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BASEBALL AT THE BREAK: IS THE GAME HALF-EMPTY OR HALF-FULL?
Published July 5, 1995
In the aftermath of the Fourth of July weekend and with the All-Star Game next week, MLB has hit its halfway point of the season. The league is "still staggering" with a 20% drop in attendance, writes Claire Smith of the N.Y. TIMES, as only Montreal, Cleveland and Boston have drawn more than last year. But acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has hope: "We seem, at least through last Sunday [June 25], to have stopped the decline" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/2). WHICH WAY ARE THE SIGNS POINTING? In San Francisco, Tim Keown writes to fans that "baseball is still waiting for you. ... The baseball people don't care what brings you back ... It's the apathy that's killing them." Keown said that with school out and the NHL and NBA through, "baseball is officially out of excuses" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 7/5). An editorial in the N.Y. TIMES states that "gimmicks ... have failed to lure back the fans. ... The message for Major League Baseball is not hard to divine. The game is still loved, but the greedy business of Major League Baseball is being rejected" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/3). NOT SO FAST: But in Boston, Peter Gammons writes that because the game is "covered" differently by its media, "rumors of baseball's death turned out to be exaggerated, vastly exaggerated." Gammons points to better-then-expected attendance numbers and rising young stars: "Small market whiners should shut up, do what the Indians did and get a grasp of what's good. They could have a team in Green Bay, WI and no one in LA, they could have drawn a 13.9 on NBC and their champion could be riding a Ryder truck to Nashville" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/2). Ira Berkow also points to the success of the Indians as a good sign: "Despite mighty and impressive efforts by its leaders to destroy it, baseball lives. And Cleveland appears just the tip of the iceberg" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/5). In Milwaukee, Michael Bauman claims there is "a different ethic among baseball fans" in Wisconsin, and that "baseball is not dead here. It is damaged, wounded and short on affection. But as bad as the situation is, it does not have to be permanent" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 7/3). Selig said owners and the MLBPA will do more to promote the game: "You're going to see a Herculean effort in the next few months and years" (Tom Pedulla, USA TODAY, 7/3). MIDSUMMER CLASSIC? In Tampa, columnist David Whitley writes of his boycott of baseball: "So here we are, with the All-Star Game closing in, and I know as much about the baseball season as the average Tibetan monk whose monastery doesn't get cable" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 7/3). Mark Bradley in Atlanta writes that on "July 4, 1995, all I want to know about baseball is this: When's the next strike" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 7/4). Tom Boswell speculates on the rating for the Game: "The past two years have been 15.7 and 15.8. My wager for Tuesday. Double Digits. ... By next year there may even be an all-star game that feels like a full fledged, unrestrained celebration of baseball. For now, however the only final score that matters greatly on Tuesday night will be that nasty Nielsen" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/5). THE OTHER GAME IN TOWN: One owner told Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST that owners will ask the MLBPA to schedule a bargaining session, and "that negotiating meeting could apparently take place by -- or during -- the all-star break" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/2). CHECK THE NUMBERS: A Harris Poll of 1,004 adults shows baseball has lost one-third of its fans since last year. A survey conducted from June 8-11 reported that 33% said they followed the sport, down from 49% in May '94. 71% of those who follow baseball were less interested in the game than before the baseball strike, 12% were more interested, and 16% said their level of interest had not changed. The margin of error on the survey is +/- 3% (AP/ ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 7/2). ABC News also reported on the Harris Poll, and profiled the success of Mike Veeck and his St. Paul Saints ("World News Tonight," ABC, 7/3). A VOTE FOR PALERMO: N.Y. NEWSDAY's baseball writer Jon Heyman calls on former umpire Steve Palermo to be the next MLB Commissioner. Heyman: "The best thing for Baseball's powers to do now is hire an American hero such as Palermo. He has the trust of the players, the admiration of the owners, and the respect of the country" (N.Y. NEWSDAY, 7/2).