`No joy in Mudville' come August?

STRIKES, or the threat of them, have added a new measure of suspense to the professional sports scene in the United States. This year, the baseball players' association has set Aug. 6 as ``strike date,'' if no agreement is reached on a new contract with the owners of the 26 major league teams.

The timing is shrewd; it allows for a short strike to force a settlement without jeopardizing the playoffs and World Series.

But fan loyalty could be in jeopardy. For Jane and Joe Fan, who suffered through a 50-day, mid-season baseball strike in 1981, it looks like another ``asterisk'' season. (When a sports event or achievement is a bit irregular, its entry in the record books is so marked.)

Fans of professional football were shortchanged in 1982, when the players' association refused to start the season without a new contract.

Not everyone is perturbed about all this; some say the pro sports seasons are too long, anyhow. But Joe and Jane Fan aren't inclined to think this way; they want their money's worth -- and if you've been to a baseball game lately, you know there is plenty of dough involved. The fans want the batting, pitching, and fielding records of their favorites (the word ``hero'' hardly applies anymore in professional sports) unsullied by an asterisk.

Money -- network television money -- is a basic issue in this, as in most pro sports disputes. The major league teams will share some $180 million a year under new, five-year contracts with the ABC and NBC networks. The players want one-third of that -- about $60,000 a year -- for their pension-and-benefits fund. The club owners say they can't make ends meet without the lion's share of the TV revenue. They would also like to put a ``cap'' on player salaries, which, most everyone knows, are right up there with the defense budget. Not only that -- and this one really has the players with the big statistics upset -- they want to limit the ``free agent'' system, under which some superstars seem to have clocked more mileage between clubs than between playing dates.

It's at times like this that baseball's faithful miss Dizzy Dean -- both his wit and his low salary as a player. Hank Aaron, who broke Babe Ruth's home-run record while playing for the Boston-Milwaukee-Atlanta Braves, made a lot more money than Hall of Fame pitcher Dean, but he has some useful advice for both players and team owners: ``Baseball can't afford another strike. The fans won't stand for it.''

Hank may be overstating it a bit. A strike would no doubt mean some loss in attendance and TV viewership. But dyed-in-the-wool baseball fans mainly have one thing in mind: ``Come on fellas, let's play ball!''

Yeah, fellas, come on!

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK