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Volume 24 No. 112
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     Major League Baseball has returned to the field, and while
fan reaction was mixed at last night's Joe Robbie opener,
columnists and other baseball observers attempted to predict how
the fans will respond over the long-term.
     VOICES:  In DC, Tom Boswell writes, "Forgiveness vs. Tough
Love.  That's the real Opening Day match-up this year"
(WASHINGTON POST, 4/26).  In Philadelphia, Frank Dolson writes,
"In my heart I want baseball to be important again.  The game
deserves it, even if the men who brought it to this critical
point don't" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/26).  USA TODAY's Bryan
Burwell writes, "You knew they'd be back, just like I did.  Now,
Baseball, make it worth their while" (USA TODAY, 4/26).  Author
Bill James:  "In the past, the fans have come back in record
numbers when the game comes back.  Maybe they will again but I
wouldn't want to count too much on how forgiving they'll be"
(Bill Knight, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 4/26).  Tommy Lasorda,
interviewed before last night's game:  "Time heals all wounds.
But, they should be [upset] because of the fact we did take
baseball away from them.  But, by the same token, it's the best
buy in town" ("ET," 4/25).  CNN's Mark Morgan: "Many marketing
experts feel baseball has to reach out to the young fans, the
ones they seem to be losing to basketball, football and other
sports" ("Sports Tonight," CNN, 4/25).  In Baltimore, Ken
Rosenthal agrees:  "The question is not whether baseball will
recover today, tomorrow or in the weeks that follow.  The
question is what will become of this sport in five years, in 10
years, in 20, when the erosion of the fan base truly begins to
take effect" (Baltimore SUN, 4/26).
     OPENING NIGHT REVIEWS:  The Marlins-Dodgers was a 42,215
sell-out, but many empty seats were visible.  Most reports note
that fans booed when players from both teams tipped their caps
during pre-game introductions.
     MARKET-BY-MARKET:  The Astros will offer a free game against
the Phillies on May 12.  Columnist Dale Robertson writes, "When
you've lost the kind of money [Astros Owner Drayton McLane] has,
some $30 million over two seasons, you might as well lose a
little more to find out where you really stand" (HOUSTON
CHRONICLE, 4/26)....In Chicago, Bernie Lincicome calls the "lack
of attendance" at the two-day "Forgive Us Series" between the
Cubs and the White Sox "a warning" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/26)....A
free game between the Blue Jays and the Mets drew 22,533 to the
SkyDome (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 4/26)....In Pittsburgh, columnist Bob
Smizik writes, "Do these guys deserve a break?  Yes, if only for
selfish reasons.  Baseball is a fragile entity in this town"
(PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 4/26)....In New York, David Letterman
previewed this weekend's Mets promotions:  "All tickets are $1.
It's amazing, they're only $1.  Or, they're free if you want to
umpire" ("Late Night," CBS, 4/25).