(I wrote this on February 3rd, but my editor did not post until today.)
Hopefully, you read the sports section of USA Today (2/3/09) relative to the salary paid to Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.
As a kid growing up in Chicago, I remember going to both Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park with my grandmother for Cubs and White Sox games. Those were memorable adventures that included long rides on the street cars with a shopping bag full of sandwiches and snacks. We usually went on Ladies’ Day, grandmother got in free and my admission was some small fee, as I remember well under one dollar. No one kept a more detailed scorecard than my grandma.
Today, what would it cost to take a child to a baseball game? Ticket prices are exorbitant, and I know one would never be admitted with a shopping bag full of food. Back in my youth, we would arrive well before the game and I would hang around the dugouts with my autograph book. The players were very friendly and talked openly with the kids and fans.
Now baseball is a huge business, and the salaries being thrown around have changed the game forever, and it is not in the best interest of the fans. The owners of Major League Baseball teams have a monopoly, which is highly coveted by an inner-circle of very wealthy individuals. Entrance into this elite group is equivalent to admission into a secret society.
No wonder it costs so much to attend a game today when you realize that the Commissioner of Major League Baseball was paid $17.5 million in 2007. As far as I am concerned that is excessive, despite the fact that he is running a major business. Added to his salary Bud Selig was paid an additional $422,590 in expenses and allowances, and then granted $461,540 for his benefit plan.
As reported in both USA Today and SportsBusiness Journal only three players, all New York Yankees, received greater compensation, namely Alex Rodriquez, Derek Jeter, and Jason Giambi.
With Bud Selig’s extremely close ties to the Milwaukee Brewers baseball ownership (he and his family sold the Brewers in January, 2005 after owning the team for some 30 years), I believe he operates in a conflict of interest.
With the excessive salaries being paid to players and executives today it is no wonder the fans are being ignored and even abused. I am smart enough to realize that it is unrealistic to compare circumstances nearly seventy years apart, but it certainly was a kinder and gentler time. Apparently, Major League Baseball and its elite circle of owners won’t be happy until they charge so much that they virtually price out the ordinary family’s ability to attend baseball games and enjoy America’s Pastime in person.