Franke: Baseball Has Lost its Jingle
by Mark Franke
“Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.”
Recall that advertising jingle from 1974? It had quite a catchy tune and was a successful advertising campaign by all accounts.
Think back to what America was like in 1974. There was the Watergate scandal, resulting in the resignation of an elected president. The Vietnam War was theoretically winding down, but the only winding down was America’s military presence there, paving the way for a North Vietnamese military conquest. Inflation was picking up due to government deficit spending. It seemed that if anything could go wrong, it did.
What Chevrolet hoped to plant in the consumer psyche was that it was America’s car, a national icon like baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. These were non-controversial images, ones that we could all agree on even as the nation was splitting into hostile opposite camps.
Chevrolet was, and still is, one of America’s best-selling car brands. There is something almost patriotic about buying Chevrolets, as many of my friends have lectured me, especially given the fact that Silverado pickup trucks are manufactured right here in my hometown.
What about the other three icons in the jingle? Apple pie is my wife’s favorite so no more needs to be said on that. Even hot dogs continue to be sold at every sporting event and offered at backyard barbecues from coast to coast. And baseball, if you had asked me last week, still is uniquely All American.
That was last week, before Major League Baseball (MLB) reimagined itself as no longer a cultural and social unifier but rather just one more political interest group pushing a partisan, controversial agenda.
I had always put my allegiance in baseball as the symbol of American unity. I’ve read several essays and more than one book which demonstrated how outstanding personal antagonisms could be checked at the front gate as people became fans unified in rooting for their favorite team. Think of a situation where a father and his teenage son could forget their running fight over nearly everything when they take their seats in the outfield bleachers.
Those days are gone by official decree of Major League Baseball. MLB is jumping into our toxic political environment with both feet. If your state’s elected officials pass a law not meeting MLB’s puritanical standards, beware. Retribution is forthcoming as the city of Atlanta has learned to its hurt. This summer’s All Star game must go elsewhere.
Presumably an in-depth legal review of Georgia’s voting law was conducted deep in the corporate bowels of MLB’s New York headquarters. Some commentators have argued that Georgia’s new requirements are less restrictive than those in MLB’s home state of New York. Does MLB know that?
Surely they reviewed their own policies at Will Call windows across MLB cities which require presentation of a legal ID before picking up pre-purchased tickets. Will the Commissioner mandate elimination of this requirement at all 30 MLB stadiums? Or is ticket fraud too much of a threat to our democracy to go unchallenged?
If Atlanta is too un-American to host the All Star game, what about the 81 home games played there by the Atlanta Braves? How long can this be tolerated? Perhaps Mr. Manfred will order the Braves back to their original city, Boston, which can be trusted to hold acceptably progressive views.
Maybe I’m being too hard on a sport I have loved during all my seven decades. Professional baseball is facing a daunting task in its attempt to recover from COVID’s devastation of its ticket revenues in 2020. Surely the MBAs and JDs occupying those high-rent offices in Manhattan have developed a plan to welcome families back to the ballparks.
They have. Baseball’s answer: Raise opening day ticket prices by 50 percent to an average of $162 per seat. $162 for one seat! I don’t have the courage to ask what a hot dog and a beer would cost me.
They need the money, obviously. The stratospheric free-agent contracts signed during the off-season are past understanding to the average Joe Fan. Signing contracts exceeding $300 million barely make the headlines.
This is also the first season after MLB’s hostile takeover of minor league baseball. My hometown minor league team was told its 2021 season would be shortened. No negotiation between parties, just a dictate from those plush Manhattan offices. This leaves the local ownership trying to figure out how to replace the revenue from the lost 10 home dates, so ticket and concession inflation will undoubtedly head northward. At least the local increase won’t take a single seat up to $162.
Now that all loyal fans are feeling lighter in the pocketbook, the owners and player association are making noises of a bitter master contract fight after the season. We all know what that may mean: a strike or lockout, depending on which set of oppressed multimillionaires you care to believe.
And all these woes are self-inflicted.
The sentiments of that advertising jingle are gone, especially the line which followed “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.” It went like this:
“They go together in the good ol’ USA.”
Not anymore. Not in my USA.
Mark Franke, an adjunct scholar and of the Indiana Policy Review and its book reviewer, is formerly an associate vice-chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.