The whole thing just makes me sad and want really badly to wax poetic about the game I learned to love at my grandfather’s knee, but I won’t. I’m not naive, I do know that sport is business and the players are the key commodity. I do know that injured players are met with incredible pressure to get over it. I do know that the fans love you when you’re up and boo you at the first hint of down (especially in NY).
None of that makes it right. While I was reading some reaction to various reports, I came across a letter to the New York Times, one of many on the topic. The one below expresses my feelings almost exactly, though Mr. Cook is stronger than I; I gave in and came back to baseball after a number of years. I just missed the game… but I digress. The letter:
Once upon a time, some 60-odd years ago, I was a baseball fan. It was a time when we called baseball players “heroes,” before we really knew the definition of the word. And yet, fielders showed up for every game, pitchers occasionally pitched complete doubleheaders, and all were available to sign autographs free for kids after the game was played.
As television came upon the scene, so did money — big time! This changed America’s pastime forever.
No longer did the average players earn 50 or 60 times the wages of ordinary Americans, but were being paid much more — almost 1,000 times the pay of an ordinary worker. By that time, my interest in the game started to wane.
It should be no surprise to anyone still interested in baseball today to witness the expected results of the Mitchell report on steroid use. Why did players use these substances? For money — to hit the ball farther, to throw a ball harder, to run a little faster or to negotiate a better contract after their improved performance.
I abandoned the game with the baseball strike in 1994, when both sides minimized the impact on fans of the game in pursuit of wealth and greed. I do not regret my decision to leave what was once a wonderful game.
James D. Cook
The Mitchell Report describes the insult, in my opinion, added to the strike injury I thought was healed. There is reason to believe that there was significant “performance enhancing drug” use at the same time as the owners and the players association were whining at each other over their precious profits. I’m not against businesses making money, or the players getting a fair share of what is being made on their talents, but that was when the game changed from the field of dreams to the entertainment industry. Or, at least, that’s when it started to show. It just took all of us a while to get it. Shame on us for being fooled for a while. Shame on the managers, trainers, owners and staff who looked the other way or applied the pressure to get back on the field. Shame on the players who gave in, who sold out, and who jumped on board. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but I’d rather just see it stop and move back toward the beautiful game.