Baseball and television origins: The case of the Cubs.
Central to our analysis will be MLB's economic problems, including the revenue disparity among teams caused by the dramatic differences in local and regional television rights fees. We will argue that baseball's problems with television are best understood through local and regional models of team-media relations. We will introduce three local/regional models: (1) the Pinned-In Model used by teams unable to expand their market due to proximity to other clubs (for example, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh); (2) the Hinterlands Model, which featured the development of a strong regional radio and then television network that extended a small-market team's fan base (for example, Cincinnati and St. Louis); and (3) the Embracers Model used by teams that viewed television as a force that would build fan interest, increasing box office receipts. The Chicago Cubs best exemplify this model.
The importance of television to MLB and most all sports is difficult to overstate. There is no exaggeration in saying that through television, sports truly became a vital part of the national culture. Baseball Weekly recently listed television as second only to Jackie Robinson's signing in its feature on the "Top 100 Things That Impacted Baseball in the 20th Century." Television was cited for exposing MLB to a much larger audience, generating a financial windfall for owners, increasing the value of franchises exponentially and, with the development of cable, "chang[ing] the way Americans followed the game."(1)
Zimbalist argues that to understand the economic condition of MLB one must look at the "ongoing technological revolution in telecommunications and the ever more concentrated and interlocked structure of the broadcast industry."(2) We would add that even in a time of rapid change in the global telecommunications and entertainment industries, in many instances history continues to matter just as much as the "ongoing revolution."
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL'S TROUBLE WITH TELEVISION
Baseball has had the most difficult and interesting relationship with television of any major sport. (3) In 1998, MLB, fueled by the McGwire-Sosa home run record chase, had increased regular season national ratings. This is quite an accomplishment in an era of so much television choice. However, the 1998 World Series received its all-time lowest ratings despite the presence of a record-setting Yankees team from the largest U.S. television market. World Series ratings were up a healthy 13 percent in 1999, reflecting the national following of both the Yankees and the Braves and the strength of NBC's ability to reach more of the country with a strong signal than Fox could. Regular season ratings were stable in 1999, and All-Star Game ratings were down 10 percent. (4) These mixed results indicate a relationship that can be described as dysfunctional.
Several explanations have been advanced for the relative decline of MLB as a national television attraction. These explanations can be grouped into the overlapping structural categories of aesthetic, marketing, economic, and historic. On the aesthetic level, the large playing field with a wide dispersion of players makes baseball a difficult sport to televise because the cameras have difficulty following all the action. One popular historian of baseball and broadcasting, Curt Smith, argues that baseball is perhaps the worst sport for television because the breaks in the action are boring for viewers. However, the same breaks, when used by fans at the game, are seen as opportunities to engage in interpersonal communication, go to the bathroom, or buy concessions. (5)
Major League Baseball owners have been accurately accused of not understanding modern-day marketing and particularly the concept of integrated marketing the coordinated combination of advertising, promotion, and public relations. (6) Baseball has also been criticized for not developing a fan base among the young and among African-Americans and for not promoting its star players effectively. (7)
Although aesthetics and marketing are concerns, MLB'S primary structural problems are economic and historical. Baseball has always been the sport with the most games (product) to sell (162 regular season games per team versus 16 for the National Football League [NFL], 84 for the National Basketball Association [NBA], and 82 for the National Hockey League [NHL]). The abundance of product has limited the national network ratings for the game, except for such once-a-year events as the All-Star Game and the World Series.
Major League Baseball has been affected by the ongoing restructuring of the U.S. television industry more than any other major professional sport because of the sports historical reliance on local broadcast revenues that vary greatly among franchises. At the advent of local, commercial broadcasting in the 1920s, baseball was the only established professional sport. Thus, MLB'S first contracts with broadcasters were local contracts. The emphasis on localism prevented a national broadcast "Game of the Week" until 1965. (8) It also led to the regionalization of playoff coverage as recently as 1995.
For these reasons, MLB teams have always placed great emphasis on local and regional radio and television money. Today these monies contribute approximately one-half of broadcast revenue, far more than for the other U.S.-based professional sports leagues. (9) Localism is so pronounced that it is one of the primary reasons MLB has failed to develop consistently successful national television packages. Since local television and radio revenue is not shared equally, the result is wide revenue disparity among the teams. For example, comparing the large-market New York Yankees to the small-market Pittsburgh Pirates reveals an approximately ten to one disparity in local and regional rights fees. (10)
The increasingly powerful regional sports networks (RSNS) that use local team telecasts as primary programming and marketing elements have exacerbated revenue disparity. Regional sports networks serve as competitors to local broadcasters for local team rights. The result is an increase in both the number of games telecast and the fees paid to the local team. Not surprisingly, the primary beneficiaries are those teams representing the largest television markets. The increasing prominence of RSNS has led to criticism by broadcasters that the shift of games to basic cable RSNS reduces public access to games. In addition, the superstations that use MLB teams as major programming elements (for example, WGN/Chicago Cubs and WWOR/New York Mets) shift more games from broadcast to cable television. (11) Superstations also contribute to revenue disparity by providing affiliated teams with another revenue stream that is only partially shared with the other franchises. (12)
Revenue sharing between the large- and small-market franchises has been a key issue in MLB at least since the advent of player free agency in the mid-1970s. Although total shared revenues for MLB have reached about one-third of the total in recent years, small-market teams (for example, Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh) argue that a more equitable distribution of revenue is essential to competitive balance and profitable operation. (13) They also argue that, as franchise partners (that is, the product of all sports leagues is competition that cannot exist without multiple teams), MLB'S long-term best interest is served by the maintenance of a strong and competitive league structure. As might be expected, large-market team owners argue that they paid a premium to purchase teams in large markets and therefore should expect to generate more income.
The seriousness of the revenue sharing dispute was demonstrated when fifteen smaller market teams threatened to deny access for 1994 to television crews representing the larger market franchises, invalidating local and regional television agreements. Although this threat ended when the owners agreed to a partial revenue sharing plan, the present scheme provides a modest amount to teams. For example, the Pittsburgh Pirates received approximately $7 million in revenue sharing money for 1998 out of a total pool of $100 million.(14) Although revenue sharing provides some relief, it does not address the vast revenue disparities in the game.
Another relevant historical factor was MLB'S media fear-the fear that the ability of fans to receive game coverage through media would have negative consequences for attendance. Paul Adomites offers an account as to how, even in the prebroadcast era, newspaper coverage and telegraphic accounts of games to bars and poolrooms were hotly debated by owners as "giving away the game."(15) Radio was even more feared, leading to the New York City ban on broadcasts in the 1930s and serious limits in other cities. Only in the case of the Cubs and, shortly after, the Cardinals was radio fully embraced as a marketing tool. Although television, as an extension of radio, was not fought as bitterly, media fear undoubtedly was a factor in limiting telecasts for many teams over the years. In fact, as recently as the 1990s, the effect of cable coverage on home attendance was still a concern in Pittsburgh.(16)
Although media market size remains the key variable that unbalances the structure of MLB and its relationship to the television industry, it is not completely explanatory. While markets like Baltimore and St. Louis are considered "good baseball towns" because of fan interest and media revenues, markets of roughly the same size (such as Milwaukee and Pittsburgh) are considered marginal. This despite, in the case of Pittsburgh, local television ratings that are among the highest in the league.(17) In other cases, teams that share a single market (for example, the Chicago Cubs and the White Sox, and the Los Angles Dodgers and the Anaheim Angels) have clear superior versus inferior distinctions between the teams regardless of player or team performance.
We argue that one of the most important ways to understand such differences is to examine the origins of the individual team relationships with the television industry. Our primary purpose is to introduce three explanatory models of a MLB team's relationship with television: the "Pinned-Ins," the "Hinterlands," and the "Embracers." Then we will examine more carefully how the Chicago Cubs actively embraced first radio and then television to expand both their local and their national fan bases.
HISTORICAL APPLICATIONS OF THE MODELS
The "Pinned-In" Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates figure prominently in almost any account of MLB's economic problems. Even with a new ballpark (PNC Park) featuring the requisite "luxury amenities" and with corporate sponsorship seemingly in place, many observers continue to question the team's long-term ability to compete or even exist. (18) Pittsburgh is considered too small and too poor a baseball town even while its metropolitan "twin," St. Louis, is considered a medium or even large and healthy baseball market. Although Pirates attendance is relatively low, it reflects a percentage of the metropolitan population in excess of many large-market teams. (19) On television, Pirates games, even in the poor 1999 season, had the second-highest local ratings of all MLB teams, trailing only Seattle. (20) Despite such seemingly positive figures, television is the problem in Pittsburgh. As explained by team executive Dick Freeman, small teams generally can compete with large-market clubs in attendance, but "in a sense of television audiences, you can't overcome differences in population." (21) However, the fact is that the Pirates did not take steps to extend the fan base of the franchise in the early days of television.
By 1955, the Pirates were one of only three teams not televising any games. (22) That the other two nontelevision markets were Kansas City and Milwaukee, two other markets considered marginal and both of which lost a team in the 1960s, is interesting and instructive of how television can affect the basic structure of the game. By 1958, the Pirates were one of only five MLB teams to telecast no home games, ignoring a critical marketing tool in extending the "local" fan base into the "hinterlands." (23) The team was concerned about the effect of home game telecasts on attendance despite the mounting evidence (from, for example, Chicago, New York, and St. Louis) that the effect was, at worst, negligible and, at best, a major promotional bonanza. And even in road games, the Pirates telecast only a limited number (between thirty and forty games) in the first twenty years of Pittsburgh television. In addition, the Pirates never developed much of a broadcast television network, with never more than five affiliates in addition to the hometown flagship station in the same twenty years. (24)
Another major factor in the Pirates' television problem is the city's geographic location-pinned in by other Major League teams to the northwest (Cleveland), southwest (Cincinnati), northeast (New York), east (Philadelphia), southeast (Baltimore) and, since 1977, north (Toronto). Unlike the Cardinals and to a lesser degree the Chicago teams, the Pirates could extend their market only so far. Their failure to do even this in the early days of television has had serious ramifications on the team's fortunes since then that have now carried over into regional sports networks. Despite the evidence that fear of local telecasts was a shortsighted blunder that made a tough marketing situation worse, as recently as this decade, the team was still limiting home games out of the same fear. (25)
Although each market has unique circumstances, the Pinned-In Model seems to be relevant in examining the situations in Milwaukee, Minnesota, Montreal, and possibly Tampa Bay. Although the Pinned-Ins are not able to alter geography, it would be wise for the teams to understand that different approaches to television marketing are needed in their markets.
St. Louis Cardinals and the Hinterlands Model
More than any other team, the St. Louis Cardinals successfully used radio and later television to expand the market for its baseball product Until 1958 the Cardinals were the most western, and until 1962 the most southern, National League team. Thus, during the rise of the broadcast era for vast portions of the United States, the Cardinals were geographically the closest team. Advertising-supported broadcasting was the most effective means of promoting the team across its vast potential market. Although revenue from broadcast rights to the games was limited at first, radio and, later, television developed new Cardinals fans and stimulated attendance. The team was second only to the Cubs in embracing radio. (26) At its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, the Cardinals radio network stretched across 124 affiliates in fourteen states, with flagship station KMOX in St. Louis reaching listeners in eight states. (27) By 1998, the radio network still included 103 stations spread over nine states, while the television netwo rk included 27 outlets in eight states. (28)
Many of the stations in the Cardinals' vast network were in smaller communities that developed local stations only after the FCC had greatly increased the number of AM station assignments after World War II. Hungry for low-cost programming, these stations became loyal members of the Cardinals radio network. The strong network boosted the careers of such legendary broadcasters as Baseball Hall of Famers Dizzy Dean, Harry Caray, and Jack Buck. In turn, the flamboyant styles of Dean and Caray helped to build the Cardinals' fan base over mid-America.
In addition to selling Cardinals baseball, broadcasting sold beer. The Cardinals broadcasts were first sponsored by Griesedieck Brothers Brewery, and then the team itself was purchased by Anheuser-Busch in 1953. Baseball broadcasts succeeded in selling two products, both of which could be enjoyed at home and at the park: baseball and beer. Augustus A. "Gussie" Busch Jr. saw baseball as a key ingredient in the expansion of his Budweiser brand. After the purchase, Busch touted his fortunate decision: "Development of the Cardinals will have untold value for our company.... This is one of the finest moves in the history of Anheuser-Busch."(29) Busch was right. Only four years after the purchase of the Cardinals, Anheuser-Busch became the largest producer of beer in the United States. Busch had an early understanding of the now-common "circles of promotion," in which a form of media promotes a sports team through its news and sports programming, and the sports team helps support media outlets.(30) Busch's ownersh ip of the Cardinals was a precursor of the symbiotic sport team-media relationship so valued by conglomerates today.
By using media to develop a market well outside metropolitan St. Louis, the Cardinals secured large city status for itself despite its relatively modest size and hastened the departure of the competing St. Louis Browns, who became the Baltimore Orioles in 1954. Interestingly, by the 1990s, the Orioles had become another team that gained a much larger following by using a playing facility and large media revenues to expand a team's market well beyond its local population. Other examples of teams using the Hinterlands Model include the Cincinnati Reds, the Colorado Rockies and, at least until recently, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Chicago Cubs and the Embracing of Broadcasting
While the goal of Cardinal broadcasting was the geographic expansion of the team's fan base, the goal of the Chicago Cubs, under longtime owners William Wrigley and his son, Philip K. Wrigley, was expansion over the airwaves. The Wrigleys knew the value of radio in marketing chewing gum and saw the medium's potential for Major League Baseball. By the mid-1920s, when most owners thought that radio broadcasts of Major League games decreased ballpark attendance, William Wrigley opened his park to virtually any station interested in covering the games.(31) Wrigley, like Larry McPhail of the Reds and Dodgers, believed that radio broadcasts did not give away the product but, instead, increased and diversified interest in the product. Indeed, he saw the value of radio not in the small rights fees (at the time) that could be generated from exclusive licensing of the Cubs broadcasts to one station. Rather, radio's contribution came from promoting the largely winning Cubs teams of the 1930s and early 1940s and the wond ers of "the friendly confines of Wrigley Field." For Wrigley, the more stations that carried the Cubs meant the more potential listeners and the more potential Cubs fans. Longtime Giants broadcaster Russ Hodges, who got his start in Chicago, described the many announcers covering Chicago teams:
Chicago was wide open in all other respects, so it shouldn't have been a surprise to me that there were almost no radio restrictions there either. But I must admit it was something of a shock to find the press boxes at Comiskey Park and Wrigley Field crawling with play-by-play announcers. There was nothing exclusive about my new job. I was one of five different guys sitting behind five different microphones broadcasting over five different stations. We worked side by side, so close together that we never had to worry about dead air. No matter which station they tuned, the fans could always hear somebody talking.(32)
With the advent of television, P. K. Wrigley followed his father's radio plan. As early as 1945, P. K. Wrigley commissioned Chicago television pioneer Captain William Eddy to develop techniques for covering baseball. Eddy produced a manual for the production of baseball telecasts that greatly influenced the early coverage of the game. During this mid-1940s experimental period, Wrigley also gave the Cubs' television rights to Eddy.(33) WGN's initial purchase of television equipment included facilities for remote production, including a large van called the "Blue Goose." This mobile unit was a self-contained television control room that could microwave live transmissions from anywhere in the Chicago area. Thus, at its sign-on on April 5, 1948, the station was fully prepared for live baseball coverage.(34) Cubs games were televised frequently in 1948, and by 1955, all of the team's home games were on television.(33) In 1951, WGN placed a camera in the outfield stands to bring the center-field shot of the pitche r, batter, catcher, and umpire to its television audience two years before the shot's use in network broadcasts.(36) The center-field shot is now the most frequently used in baseball, accounting for more than half of the viewing time in a typical baseball game.(37) WGN television gained exclusive coverage of all Cubs home games as well as the daytime (usually weekend) games of the White Sox in 1958. By 1961, WGN was using a team of twenty-one production personnel and four color cameras to telecast 130 daytime Cubs and White Sox games.(38)
For the Cubs, television became a means of promoting the team and expanding its audience. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Phil Wrigley sold the Cubs' TV rights for minimal fees, reasoning that he was creating fans. As late as 1963, Cubs rights for both radio and television cost only $500,000, half the fees earned by New York and Los Angeles National League Franchises and $350,000 less than the fees earned by the cross-town White Sox. (39) But the rights fees could be undervalued as long as new fans got hooked on the Cubs and came out to the ballpark. (40) The team's unique position of playing all of its home games during the day became a means of developing new fans among daytime television viewers. A generation of Cubs fans was born when they came home from school and turned on the game or, perhaps, when Mom already had it on.
In many ways, Wrigley's Cubs of the 1950s and early 1960s discouraged game attendance while promoting TV fanship. The Cubs performed poorly from 1948 to 1966, and their daytime-only games reduced attendance by middle- and working-class men. Despite a well-preserved, if older, ballpark, the Lakeview neighborhood around Wrigley Field had deteriorated badly and also had little parking. The Cubs faced the same conditions that drove many Major League teams to new stadiums with vast parking lots. Cubs attendance was modest, even by the standards of the era. However, daytime baseball was great television product. It avoided competition with popular prime-time network fare. Just as it had in radio, it brought the daytime TV audience of women, children, and retired workers to the Cubs. The Cubs' daytime-only home games may have contributed to their modest attendance, but they also laid the groundwork for a very financially successful franchise in the 1980s and 1990S.
In the 1980s, the Cubs' new owners, the Tribune Corporation, would apply a similar strategy to extending the team's fan base, using Cubs telecasts over cable superstation WGN as a means of building a national market. Although several stations carried the Cubs in the early 1950s, by 1958 WGN had solidified its position as the station in Chicago for baseball. As part of its national cable superstation strategy, Cubs baseball would provide relatively cheap, original, daytime cable programming in an era when most cable programming, even in prime time, consisted of network reruns, old movies, and inexpensive talk shows. The station's daytime home games also would give it an advantage over other superstation teams (the Braves on WTBs, the Mets on WOR, and the Yankees on WPIX) in developing a regional or national fan following. For most weekday home games, the Cubs faced no TV competition from other big league teams.
WGN also knew the power of the star announcer. The first TV generation of Cubs fans grew with Jack Brickhouse, who covered both Chicago teams for the station in the 1950s and 1960S, until the White Sox games shifted to other Chicago stations. After Brickhouse's retirement, Mio Hamilton became the heir apparent. But when the opportunity for a more entertaining and dynamic announcer came, WGN moved quickly. The White Sox had alienated fan favorite and baseball announcing legend Harry Caray by developing a plan that would put Sox games on pay television. Caray knew that pay TV would reduce his audience and stature, even if it improved the club's bottom line. As soon as his contract expired, he jumped at WGN's offer to become the voice of the Cubs. The new cable superstation gave Caray his first national audience. In the 1950s, Caray's colorful style and the Cardinals Radio Network had made St. Louis mid-America's team. Thirty years later, Caray's style and WGN's national reach would expand "Cubdom" from Chicago 's North Side to the rest of the United States and much of Canada. In doing so, the Cubs would join the Cardinals in "delocalizing" the team and in opening up a dominant position in its home city.
The increased value of the Cubs franchise is clear evidence of its successful cable television strategy. The Tribune Company bought the Cubs in June 1981 for $20.5 million.(41) After nearly two decades of superstation promotion, the franchise has increased more than tenfold to $224 million, $46 million more than the cross-town White Sox, who featured a new stadium and teams with a much better winning percentage in most seasons.(42) Despite their success in expanding the popularity and value of their franchise, the Tribune Company continues to work at nurturing young Cubs fans. Recently, they signed an agreement with WKIE-FM, a Top 40 Chicago radio station, to provide the station with promotional nights at Wrigley Field in exchange for a "three-month marketing blitz by WKIE to its mainly north suburban teenage market--a demographic that the Cubs want to convert into long-term." (43)
Although the Chicago White Sox did not relocate as did the St. Louis Browns, they have remained a decided second-class citizen in Chicago in terms of both media and fan attention. Despite the team's higher on-field success than the Cubs, the White Sox television strategy limited coverage to a small number of day games during television's formative period. The White Sox also suffered with a more limited radio network and a financially strapped ownership. With shallow pockets, Sox owner Bill Veeck was a master of ballpark promotion but had a shortsighted approach to television. His 1977 business organizational chart featured a business manager who handled TV advertising sales as just one of his five major responsibilities.(44) Later experiments with pay TV failed and cost the team its only star announcer. The White Sox situation deteriorated to the point that the team was saved for the city (the nation's third-largest television market) only by last-minute action on a new ballpark by Illinois state government.
The Cardinals and Cubs are both good examples of how television can be leveraged to expand fan support, generate positive promotion, and promote other businesses (for example, Budweiser and Wrigley's gum). The Chicago Cubs are also a prime example of the recent move of the entertainment industries to merge product and distribution through the Tribune Company's ownership of the team. This media conglomerate owns the Chicago Tribune (the city's dominant newspaper), WGN-AM (rights holder for all Cubs games) and WGN-TV, a pioneering superstation that made the Cubs a national commodity.
Major League Baseball is a pretelevision and therefore premodern sport that continues to have a problematic relationship or, more accurately, a dysfunctional marriage with television-the indispensable life force of big-time corporate sport. This dysfunction has led to a divided structure within Major League Baseball whereby teams can be classified as "haves" or "have-nots." Jack Sands and Peter Gammons used a retail analogy to describe what they consider to be a three-tier structure of MLB teams: (1) "the Supermarkets," consisting of the teams located in the largest media markets in the U.S. (that is, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago); (2) "the Convenience Stores," consisting of the teams in medium-size markets (for example, St. Louis, Baltimore, and Cleveland) who have managed through public-funded facilities and savvy marketing to carve out a lucrative niche for their product; and (3) "the Lemonade Stands," such as the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals, who due to some combination of small market size (although Pittsburgh is roughly the same size as St. Louis) and weak fan base are unlikely to compete with other teams without major revenue sharing.(45)
We would add that how a team made use of the new medium of television in the late 1940S and early 1950S, and how it does so today, has much to do with whether a team fits in one category or another. We hope that the examples of the "Pinned-In Pirates," "Hinterland-Developing Cardinals," and "Embracing Cubs" make clear that variables in addition to media market size should be of interest to baseball scholars.
Despite MLB'S television problems, it offers one of the better examples of the ability of sports entities to maximize revenues in a changing television environment. Major League Baseball now receives almost $1.6 billion over four years from its national television contracts with Fox, NBC, ESPN, and Fox/Liberty cable, with substantial increases likely in the next contracts.(46) The approximately $13.2 million per team per year generated by these deals is by far the largest amount ever generated by national television. The presence of Fox and ESPN as television partners is particularly important. Fox's willingness to pay a premium price for MLB is related to its continuing emphasis on sports product as the key element in its domestic and international growth.(47) After a recent dispute over the placement of Sunday night games, ESPN, which must have major sports events on both a national and international level in order to grow, added a considerable amount to the national television pool. As the national equall y shared revenue becomes larger, the importance of local television money will lessen, Of course, as long as there are such wide disparities in local rights fees, the situation will remain problematic.
The recent strengthening of the baseball commissioner's power to deal with revenue inequities is obviously a positive sign, although we will really not know the implications for some time. One particularly interesting action was the agreement among the thirty MLB teams to equally share all Internet and World Wide Web revenue. As the Web, television, and telephone all become one, this could be an avenue to equal media sharing, although it is difficult to imagine that the owners of the largest market teams had this in mind when they approved the agreement.(48) The maintenance and strengthening of the "luxury" tax will also help in addressing the revenue disparity situation.
Major League Baseball officials are increasingly committed to enhanced marketing and increased globalization as key elements in the game's revival. Although not as well positioned as the NBA in developing an international audience, MLB is regarded as having good opportunities in Asia and Latin America. In order to create a more sellable product, MLB has instituted a new round of playoff games and instituted interleague play. Although MLB has yet to overcome its television "problem," it clearly is working hard to do so and to figure out the best blend of international, national, regional, and local television coverage. The presence of such major media powers as Murdoch/News Corporation Disney, Time Warner Turner, and the Tribune Company as team owners is another example of baseball's perceived value as television product.(49)
The simple fact is that the "solution" to the television problem is some combination of corporate ownership and vertically integrated ownership of team and television distribution outlet. This seems the best, and perhaps the only, way to maintain MLB for the smaller cities if we assume the sport is worth saving. Not only would such a move ensure market power for the teams so owned, but corporate owners are typically used to operating in regulated oilgopoly industries, where covert (and sometimes even overt) cooperation is the norm. Despite the continuing rhetorical flourishes of business firms, independent action and entrepreneurship is mostly a myth. Corporate ownership of baseball franchises would almost ensure new levels of cooperation-that is, more equitable revenue sharing.
In offering this analysis, we fully realize that we are opening up ourselves to charges of being apologists, if not out and out supporters, of corporate sport. While we share the desire for professional sport to return to some mythological past of localism and community versus commodified media product, we argue that professional sports, despite all their flaws and vulgarities, are an important dimension in the lives of millions of people and, yes, in the psychic lives of the cities that have franchises. Documenting the historical underpinnings of current inequities might have the effect of loosening the grip of nostalgia that is one of the major threats to the existence of Major League Baseball.
Rob V Bellamy Jr., a member of the NINE editorial board, is an associate professor of media communication at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Among the courses he teaches are "Media and Sport" and "Sports Communication Practices." He waits semipatiently for the Pirates to have a winning season and for PNC Park to open.
James R. Walker is professor and chair of communication at St. Xavier University in Chicago, where he teaches a variety of courses, including "Media and Sport." As a nonnative of Chicago, he can enjoy the best of a Chitown summer-the Cubs and the White Sox.
(1.) Seth Livingston, "The Top 100 Things That Impacted Baseball in the Twentieth Century," Baseball Weekly, Jan. 5, 2000, pp. 16--17, 21.
(2.) Andrew Zimbalist, Baseball and Billions (updated ed.) (New York: Basic Books, 1994), p. 31.
(3.) Robert V. Bellamy Jr., "Professional Sports Organizations: Media Strategies," in Media, Sport, and Society, ed. Lawrence A. Wenner (Newbury Park CA: Sage, 1989), pp. 120--33; Robert V. Bellamy Jr., "The Evolving Television Sports Marketplace," in MediaSport, ed. Lawrence A. Wenner (London: Routledge, 1998), pp. 73--87; Robert V. Bellamy Jr. and James R. Walker, "Foul Tip or Strike Three? The Evolving Partnership of Major League Baseball and Television," NINE 3 (1995): pp. 261--75.
(4.) "Television Ratings for 1998--1999," Fox Sports Biz Web site. URL: http://www.foxsports.com/business/resources/ratings.
(5.) Curt Smith, Voices of the Game (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987).
(6.) Thomas Duncan, "To Fathom Integrated Marketing, Dive!," Advertising Age, Oct. 11, 1993, p. 18.
(7.) Bellamy and Walker, "Foul Tip or Strike Three?"; Harvey Berkowitz and Stephen Zipay, "Madison Avenue Going to Bat for Baseball," Newsday, March 7, 1996, sec. A, p. 47.
(8.) Paul Adomites, "Baseball on the Air," Total Baseball (2nd ed.), ed. John Thorn and Peter Palmer with David Reuther (New York: Warner Books, 1992), pp. 654--56.
(9.) Bellamy and Walker, "Foul Tip or Strike Three?"
(10.) Murray Coleman, "New Park Only Part of Pirates' Answer," Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal, Aug. 3, 1998, p. 14.
(11.) Bellamy, "The Evolving Television Sports Marketplace."
(12.) Bellamy, "The Evolving Television Sports Marketplace."
(13.) Bellamy, "The Evolving Television Sports Marketplace"; Bellamy and Walker, "Foul Tip or Strike Three?"
(14.) Vic Gregovits, vice president of marketing, Pittsburgh Pirates, interview, Oct. 21, 1999.
(15.) Adomites, "Baseball on the Air," p. 654.
(16.) David Brugnone, director of affiliate sales and marketing, Prime Sports KBL Network, interview, May 18, 1995; Gil Lucas, director of operations, KBL Sports Network, interview, Apr. 16 1992.
(17.) David Brugnone, director of affiliate sales, Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh, interview, Oct. 7, 1999.
(18.) Coleman, "New Park Only Part of Pirates' Answer."
(19.) Brugnone, interview, 1999.
(20.) Brugnone, interview, 1999; "Local Sports Team Viewing," Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal, Aug. 3, 1998, p. 14.
(21.) Quoted in Coleman, "New Park Only Part of Pirates' Answer," p. 14.
(22.) Adomites, "Baseball on the Air."
(23.) John Helyar, Lords of the Realm (New York: Villard, 1996); Smith, Voices of the Game.
(24.) These and other figures are from the annual "Baseball Broadcasting Rights" reports in Broadcasting and its successor Broadcasting & Cable magazine.
(25.) Brugnone, interview, 1995; Lucas, interview, 1992.
(26.) Adomites, "Baseball on the Air."
(27.) Smith, Voices of the Game, p. 458.
(28.) St. Louis Cardinals Official Web Site, URL: www.stcardinals.com.
(29.) Helyar, Lords of the Realm, p. 98.
(30.) David Whitson, "Circuits of Promotion: Media, Marketing, and the Globalization of Sport," in MediaSport, ed. Wenner, pp. 57-72.
(31.) Smith, Voices of the Game, p. 14.
(32.) Russ Hodges and Al Hirshberg, My Giants (New York: Doubleday, 1963), p. 31.
(33.) Jeff Kisseloff, The Box: An Oral History of Television 1920-1961 (New York: Penguin, 1995), pp. 87-88.
(34.) Larry Wolters, "W-G-N Video Station Orders $300,000 Units," Chicago Tribune, June 2, 1947, p. 1.
(35.) Smith, Voices of the Game, p. 148.
(36.) Kisseloff, The Box, p. 137.
(37.) Tim McCarver with Danny Peary, Baseball for Brain Surgeons and Other Fans (New York: Villard, 1998).
(38.) David Calibraro and John Fink, WGN: A Pictorial History (Chicago: WGN Inc., 1961)
(39.) "Baseball Revenue Levels Off," Broadcasting, March 4, 1963, pp. 66-70.
(40.) Helyar, Lords of the Realm, p. 365.
(41.) "MLB Team Owners," Fox Sports Biz Web site, URL: www.foxsports.com/business/resources/owners /mlb.smi.
(42.) "MLB Team Values," Fox Sports Biz Web site, URL: www.foxsports.com/business/resources/values/mlb.sm1.
(43.) James Kirk, "Cubs Aim to Catch Teenagers' Affection," Chicago Tribune, Nov. 10, 1999, sec. 3, p. 2.
(44.) James Elsener, "Baseball Is More Than a Sport: It's a Business, Too," Chicago Tribune, Aug. 14, 1977, Business sec., pp. 1,14.
(45.) Jack Sands and Peter Gammons, Coming Apart at the Seams (New York: MacMillan, 1993).
(46.) "Broadcast Rights," Fox Sports Biz Web site, URL: www.foxsports.com/business/resources/broadcast.
(47.)Robert V. Bellamy Jr., "Issues in the Internationalization of U.S. Sports Media: The Emerging European Marketplace," Journal of Sport and Social Issues 17 (1993): pp. 168-80; William Shawcross, Murdoch: The Making of a Media Empire (New York: Touchstone, 1997), pp. 405-6.
(48.) Noah Liebman, "MLB's Internet Plans May Cut into Web Cash," Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal, March 6, 2000, p. 13.
(49.) M. Lait and G. Hernandez, "Disney Teams with the Angels," Los Angeles Times (Orange Co. ed.), May 20, 1995, sec. A, p. 26.
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|Author:||Bellamy, Robert V. Jr.; Walker, James R.|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2001|
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