Guest Opinion

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

What happened to baseball?

There couldn't have been a more poetic ending to the All-Star Game. A tie. Incompetent managing. Bud Selig doing his best Josef Stalin impersonation. Seriously, Robert Frost could not have skillfully weaved a poem with more irony and symbolism. All that is wrong with America's pastime was embodied in the waning moments late Tuesday night.

The night started promisingly for baseball as Ray Liotta introduced the 30 greatest moments in baseball. If you were watching this and didn't get goose bumps, I'd check your pulse. Is there anything better than watching Bobby Thompson hit a series-winning bomb over the left field fence? Jackie Robinson taking the field with his head held high? Carlton Fisk willing his hooking shot into the foul pole? Or what about my all-time favorite, Lou Gherig's farewell speech? The passion and vigor that those men and their teammates brought to the game every day is what really sets them apart from today's pseudo-ball players.

Now that I think about it, what really ruined the All-Star game is that the highlights stopped and we had to witness what baseball has become. Corporate. Commercialized. Emotionless. Impure. I don't think there was one instant when I didn't see a MasterCard advertisement. Out of principle, I will never ever get a MasterCard. But that's not the worst part - I hope someone tabulated how much collective money there was on the baseball diamond that night. How can they possibly spend all of that money? Of course, it's not enough. God forbid the possibility that some baseball players would lose a 10th of what their making if they don't get a favorable collective bargaining agreement. Yup, if I were only making five mill a year I'd seriously consider a strike. Gotta put food on the table. Not sure if little Bobby will get shoes for school if I don't get that incentive package.

The biggest financial decision of my day is if I should super-size my extra-value meal - they're deciding which island in the Pacific they'd like to buy.

I actually thought about what I would give up in order to have baseball be my job. Right now, I think I'd give one kidney, 12 teeth, two fingers, four toes, one eyelid and my left ear. If management was playing hardball with me, I'd probably throw in my right ear, too. I just love to play. And if baseball didn't work out, I'm sure I could be a regular on Springer.

But now money, not enjoyment, is the crux of the game. Players want more, owners don't want to give it to them. And if everyone did their history lesson, we all know what happens when owners and players disagree about labor negotiations - a strike! What else can the players do? It's criminal how badly the owners are exploiting the underpaid A-Rods of the league.

The All-Star Game itself was going fine until the 11th inning. We saw Bonds crush one over the fence and Torii Hunter bring one back. For a little while, baseball looked like baseball. But not for long.

I actually put in a bag of popcorn in the 10th inning. I was hoping for about a 23-inning marathon. For some

reason, I didn't even see it coming. I should have. Could anything better symbolize the stalemate between the owners and players than a tie game? No winners, only losers. And the biggest losers are the fans. Again.


What happened was immoral, illogical and disrespectful to the fans and past players.

But they did it.

Even more ironic was the fact that Bud Selig was the one who pulled the plug. The same guy that's trying to end baseball in Minnesota and Montreal cut the All-Star game short.

If someone were to conduct a hate poll, I think he'd be somewhere between bin Laden and Castro. Honestly, I can't think of one good thing the guy's done for baseball.

But far and away, the most disturbing irony of the anti-climactic finish was the fans chanting, "Let them play!" Come on, everyone's seen the Bad News Bears. It was nostalgia in its purest form. I was praying Nomar Garciaparra would sit down at shortstop and refuse to leave. Didn't happen.

What happened to the competitive spirit in players? I wanted to see someone do their best Pete Rose impression and bull over the catcher. Show some emotion. Care about the game.

But once again, the players refuse to listen to the pleas of the fans. All we want is baseball. You are the best players in the world. You can play the game better than we can dream of playing. But you don't care. You want money. You're willing to forsake the season and baseball's integrity because you want more money. You won't even finish the game that is especially played for the fans. What is wrong with you?

The only real baseball I can watch are the highlights I replay in my mind. Willie Mays making an over-the-shoulder catch. Hank Aaron hitting Al Downing's pitch over the fence to break the Babe's record. And is there a better example of baseball in its purest form than Ted William's .400 season. The last day of the year the Red Sox are playing a double-header. In the first game, Williams gets over the .400 mark and his manager asked him to sit out the second game so he didn't ruin his record. But Williams didn't even

consider it. He was a baseball player and by God, he was going to play the second game. The game was more important than a record. It didn't matter. Williams had a phenomenal second game and finished the season over .400. That was baseball. He was a baseball player.

Now players won't finish the All-Star Game, probably won't finish the season, and are complaining about the measly millions of dollars they're making. Most players probably give more money to steroids than they do to charity. This is not baseball. You are not baseball players.

Sadly, I'm kind of happy that Lou Gherig died all those years ago. Because if he was still alive today and had to give his farewell speech after the All-Star Game, I bet he would've said, "Today, I consider myself the most ashamed man on the face of the earth."

And it would've been the most honest, heartfelt and emotional moment of the entire game.

Kenny Kolander is an Albert City native and a history student at Simpson College.