Baseball is tradition, not global marketing
By Wade Denniston
Imagine that you go to a baseball game at historic Wrigley Field. Your favorite team is the Chicago Cubs and the starting line-ups are being announced...
"Playing right field, No. 21, Sammy Sosa!"
Something's different, though. There's a patch on the right sleeve of Sosa's uniform. No, it's not big glasses with beady little eyes behind them honoring long-time Cubs broadcaster Harry Carey who died before the 1998 season opener.
Rather, it's a picture of a newspaper, advertising the Chicago Tribune
which owns the Cubs. "This can't be right," you say, "it's just a dream."
Running home and turning on ESPN to see if your nightmare is really true, you catch the late night highlights of the California Angels-Seattle Mariners game.
Sure enough, when you see a close-up of Mariners center fielder Ken Griffey, Jr. hitting one of his patented home runs, you also see a patch on his right sleeve: a computer, advertising Microsoft Corp.
The nightmare is true, or it could be soon, since baseball leaders and the players union are considering allowing teams to sell advertising on the sleeves of their uniforms.
The ads would appear on 1 inch square patches, not big enough to be seen from the top of Yankee Stadium, but big enough to be seen from the front row, TV closeups and photographs.
Now come on, can you really picture corporate logos on the traditional Yankee pinstripes?
It's a farce. Baseball is all about tradition, not global marketing.
This idea is certainly not revolutionary. Soccer teams from all over the world have ads on their uniforms. The lettering is quite huge and can mainly be found on the front of the shirt, often much bigger than the team name.
NASCAR certainly does it, but do we want to place baseball in that category?
No, and here's why: Jeff Gordon whose primary sponsor is DuPont Automotive Finishes has his car and uniform plastered with the sponsor's logo. He and his car look like a big rainbow and whenever the two-time Winston Cup Champion wins a race, the first thing he grabs is his wife, Brooke, then a Pepsi to make sure everyone across America can see who one of his sponsors is.
Let's hope that baseball doesn't turn Sosa or any other Major League player into a walking billboard.
Perhaps the baseball leaders have a good reason for doing this ‹ like bringing more money to the game, as well as lower-market teams ‹ but let them find another way of doing so.
Our National Pastime needs to stay historical. You know, the knee-high pants, showing all of the players' stirrups; the Green Monster in Fenway Park. Can you imagine a huge billboard placed on that? Not in this century, I say, it needs to stay that way.
If Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron or Roberto Clemente heard of this idea during their playing days, they wouldn't have stood for such a mockery. Neither should today's players.
Just think, if this does happen, teams throughout the National and American Leagues could end up looking like the "Bad News Bears." Their yellow and white uniforms had a huge advertisement on the back which read: "Joe's Bail Bonds."