Baseball fans take it on the chin - again!(Sportscene) (Column)

Author:Barrett, Wayne M.

Attempts by Major League Properties to force Little League uniform makers to pay $6 for each usage of a team name such as 'Yankees' is merely the latest insult baseball fans. Starting the season during March snows, the decline of free TV, and other complaints mar the game's image.


MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL hasn't changed much despite all its post-strike promises to the contrary. No surprise there, except you had to figure that the Grand Old Game's hierarchy would try to honor its vow to make the sport more "fan friendly" to the disenfranchised youth of America. Turns out, based on results at least, that baseball's response was: "Fat chance!" For example:

* As a Little League youngster, I played for teams named after the Senators, Dodgers, and Red Sox. If I were a kid today, I'd have Major League Properties hounding my uniform manufacturers for license fees to use those big league teams' names. True, there are 193,000 U.S. Little League teams, so the $6 per player charge would add up to a pretty penny, but is baseball so desperate for money that it has to bully little kids' uniform makers for logo cash?

* Memorial Day and July 4 are traditional family days all across America--except in big league ballparks, that is. On Memorial Day, a number of major league cities didn't even host games, as the holiday was treated like a conventional off-day Monday, on which many clubs are traveling. And those teams that did play scheduled night games that typically end around 11 p.m., when many kids are long since asleep. On July 4, meanwhile, in addition to the Independence Day nigh' games, the New York Mets were in Montreal, where less than 20,000 Canadian fans came out to see their 7:35 p.m. game against the Expos. Why couldn't that have been a 2 p.m. start in New York's Shea Stadium?

* For the first time in history, the baseball season opened in March--with a night game on ESPN! And so it naturally follows that the Northeast-based franchises, along with other springtime cold weather sites (Cleveland, Chicago, Colorado, etc.) played many of their April games at night. The Yankees hosted one contest in a snowstorm (really, no exaggeration), and many other games were played in sub-freezing temperatures topped off by howling winds.

* Whatever happened to the rainout and the doubleheader? Teams will do anything not to call off a game and reschedule it as part of a twin bill. Fans are forced to sit through inclement weather for hours on end just so the club can sell more hot dogs and soda and, more importantly, won't have to issue rain passes to a future contest. When Hurricane Bertha blew into Baltimore in mid July, Oriole management had to know there was no way the game could be played, yet waited over two hours before finally postponing...

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