Los Angeles will play host tonight to the latest attempt by Major League Baseball to draw attention to itself through “stunt casting”. Much like Sammy Davis, Jr., on “All in the Family”, Joe Namath on “The Brady Bunch”, or Britney Spears anywhere on television, it’s an attempt to goose the viewing numbers through one-time events.
Bud Selig and Co. have become quite the pros at the technique. In previous years, MLB has dabbled in Mexico City and San Juan recently. This year alone, baseball has been to Beijing, Taipei, and Tokyo.
However, Bud likes to make splashes at home, too. Therefore, Memphis has a Second Annual Civil Rights Game exhibition between the Mets and White Sox today, followed by a celebration of the Dodgers’ escape from New York 50 years ago by invading their temporary home that first season in L.A.: the L.A. Coliseum.
As always, Major League Baseball makes the special events interesting and less contrived through the game’s history. The Coliseum was home to a short shelf in left field (250 feet) that Wally Moon, Dodgers outfielder, turned into the landing spot for his well-aimed “Moon Shots”.
With that area now shortened further by football refinements, batters tonight will probably switch-hit for the first time in their lives to reach the 200 foot Little League wall.
Also, there’s the spectacle of 100,000+ L.A. denizens flocking to the Coliseum to pay $25 for parking and enjoy a game in odd surroundings. Bud, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, and Los Angeles have guaranteed great television again.
Even with the success of these staged events, one can’t help but feel that the owners and commissioner don’t feel the original product can be trusted to sustain or grow the game. Therefore, these themes and quirks have to be tacked on. (Chinese cheerleaders! Japanese noisemakers! World baseball! Big stadium! We used to be racist, but now we’re not!)
Still, best of luck to all involved tonight, especially if it encourages Selig to try the same trick next year in Miami. We hear they’re dying down there to see professional baseball played in Pro Player Stadium.