Poor baseball. In recent years it has been impossible to go through All-Star week without reading or hearing endless stories about the declining ratings of the Midsummer Classic. Now even the sport’s past is coming under attack.
The Wall Street Journal explored the declining attendance at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. as it readies to celebrate its 75th anniversary later this month. The WSJ also outlines dipping attendance at the Pro Football, NASCAR, Basketball and Hockey Halls of Fame, but since baseball is the sport that perceived by so many to be “dying,” it draws the bulk of the focus, since its Hall attracted only 260,000 visitors in 2012 – its lowest total since the 1980s.
Naturally, the culprit here is those damned snap-chatting kids who are glued to their Twitters 24/7:
Museum professionals also say that the fast-paced Twitter generation seems less enchanted than their parents or grandparents by main exhibits that, by definition, change primarily when athletes are added to the halls. No living players will be installed July 26-29 at the Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown, an unusual occurrence under the rules that govern election to the hall.
The whole Hall of Fame scenario, for immediate future anyway, is going to remain murky as the Baseball Writers Association of America continues to put on their detective hats and play revisionist history over the game’s “steroid era” of the 1990s and early 2000s. You know, the arbitrary process where the writers – under the premise of safe-guarding the game – have kept guys like Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds out. More than that, they’ve cast a cloud of suspicion on players like Jeff Bagwell.
All the arguing, speculation and moralizing is major turnoff.
As a result, this month baseball will honor former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, turn-of-the-20th-century umpire Hank O’Day and Deacon White, a catcher from the 1800s. Late Blues Jays announcer Tom Cheek will be given the Ford C. Frick Award, posthumously. Not even the diehard’s diehard is going to make the trip to upstate New York for this ceremony. Again this is the small price the sport has to pay for its handling of player’s boosting themselves with PEDs.
A better test to see if the Hall’s attendance decline is permanent or simply a temporary blip is to wait and see what happens when and if Mike Piazza is elected. You’d think, since he’s one of the best players in Mets franchise history, New Yorkers would flock up I-87 to get to Cooperstown. Or what occurs in 2015 when Ken Griffey Jr.’s name appears on the ballot for the first time. He’ s a shoo-in first-ballot Hall of Fame and the most popular player from the 1990s, so you’d think he’d draw a big crowd for the induction weekend.
The shame of this is that more than any other sport, history matters in baseball. Granted, in the Internet age it’s much easier to learn about the game’s history than making a trek to picturesque upstate New York for a weekend and visit the museum. Still, the stats and records from the game’s history dating back to the 1800s mean something, which is why the “steroid era” has thrown the game and the Hall (and its attendance) out of whack.
Perhaps in this 140-character world we live in, that’s a double-edged sword the sport has to deal with.
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