Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Death of Harmon Killebrew and old time baseball

The passing of baseball great Harmon Killebrew yesterday reminded me of how drastically the sport of baseball has changed since the 1960s. An article, "So long, Killer" in the Star Tribune notes some of these changes..

  • In 1959, back when Harmon was leading the league in home runs, he made $9,000 a year. Today million dollar salaries are commonplace, with the Minnesota Twins player Joe Mauer, (currently injured) in an 8 year salary contract worth $184 million.  
  • Game tickets were affordable for families of modest means. Baseball used to have special "knot hole" games, where one paying adult could bring in a station wagon full of kids for free. Now to purchase one ticket in the farthest back seat in the outfield at the Target Center costs $29.  A hot dog and coke would set one back another $12.  There are no more knot hole days.
  • Games were aired over local television and radio waves. Today to watch baseball on television in the Twin Cities one has to purchase an expensive cable package.
  • The Twins team used to play in a modest Met stadium.  Now they play in a publicly subsidized state of the art Target Field.
  • Like Harmon Killebrew, players used to stay with one team for most or all of their careers.  Now it is difficult to keep track of players, given how often they move from team to team.
  • Players in Killebrew's day were drug free.  Over the years the pressures to win, along with advances in pharmaceuticals, have caused many baseball greats to utilize drugs/blood doping to gain an advantage.
It seems, as with so many things in this affluent country, we've taken sports to the extreme.  And, I dare say that in doing so professional baseball is going to kill itself.  While the rules of baseball have stayed the same, the sport has become big business, and by becoming such has lost its allure for many, including this guy.  RIP Harmon Killebrew!

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