The "Old Ball Game’ has lost its appeal |

The "Old Ball Game’ has lost its appeal

Rich Mayfield

This past week included opening, day but I think the season already has ended for me.

I am a life-long baseball aficionado and a die-hard Cub fan, but lately my aficio is more nado and my die-hard has gone soft.

The reason for such sagging sentiment could be found in a little article in the back of the sports section this week entitled: “Baseball player salaries top $2 billion range”. What this means is that the 849 men who fill the rosters of Major League Baseball make more money than the GNP of dozens of countries filled with millions of people.

I understand how the market determines the money and maybe that’s the problem for me: the market.

What has become of us that we are willing to fork over gazillions of dollars so grown up men can play a little boy’s game and yet we hesitate to pony up a few bucks to provide better education and health services for boys and girls all over the world? Maybe our national pastime is past the time for serving as a model of American values.

One cannot help but wonder what others around the world must think when they read of this nation’s strange priorities. Perhaps the growing resentment against America and Americans has found a metaphor in baseball.

I still can remember the first time I went to a major league game. The Dodgers had just moved from Brooklyn to L.A. and my dad managed to score four tickets to one of the first games in the Coliseum. The memory of walking through the turnstile and then up the concrete ramp where I caught my first glimpse of the brilliant green grass and pristine dirt of a genuine baseball park, is seared in my psyche for all time.

I was stunned by a sense of surrealistic intensity. It was, for me, a vision of all that was good in the world. In days, I knew every player and all of their stats. For years, these men were models of dedication and hard work. Their salaries were better than my dad’s to be sure, but still way below President Eisenhower’s.

In those days, the thought of Duke Snider or Peewee Reese being traded to the Giants or, much worse, voluntarily going, was unthinkable. Now, every spring you need a scorecard not to follow the game but to find out who sold out to whom over the winter.

Alex Rodriguez, who is by all accounts not just a great ballplayer but an all-around nice guy, makes somewhere around $22 million a year. I forget how many tens of thousands of dollars he gets every time he steps up to the plate but it’s more than most teachers make for an entire year. Don’t your toes curl just a little bit to think that the inheritors of our future are deemed so dramatically unimportant in the over all scheme of things?

Is it just me or are there others who find this bizarre excess of money and manipulation going beyond the pale? When the average ballplayer makes $2.4 million and the average cop or firefighter makes 1/50th of that does it mean that we would rather have one more second baseman than 50 more cops?

Is a left fielder worth 50 times more than your neighborhood firefighter? Isn’t this just a little crazy? Does it stick in your craw the way it does in mine?

This first week of the season I find myself still glancing at the statistics to see who has won and who has lost, who has hit and who has missed, but more and more I am coming to realize who the real losers are.

Rich Mayfield is pastor of the Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church and weekly columnist for the Summit Daily News.

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