My sister had actually posted this on her blog but since I wrote it, I thought I would put it on mine:
Ok, so imagine my utter disappointment and annoyance when I found out that Prison Break would not be on due to American League Baseball Game number 3. What is that? I mean, if baseball were still considered America’s favorite pastime I would feel MORE than accommodating to share my favorite night of television with the timeless institution. However, it’s not. Baseball has become nothing more than a corrupt, corporate, commercialized money making monster robbing the true essence intended and sucking the heart, soul and very breath from the game.
Back in 1976 the egg was laid and hatched when Ted Turner signed Andy Messersmith for a lifetime contract of $1 million and stuck CHANNEL 17 (Turner’s bush league television station) across the back of Messersmith’s uniform. “Ticket prices would go up, and up, and up, until you now pay as much as $157 for some seats in Yankee Stadium. The price of hot dogs and popcorn would go up. The price of parking would go up. Somebody had to pay for this tomfoolery, and who else but the fans?… The market price has soared since…corporate invaders, who think baseball is some kind of toy” are to blame. Sponsors have now become so infused with the game that 15 of the Major League Ballparks are named after their corporate sponsors including the Houston Astros whose park is named Minute Maid (owned by Coca-Cola Co.) This wasn’t always the riveting name that held fans on the edge of their seats. In 1999, a 30 year $100 million stadium naming deal was made with a company called Enron Corp. All seemed well until October 2002 when Enron had “the single largest business failure in U.S. history. Moreover, the company quickly became a symbol for corporate greed and deception, a sure candidate for early election into the Business Hall of Shame.” Thus costing the Astros millions to rid of their contract and endorsement deal and to remove any sign of afiliation of the company from their team. This was not the only high profile scandal Enron took part in. They also lost and cost millions in dealings with the Seattle Mariners and the Angels. Nor was Enron the only problem company in Major League Baseball. “A seemingly endless parade of high profile corporate scandals has rocked investor confidence and left club owners questioning the soundness of long-term naming-rights deals. Many of the corporate meltdowns over the past year have involved aggressive, high-profile companies — the sorts of companies that typically seek out naming-rights deals.” These would include but not limited to dealings with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Detroit Tigers.
Corporate baseball has infiltrated every aspect of the game all the way down to the players themselves and how they play the game. Agents, high-end contracts, and individual sponsorships have become as important if not more so, than actual talent, heart, and a genuine desire to play the game. Chief Meyers, who in 1908 played for the New York Giants, said “today ballplayers are all businessmen now. They’ve got agents and outside interests and all that sort of thing…we played just for the love of it. Heck, most of us would have paid them just to let us play. We loved baseball.” I sincerely doubt that’s the case today and as a matter of fact, two recent baseball strikes come to mind where players were not satisfied with their multi million dollar contracts and demanded more before they would take the field. Lefty O’Doul who lead the National League in batting in both 1929 and 1932 said that “nowadays the ballplayers don’t want to talk baseball. They’d rather talk about stocks, bonds, real estate, their commercials. They don’t care to discuss baseball.” All these agents and interfering management result in players not really knowing how to play the game. Fred Snodgrass started playing for the New York Giants in 1908 had this to say “…nowadays they look at the manager or the coach for directions on almost everything. They aren’t permitted to use their own judgment. They are told what to do on every darn pitch. But in our time we were supposed to know how to play baseball, and were expected to do the right thing at the right time.” Sam Crawford, 19 year baseball veteran from 1899-1917, said “…ballplayers were tough in those days, but they were real smart, too. Plenty smart. There’s no doubt at all in my mind that the old-time ballplayer was smarter than the modern player. No doubt at all. That’s what baseball was all about then, a game of strategy and tactics, and if you played in the Big Leagues you had to know how to think, and think quick, or you’d be back in the minors before you knew what in the world hit you.”
Not to mention the actual length of any baseball game today. By the time the pitcher actually throws the ball you’ve been able to scroll up and down through all 150 television chanels, read War and Peace, and master the art of Origami, and still have time to pop a bag of popcorn. Chief Meyers said it best, “…the pitcher wastes so much time out there it’s ridiculous-fixing his cap…pulling up his pants…rubbing his chin…wiping his brow…pulling his nose…scratching the ground with his feet. And after he does all that he looks all around at the outfield, and then he st-a-a-a-res in at the catcher giving the sign. Why, he’s afraid to throw the darned ball!…They waste an hour or so every day that way. We always played a game in less than two hours. Never longer. Two hours used to be considered a long game, really a long game. We played a lot of games in an hour and a half. I played in one that took only 58 minutes.” Ha! If only!!
You know, to really be a part of the game as fan is to take on the name of your favorite team and wear it proudly. Wearing that team name shows honor, pride, devotion – those qualities that you expect your team to exhibit….eh hem. That through thick and thin, rain or shine, hell or high water, you support children working in sweatshops? Wait. What? Yep, that’s right, corporate baseball has even found their way into the lives of poor children in third world countries. And not in the, we will donate proceeds from our World Series to the funding of a new school or food for you to eat kind of way. But rather the, we will pay you $.08 cents an hour for a 12 hour day, 7 days a week for making our shirts, which we will in return sell for $30-40 a piece and not share any of the money with you. For several years the Pittsburgh Anti-Sweatshop Community Alliance (PASCA) has tried to get the Pirates to address the working conditions in factories where their apparel is manufactured. In 2006, PASCA got the attention of the public through the media bringing this issue to the forefront right in time for the All Star Game, which was to be played there in Pittsburgh. With the debate battling in a basic he said she said, with Major League Baseball saying that there was no merit for these claims and PASCA saying they had hard evidence and with the community on their side, baseball was first to back down. Larry Silverman, VP and general counsel for the Pirates wrote saying they would give it “proper attention and consideration …once the All Star Game has concluded.” However, the Pirates never did go so far as to sign a pledge to develop and promote “sweat-free procurement and licensing standards.” Way to go Pittsburgh.
I shudder to think what Rube Wadell, Honus Wagner, or Walter Johnson would think if they were to see what baseball’s become. Probably shake their head in disgust and think back to the days when players played because they loved the game, when it was held in regard with a sense of awe and reverence. When baseball was baseball.