Baseball's ugliness

December 04, 1998|By Howard Kleinberg

MIAMI -- When Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and the New York Yankees did their things this past season, they gave back to the game of baseball a soul that has been lacking for some years. Several weeks later, baseball showed that soul was only temporary.

It may seem only minor that baseball took away the 2000 All-Star game from South Florida and awarded it to Atlanta. But beneath it lies something that should concern any city with a major-league team, or one hoping to get one.

It's about a new stadium.

Stealing teams

Millionaire owners, awash in the flush of network and cable-TV money, rarely reach into their pockets to pay for their own facilities. Some steal out of town in the middle of the night (Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns) to relocate their franchises.

Others take the issues to the voters and, in efforts to convince a wary electorate, use creative threats to reach their goals.

In yanking the 2000 All-Star game from South Florida, baseball officials said that it had to do with the uncertainty of the franchise ownership and the fact that baseball likes to reward cities with new stadiums, Atlanta among them.

Of course, no such condition was put down when the game originally was awarded to South Florida, and the entire argument seems a bit balmy when you realize the 1999 All-Star game is being played in Boston's Fenway Park, built three-quarters of a century ago.

What's behind this is pressure by baseball and its owners to get the people of South Florida to again pass the hat for millionaires. When a new stadium is built, baseball told South Florida, they'll get an All-Star game there as soon as possible.

Baseball just reneged on about $45 million worth of All-Star business to a community that is now expected to genuflect and respond to the fictional "Field of Dreams" request: "Build it and we will come."

On that basis, I doubt there will be an All-Star game in South Florida in the next millennium, either.

Howard Kleinberg is a columnist for Cox Newspapers.

Pub Date: 12/04/98

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