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Me and Baseball

As Nomi already blogged about under the title Take Me Out to the Ballgame..., yesterday we went to a professional baseball game. It wasn't a major league game, but a game played between the Brockton Rox and the Worcester Tornadoes, two teams in the Can-Am League. Since we were going to Worcester for the game, we rooted for the home team, and I was mildly disappointed when they lost 3-0.


Mike McTamney Pitching for the Rox Mike McTamney Pitching for the Rox
Copyright 2007 by Nomi S. Burstein



I haven't actually been to a professional baseball game since 1988, when the Mets were in the playoffs, and it got me thinking about why. Friends of mine generally know that I am a Mets fan; my younger brother Josh and I were in the stadium for games one and seven of the 1986 World Series, and since I wasn't married to gnomi at the time, there was no reason for me not to root for the Mets and against the Red Sox. (Although to my credit, I will note that in 1986 I did go on record as saying that although I wanted the Mets to win, I didn't want the Red Sox to have to lose for that to happen.) Anyway, in the 1980s I couldn't imagine not attending professional baseball games as an adult.

Until 1994, when the Major League baseball players went on strike.

At the time, I was working as a teacher at a private school, and one of the newspapers I was reading had chosen to take an interesting tack on the players strike. Every day they would feature one player in a box, and list how much salary money that player was giving up for that one day he wasn't playing baseball. It disturbed me to discover that in many cases, the daily salary of a baseball player exceeded my annual salary.

I found myself experiencing mixed feelings. Friends of mine also know that I'm a strong union supporter, and that my father's death was a direct result of the Daily News strike in 1990. And I knew that the owners in baseball were making a lot of money off the game, and that it was only fair for the players to share more equitably in the game's success. I also recalled my baseball history, and knew how the baseball players of the early twentieth century had earned pittances and often ended up broke due to the low salaries offered by the owners.

But still...I found it difficult to return to a baseball game after the strike ended. I couldn't bring myself to be sympathetic to a class of oppressed workers who were getting paid exorbitant salaries to play a game for entertainment. Furthermore, after the strike the prices of the stadium seats rose and continued to do so. In the back of my mind I kept balancing the thought of my hard-earned money versus that of the player salaries. In the end, after the 1994 strike ended, I decided that I would go on my own personal strike, a spectator's strike, and that I wouldn't pay to attend a Major League baseball game until the cost of attending was reduced to a reasonable amount.

And I've actually stuck to it. Until yesterday, I hadn't gone to a baseball game for about 13 years. And I still haven't been to a Major League game.

I know that in some ways my reaction is irrational. I still pay to see movies, even though I know that many of the actors are being paid humongous salaries. And I still follow baseball, and watch games on TV, and it's not like I deliberately boycott the advertisers for the games. (Given that I don't drink beer anyway, declaring a personal boycott would be irrelevant.) But there's still some part of me that became alienated from Major League baseball in 1994, and given how much better the fans are treated by the minor league teams, it'll take a lot to bring me back to a Major League stadium.

Copyright © Michael A. Burstein

Comments

Yeah, '94 caused me to stop watching baseball altogether...unless the Twins are in the playoffs. Other than that, I might actually go to a game maybe once every 2-3 years.

The weird thing is, given the length of career of the average pro football player, I don't have any problem with them making what they do.
The weird thing is, given the length of career of the average pro football player, I don't have any problem with them making what they do.

And that's the thing. This one discussion could open up to the whole question of salaries, and whether this society truly pays people what they're properly worth for their job. But let's not go there right now. :-)
You're not irrational in the slightest.
I'm right there with you. I've been on strike for MLB since 1994 also.

Since then, I have attended several games by the Bowie BaySox (Class AA minor league) and two Baltimore Oriole games where I won tickets at work. Beyond that, nothing. I have no interest in baseball any longer and don't even tune it in on the TV anymore. Occasionally, I get the KC Royals rundown because the Chiefs BB I follow has a lot of dedicated Royals fans on it. (You know they're dedicated if they're still rooting for the Royals after all these years *sigh*), but otherwise, I've left the game behind.

And the sad part is, I don't really miss it.

We also went to a minor league game yesterday.
....not to say that people shouldn't support the minors. They totally should. :) but if America noticed the minors, they'd start being like the majors, and you'd have to go to little league games....
Your reference to little league games reminds me that in college, I really wanted to attend the baseball games that we played against other colleges. But you know what? Even though hockey and football had tickets one could buy, baseball didn't even have a posted schedule. For some reason, they weren't set up for spectators.
The minor leagues can be a lot of fun. And can be supported for a lot less than the big leagues. I'm taking the family to the IBL game tomorrow night. (Petach Tikva At Netanya)

$6 tickets can be a real draw.
Could you possibly repost this without violating my policy on language? (From my profile page: "...please refrain from using obscenities.") There are some good points here that I want to respond to.
Oh! I'm sorry, I didn't realise. Absolutely.
-----
I'll note that ticket prices for games are significantly higher at fenway than at other parks. For instance, the most expensive seat at Comerica Park is $65, and most of the park is $20 or better. That's more than we spent when I was a kid, but it's been 20 years, and prices go up.

I understand your reaction, but I think it's pretty silly to hold a grudge against something you love for 13 years. I also think it's silly to pick one thing where everyone's overpaid and hate on that. Profoundly human and understandable; it's a moment of major disillusionment to truly realise that the game is not the game you remember from your childhood, but a major economical force subject to the same stupidity as other mass entertainment industries.

Objecting on moral principle to commodification of fun? OK, sure, go you. Hating on the thing you love because it hurts that it's just like everything else?

But hey, whatever makes you happy.
To start with the end of your comment, I'll note that it doesn't make me happy to feel this way. The problem is that I tend to think that my feeling is an irrational one, and I acknowledge it as such. It would make me far happier if I could somehow recapture that innocence of enjoying the baseball games without considering the salary issues that began to bother me in 1994.

My own feelings and behviour actually reminds me of a college friend of mine, who had spent much of her teenage years working at McDonald's. Although after college she had more access to money than she had before, she still tended to weigh every expenditure against the number of hours of work she would have had to put in at McDonald's to afford whatever it was she wanted to buy. In this case, I look at the salaries of baseball players who were on strike, compare it to my salary, and find myself bothered by it. And I'm guessing the reason it affected me the way it did was because it was placed in such stark relief for me (their daily vs. my annual).

But I have to point out that there are other reasons I haven't been to an MLB game since 1994. For one thing, I no longer live close enough to my favorite team to go their games. My one real choice if I want to attend an MLB game at this point is to go to a Red Sox game, and although I've become something of a Red Sox fan, I'm still much more a Mets fan. Sheer inertia makes it more unlikely for me to go to Fenway Park for a game, since I don't have the emotional connection with the Sox that I have with the Mets.

So to end...I don't think I'm "hating on the thing" I love; I still love it. I'm just uncomfortable with one aspect of it that was made far too clear to me at a vulnerable moment.
I don't know. I had a similar reaction back in '94, I know, although I was not so much a baseball fan, and it's the same reaction I have to hearing about actors threatening to pull out of TV series or whatever because they're only getting $400K per episode and they think they're worth $500K.

For me, it's not how much they're paid (although I do think it's fairly ridiculous), it's the fact that they act as though they are entitled to that pay, and that they ignore the fact that it is the love and support and passion of people who are, in many cases, barely making ends meet that pays their salaries in the end. The strike took baseball away from the fans, robbing them of a season they'd committed to, some with cash, some just with enthusiasm. It felt to me like they were horribly belittling the passion of this country for baseball, like a confession that it wasn't about the love of the game or about the fans or the community or the challenge, but just about the cold reality of cash.

And that inevitably robbed the game of some of its apple pie rosy-glow appeal for me. Although I probably never would have been a baseball fan regardless, I HAVE stopped watching television shows when contract disputes have sufficiently aggravated me, or avoided movies with actors whose financial heavy-handedness has cost me enjoyment of series, so I certainly can't disagree with the logic here.

Mostly, for me (to summarize this insanely rambling comment), it's not that they make so much more money than me. It's that they make that money FROM me, among others, and yet are willing to punish me to try and get even more.
It's that they make that money FROM me, among others, and yet are willing to punish me to try and get even more.

I think you've hit the nail on the head here. And I'd go a step further, and say that I hold the owners as accountable as the players, if not more so.
I totally agree with that, too. Both sides were involved in the debate, and I honestly think the owners probably counted on the fact that players would never do anything like the strike in order to try and make money at THEIR expense. I just think that the people who really suffered, in the end, were the fans, who would have been willing to trade (financial) places with either party in a heartbeat.
I have never been a baseball fan, so I could not possibly care less, honestly. But I knew the strike struck something deep in the American psyche when my father, a diehard Red Sox fan from when dinosaurs roamed the earth, told me he had not watched baseball on TV afterwards for a year because of the strike, and had not been to a game since then (he's gone back to watching on TV; old habits and all). He lives in a baseball town (Houston), although not *his* baseball town, it's true. But I don't think he'd go to Fenway if he lived here, either.

I remember my father telling me about his youth, saying 'We'd have played for free, just to be good enough to be in the Big Leagues'. And while he wouldn't have played for free forever, he'd probably have done it briefly if he'd been good enough. He played town league ball (for free) for years, and made his family trail him around the Netherlands watching him play. I admit it was fun driving around the country, but I never watched the game; I didn't understand it at the time, and later when he signed me up for Little League, I spent the first couple of months learning the rules and purpose of the game, before I could even begin to work on the basics. Hated it and told him I didn't want to play the following year. I suspect I broke his heart.
I will point out that you can be a rich man and still be oppressed by your bosses. Football players are still treated poorly, in part because they have a very weak union. The baseball players needed and still need a strong union because at the end of the day, despite how much they are paid, just the workers.

And I wish every union were as strong as the baseball players union.

As for ticket prices, I wish they were lower. I also wish that theater tickets were lower, and compared with Broadway, baseball is cheap. Heck, compared with some museums, major league baseball is cheap. And I feel I get more for my money when I do go to a game than from most plays or from MoMA.
You mean chemically enhanced home run derbys in 98 and following didn't lure you back? You sure are cold and steely.
::snerk::

I'm going to hope that there's a gigantic asterisk next to Barry Bonds' HR record. I don't doubt he'll surpass Hank Aaron. I do doubt he's doing it completely naturally.
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