Batting Bucks Toward Charity

EDITOR'S NOTE

September 01, 1991|By ELIZABETH LARGE

While it's not so true in Baltimore -- we love our Orioles -- there is an almost adversarial relationship right now between sports fans and what they perceive as wealthy, pampered athletes. It's gotten to the point where a sports figure gives a huge amount to a charity and from the fans' reactions, you'd think it wasn't much at all.

It struck staff writer Patrick McGuire that there was something out of proportion about the numbers here: Giving a lot of money is admirable, even if you make millions. Cal Ripken Jr. didn't have to give a quarter of a million dollars to start up the Ripken Learning Center, Patrick points out. "I started making inquiries [for this week's cover story]," he says, "and a couple of things struck me. First, nobody knows who all the Cal Ripkens in baseball are, though it seems like every team has one or two who donate money. Plus every team has more than two that donate time if not money." And they're doing it because of a sincere interest in the cause.

But, Patrick says, we're on the verge of seeing more players and their agents promoting the image of the player through a charity. "We're going to see more players in it for PR. My own gut feeling is that we're going to see more donations, less sincerity. But I was gratified to learn that there are those among the wealthiest athletes who have their heads screwed on straight, whose priorities are straight, who realize that they're pretty lucky, so why not help others. It's a shamelessly positive story, but what's wrong with that?"

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