More touching bases in community, too

December 30, 1993|By Peter Pascarelli | Peter Pascarelli,The Sporting News

This holiday season is a fitting time to be reminded that amid all the greed, arrogance and stupidity that permeates baseball's players and owners, there's a lot of good being done.

For decades, the National Football League has made television viewers weepy with slick and effective promotional spots for its charitable endeavors. On the other hand, baseball has all too often prevented its good side from being seen through the contentious, dollar-signed cloud that has dominated its affairs.

Image is everything, as that twit tennis player often spouts. And so for too many years, baseball has become identified with boorish millionaires arguing about the size of their pay raises.

It's too bad. Over the past few years, baseball's involvement with communities has become increasingly significant, both on the team and individual player levels.

Hundreds of players have charitable associations. Their involvement includes:

* Barry Larkin's efforts to raise a half-million dollars for health care to needy Cincinnati youths.

* Albert Belle's efforts with the Cleveland Mayor's Crime Commission.

* Roger Clemens' association with more than a dozen charitable efforts.

* Mike Devereaux's help in creating two dozen Little League teams in poorer areas of Washington, D.C.

* Orel Hershiser's raising more than $1 million for fighting cystic fibrosis.

* John Kruk's creation of a program that provides outings for cancer victims and their families.

* Eddie Murray's ongoing contributions to a growing Baltimore community center.

* Ozzie Smith's creation of a foundation that benefits local charities and his leadership in spearheading Major League Baseball's significant relief efforts last summer for flood victims in the Midwest.

The Major League Players Association, in conjunction with Major League Baseball, has instituted a growing program with the National Education Association. As for the clubs, all 28 franchises have in recent years become much more responsive to the needs of the communities around them.

Each club has created a variety of programs dealing with the litany of urban and community issues -- illiteracy, child abuse, drug abuse, the handicapped, research for various health problems, crime prevention, stay-in-school efforts, disaster relief, the homeless and on and on.

At the same time, baseball is making significant efforts to make the game a greater presence in inner cities. Through its support of youth baseball programs and an effort (with Coca-Cola) to rebuild baseball fields in the cities, thousands of city kids are able to play baseball for the first time.

We've all become sufficiently cynical to figure that some of this is motivated by needed image polishing. But the overwhelming majority of baseball's efforts in communities are motivated by an emerging new breed of players and front-office employees who aren't afraid to be role models and are sincerely interested in using the game to help their communities.

And with so much negativity surrounding baseball lately, it's nice to know that there's a lot of good going on off the field.

* It appears likely the owners will have a final showdown on revenue sharing at a specially called meeting Jan. 6 in Chicago. A committee working on the issue is believed close to formulating a proposal for the consideration of all 28 owners.

At the same time, the word throughout baseball is that Harvey Schiller, the head of the U.S. Olympic Committee, is likely to be named commissioner, perhaps at the owners' meetings in mid-January in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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