for nearly a hundred years. But writing letters to the editors of the newspapers doesn't seem like much. Will they let you in the ballpark with signs that are critical of the owners? Mostly though, we just sit around and gripe and grouse, read the pundits in our local rag, tear through Costas' book and hope someone listens. Maybe the owners will get it together this year. Maybe they'll have revenue sharing. Maybe the Yankees won't go to the series this year. If there is a Series.

Thing is, when you sit down and think about it, trace all problems to their source, they share a common root. It's not the owners. It's not the players. It's not the congress or the governor or the president. Pogo said it best:

We have met the enemy and he is us.

That's right, baseball fans: the New York Yankees, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers and their big-market owners aren't evil warlords with hordes of black-hooded tax-collectors wielding battle-axes. Rather, they're just greedy businessmen armed with the silliest of weapons: your money and mine, freely given. Giambi didn't make his millions because of some five cent surtax on sour cream and cereal. No, his paycheck comes from the New York Yankees. And the New York Yankees … well, they got it from you and me. They got it from the tired men and women and children who buy expensive tickets to Yankees games, wearing their Yankees hats and shirts with the little official "MLB" logo on the back. Every multi-millionaire in baseball—from Steinbrenner to Rodriguez to Donald Fehr—got his money from you and me. And nowhere else.

So what are we to do? How can we get the Steinbrenners, the Murdochs, even the Pohlads of this world to finally come up with a fair and reasonable plan to make baseball whole again? Write letters to the editors of the local gazette? Beg our legislators to draft legislation? Boo Rodriguez when he comes to your town? Go ahead. In spite of "Blue Ribbon Panels", in spite of books like Bob Costas', in spite of every roll-over-on-your stomach legislator, the problems won't get fixed anytime, if at all. Why? Because, for the owners of all of the baseball teams, the sport isn't broken. They make money, whether they admit to it or not. And as long as they're making money—and continue to do so in spite of our grumbling—why would they offer anything other than piecemeal solutions that only give the illusion of reform? Nothing has worked in the past, and the future does not hold much promise. Believe it: another strike is coming, small-market teams will continue to lose, and baseball stadiums will be built with our tax dollars. And if we keep coming back to baseball like addicts shuffling back to the methadone clinic, nothing's going to change.

There is but one solution. The time has come for us to put our money where our mouth is. To say, in plain words, loud and clear: we're not going to pay anymore .

That's right: a boycott. At first, not the whole season. Perhaps just one game—my suggestion is first game after the All-Star Break. July 11— Opening day of the second half of the season.

Sound difficult? Perhaps. But it's better than enduring the slow death of the sport that presumes to treat us like peons. Our backs are against the wall, and the reality is that we will never have the pleasure of enjoying the sport completely until it's fixed. And it won't get fixed without our standing up and shaking things up.

But this begs the question: why should the fan have to do the work? Well, the lesson's old but it's still true. You have fight for what you believe in. Maybe it shouldn't be that way, but it is. The violator does not stop the pillage simply because it is finally pointed out that someone's being hurt. From voting rights to the freedom to be a free agent, the men and women who found themselves gripping the short end of the stick knew that you didn't wait for the system to change. Baseball will not reform. We have to make it so.

All professional sports are screwy, and have their scandals now and again, but really, no one begins the football season wondering if the Super Bowl's going to happen this year. Green Bay is on the verge of another good season—there's no smaller market than that. From Hockey, to Basketball, fans in those sports have the privilege of following the scandals, or ignoring them. For they really have little to do with the regular season.

Secondarily, we have to act because we believe in baseball. For so many of us fans, we hold sacred the notions as espoused in "Field of Dreams". That this is a sport that unites the generations, that is the National Pastime, etc. Well, now's the time to prove whether we really believe that, or if it's just a bunch of words spoken by James Earl Jones. When I was a kid, I got to enjoy baseball without scandal for a few years, before the '81 strike threw me for a loop. Well, I'm tired of it. We owe it to the future generations to make the game what it once was—a game.

And this is the best time. Another strike looms on the horizon, one that may cancel yet another World Series. Certainly nothing is going to be accomplished in the next year that could be construed as true reform. So it is time for the people who are most affected to act.

However, we must remember that this boycott can only succeed if we communicate. Essential to the action of boycott is marriage to the din of complaint. Along with bearing down and not buying, listening, following, watching, or having anything having to do with baseball July 11 (the first game after the All-Star break), we must communicate. The league will need to know why we're not going to the games. Write letters as often as possible: to the owners, to Donald Fehr, to the radio and television stations that broadcast, to the manufacturers of the hats and the pins and the bobbing-head dolls. Even to the players themselves, who have strong voices in the union. Failure to communicate will result in everyone coming up with their own reasons for dwindling attendance, reasons that satisfy themselves, and solve nothing.

So what do we communicate? Well, for starters, how about revenue sharing? Our suggestion is that, in the interest of accountability and to prevent conflicts of interest, a workable parity plan should be made by an outside source. No one involved in baseball should be allowed to work on this plan. Perhaps a panel of minds from both the NBA and the NFL should draft it.

We believe Bud Selig should resign, and that an independent commissioner, chosen by an outside source, should be in charge. Perhaps the mayors of every city with a ball club could decide. Even better, the fans could vote. If the cabal demands the public should pay for stadiums, then the public should vote for commissioners. You know, taxation with representation, what what.

That's just the beginning. And it's just the ideas from one little source, namely this silly rag. Send us your comments and suggestions! Let make this our goal: to have a finished list of demands by July 1.

This is going to be a rough road. If our one-day boycott doesn't work, then it may have to go to one week, then maybe a whole season. Baseball's going to get hurt, and we're going to get hurt. No, we're not going to get roughed up by some thick Pinkerton Ops, but ignoring baseball and writing letters is no one's idea of fun. Thing is, no one else is going to help us save baseball. It is our responsibility—to ourselves and to future generations—to fight for the game we love.

Then again, if you feel that this is too overwhelming a burden, and whoever heard of boycotting a sport, well, then go ahead and keep watching. Keep on spending money, cursing to yourself about skyrocketing salaries, the New York Yankees and your team's inability to make it past third place. Maybe grumbling in the stands while waving that foam number-one finger will finally generate some real change.

But don't bet on it.

Radio Days: or, The Best Way to Watch the Game

You can quote us: Summer in Minnesota is the best in the whole United States. After six months of winter, of enduring grey skies and bitter cold and wondering where oh where you can find those damn lights that mimic the July sun, spring seems like a real joy. Except that spring usually isn't much better—just warm enough to melt the snow and make you run around with in t-shirts so you get nailed with a head cold. But summer! Summer in Minnesota is sunshine and those great storms that come crashing through and the reek of rotting milfoil rising off the city lakes. It's lush greenery and well manicured lawns. Lake Street and the Doppler boom of bass-heavy automobiles, the farting roars of Harley Davidsons and enjoying the view of the hardbodies rollerblading around Lake Calhoun.

This pastoria makes watching baseball a worthless activity. Baseball in the Dome is about as exciting as a sunny afternoon in one of the suburban malls. To make matters worse, the Dome roof isn't even so thick as to block out all the light—you can see the undulating yellow of the sun as it fights with the clouds, shining through the grimy white ceiling and reminding you that it would be better to be outside. And television? You gotta be crazy to watch TV in heart of Thursday or Sunday afternoon.

However, the Dome does possess one great advantage. It's the best studio for baseball. Because in Minnesota—hell, in every city in America—baseball's best when listened to on the radio.

See, Minneapolis is a great driving town, and toodling around with the windows down while listening to the sharp tandem of John G. Gutowsky and Daniel Gladden is pure joy. For starters, radio allows the imagination to wander. In the pregnant moments when all you hear is the crowd, you can imagine a million scenarios. Also, you can invoke the fates while listening to the radio. During a close game, I find that if I stare at one object, and keep focused, something good will happen. Just the other night I was good enough to keep my eye on a patch of creeping charlie and shaking my fist in just the right way, praying for a run. Doug Mientkiewicz hit a towering home run because of it. Don't bother to thank me…they lost, anyway.

Baseball is a game of distraction, and the radio serves that well. In a proper stadium—sans roof, with grass, and hopefully a view of a skyline—you can look up at the dome of blue, have your conversations with your neighbor, head to the eatery, whatever. On TV you basically just sit and stare. But being able to participate mentally in a game while mowing the lawn is akin to dying and going to heaven in my book. Mind you, this only works with an old fashioned reel mower, but you get my drift. You can watch the eye candy strutting around the lakes, follow the sunset on the highway, and still be on the field with the Twins.


Is there any radio duo better than John Gordon and Dan Gladden? Yes, Herb Carneal's still around, and Ernie Harwell is in his last season in Detroit. Vin Scully's still waxing poetic down Los Angeles way. But those guys are nearing the end, and in our book it's great to listen to a pair who are not only in the same league as those golden greats, but who'll be around for the next generation.

John Gordon's as good as the best of 'em. One example of his genius is his ability to raise the tension in a game. Notice when he calls a home run. Taking a cue from the great Red Barber, Gordon has us follow the outfielder, as he chases the ball back, back, back. Will he catch it? Is it a homer? Watch the game on TV and listen to Gordo call the game on the radio—most often the senior medium is the most thrilling.

And what about Dan Gladden? This hardscrabble ballplayer actually has a good voice and, even better, an unrestrained opinion. His spontaneous irascibility is welcome in a medium too often staffed with the team water-carriers. Not even Alex Rodriguez is immune from the full force of Gladden's invective. And when he gets to chewing up the day's game with third base coach Al Michaels, you'd be ill-pressed to find a better analysis anywhere.


Did the Pirates really whine about signal stealing? For Christ's sake, isn't that why you mix your signals up? The gentlemen in the Pirates dugout need to be reminded that this is baseball, not cricket.

Sorry, but we'll take the race in the NL West over the fabled Boston-Yankee rivalry. Why? Because it looks as though both those money-buckets'll make it to the playoffs, one as a division winner, the other as wild card. Playing for home field advantage might thrill you in the NFL, but in baseball it's who gets left behind that makes us high. And that's the scoop in the West. Arizona's good, but aging and not so deep. Will LA fall back as usual? Can Dusty Baker pull San Fran into the playoffs? We get the feeling it'll come down to a game or two, sending one of these sun-drenched clubs to the title, one to the wild-card, and one straight back home, brooding over every game they lost and wondering if couldn't have been different.

We're still holding to our prediction that the Twins could win their division with a losing record. Nonetheless, it could happen that they win it with the same 85-77 won-lost record from last year—and keep a tradition alive. Lest we not forget that it was the 1987 Twins that upended a fatigued Detroit Tigers team to go on to win their first World Series… with an 85-77 regular season record.


One of the beauties of baseball is that, while football may have usurped the title of the National Pastime, no other sport is as literary. Sure, there are dozen of books on every major sport, but we'd bet you a silver dollar that for every book on basketball, there's ten on baseball.

During the season, there's always good commentary to be had. Roger Angell's always a good read, and his article in the June 3rd edition of the New Yorker highlights the trials and tribulations of the other New York Leviathan: the Mets.

In Minnesota, we're fortunate to have the observations of Brad Zellar in the woeful City Pages. Zellar's commentary comes supported with just enough statistics to prove his point, without giving you a SABR headache. He's also critical without coming off as childish, a lesson the Star-Tribune's staff could take to heart.

While in Detroit, check out the Free Press staff of John Lowe, Gene Guidi, and for the cynical perspective, Drew Sharp. Sharp, who seems to be the only one who's not awestruck by Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, is a writer as fine-edged as his surname.

And straight from downtown Squaresville comes The Baseball Digest. Personally, I hate most baseball magazines. USA Today Baseball Weekly is the only periodical I know that literally takes ten minutes to read, and then leaves me feeling I've just wasted ten minutes. Sports Illustrated and ESPN Magazine are all soaked in testosterone and flashy graphics. But Baseball Digest's the real deal. Still printed on cheap newsprint, with black and white photos that still look amateurish at best, the articles are pedestrian but interesting. Combining a love of the present sport with a respect for the past, BD never fails to leave me feeling as if I've just learned something.

Say, listen: we can't be everywhere at once. If you have a favorite beat writer in your neck of the woods, please write to us. Keep us posted on the great articulators who cover your team, or those who cover the sport in general, and we'll pass it on.

Cobb: A Biography
By Al Stump

© 2002 Mudville Magazine. All Rights Reserved.