May 6, 2010

Owners Ignore Warnings, Plan More Sunless Ball

Jack Smith, New York Daily News, August 9, 1942:
Heedless of the dangers of an overdose of twilight and night baseball, major league club owners are rapidly breaking away from the time-honored tradition that baseball is a day-time sport. Eager to boost war-time gate receipts, and without looking ahead to the future, the magnates are forgetting the conditions under which the game grew to great popularity. They have turned deaf ears to warnings of experienced observers and blind eyes to the example set by the minor leagues.

There is no doubt that baseball, in its experimentation with early evening and night games, is treading on a "hot" spot that may eventually result in its disintegration. For years, the major league owners fought against the creeping progress of night ball, but their defense now has utterly collapsed. ...

The majors should have learned from the minors all about the evils of the night game. Undoubtedly, during the depression, the arc lights kept many of the lower leagues alive. The novelty of it was a strong gate attraction. However the minors did just what the majors are now doing, added to their night schedules until, in many cities, all but Sunday games were played under lights. It worked for a while, but the "circus glitter" faded -- and so did the attendance. ...

Several of the cities have worked out their own plans. Cleveland, for instance, starts all week-day games at 4 P.M. in the hope of luring early-shift defense workers through the turnstiles. So far, it has not proved successful. ... Detroit's venture has been a little more fruitful. The Tigers starts at the usual time all except one day a week, Wednesday, when the bell rings at 5 P.M. This seems to be the best method of handling the problem.

Of course it all is still in the experimental stage. But the trend is a definite one as well as dangerous one. Apparently the baseball people aren't content to experiment in small quantities but must plunge the whole hog. By the time they read the danger sign it may be too late to turn back.
Fenway Park did not have lights until 1947. Of the 16 major league teams, the Red Sox were the third-to-last team to succumb to "the evils of the night game".

9 comments:

L-girl said...

This is hilarious. How people hate change!

There is no doubt that baseball, in its experimentation with early evening and night games, is treading on a "hot" spot that may eventually result in its disintegration.

Of course they couldn't envision a time when everyone watched games on TV. Which of course would be the death of the sport since no one would ever go to live games anymore.

johngoldfine said...

Except in the matter of Yawkey's resistance to integration, I generally like the RS resistance to change. One of the fruits of that resistance is Fenway, still not wholly unlike its earliest self.

Zenslinger said...

...since no one would ever go to live games anymore.

Hey, talk to the Oakland A's! Their attendance is horrid.

Amy said...

I was thinking the same thing, JGF. The Sox are always slow to change. Weren't they among the last to integrate? I am glad that we still have Fenway, and it is typical New England to hold on to traditions, but holding on to racism is was inexcusable.

L-girl said...

They were indeed the last team to integrate, and then only had a token.

My own comment about change, though, was not about the Red Sox, since my history is elsewhere. It was about baseball in general, and people in general. People have been declaring the death of baseball for decades... centuries.

Michael Holloway said...

Nice piece from the Daily News.

The forties marked a time of great change world wide, which was reflected in baseball. Jackie Robinson was playing his first year in Brooklyn in '47 - and in some quarters that was almost as ground shaking as the 1944 GI bill that built the Great and the Affluent Society.

Meanwhile MLB was being dragged kicking and screaming into the era of television broadcasting. Some saw it as a way to broaden interest in the game - a kind of advertising - having games on TV for free. Others thought, as was mentioned, that no one would pay for a seat if they could watch for free.

Turns out the later was true and the audience for the game became so large that is created countless layers of baseball cultural that lead to record breaking attendance that in turn built corporate empires the owners of that era could not have imagined.

Now, in a similar time of great change - MLB lags far behind the new visionaries, holding their content behind pay walls instead of helping a new cultural garden bloom.

And now cuckold to broadcast MLB is lashed to a sinking broadcast industry which demands more and more. Games in the evening to World Series games that start at 9:00 at night and don't end till the nest day. And broadcasts filled more and more cheaper advertising minutes - as the broadcast model crumbles.

Fewer and fewer children see the late innings and thus the climax, the resolution - which is why we love the game. So fewer and fewer kids play the game, forcing MLB to scout further and further afield for players, mining the hinterlands of baseball that were ironically, birthed in the heyday of the early broadcast television era -- when the content was free.

Why won't humans learn?

I see vested interests combined with greed and fear that freeze us - at moments when we need to be limber the most.

Summer of '49 by one of my hero's, David Halberstam drew up most of this in my mind.

I hate baseball. I love baseball.

redsock said...

Fewer and fewer children see the late innings

You mean children on the east coast, right? Young viewers out west are able to see all of these games and easily be in bed by 10:30.

Start an ALCS game in Boston at 7 PM and that's nice for you and me, but what about the Red Sox fans who are still at work in Seattle or San Francisco and then have to deal with serious traffic to get home to their TVs? They've missed the first five innings, maybe.

It's bizarre how the handwringers in the media never seem to realize (or "forget" because it'll undermine their dead horse of a column) that there are people who do not live on the east coast.

Michael Holloway said...

Yeah, I agree. That's old school stuff. The industrial era is over, tv is dieing, internet tv will be here very soon - and the 7:00 start will die away I think.

More afternoon affairs like the Indians tried to do in the war years might work now.

L-girl said...

Jackie Robinson was playing his first year in Brooklyn in '47 - and in some quarters that was almost as ground shaking as the 1944 GI bill that built the Great and the Affluent Society.

I would say it was more ground shaking in every quarter.

The 40s were a decade of great change, but the US would not be integrated for another 20-30 years.