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
Then someoneeither John Gordon or Herb or maybe my own memorymentioned
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
rightthe 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 baseballfrom Steinbrenner to
Rodriguez to Donald Fehrgot 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 moneyand continue to do so in spite
of our grumblingwhy 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 gamemy
suggestion is first game after the All-Star Break. July 11 Opening day of
the second half of the season.
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
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 seasonthere'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 wasa 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 responsibilityto
ourselves and to future generationsto 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 betterjust
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 lightyou
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
However, the Dome does possess one great advantage. It's the best studio for baseball.
Because in Minnesotahell, in every city in Americabaseball'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
Baseball is a game of distraction, and the radio serves that well. In a proper
stadiumsans roof, with grass, and hopefully a view of a skylineyou
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.
HIGH PRAISE DEPT
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 radiomost 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.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
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 yearand 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
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.