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The baseball season spins and skids toward its conclusion and soon we will celebrate the 100th edition of the World Series.
Much is often made of baseball's immutability: three strikes and you're out, same as it was a hundred years ago. In fact, much has changed.
Always the intention of the owners was to maximize profits, but it's been a long time since the league has allowed a magnate to oversell his ball yard, pack the excess customers behind ropes in the outfield, and invoke a temporary ground rule that calls everything hit into the throng a double. Now the owners just raise ticket prices.
Baseball long ago lost its happy and lucrative distinction as the only game in town. When the World Series was in its adolescence, there was no national football league, of course, and the top college teams in the land were employed by Yale and Harvard.
Not so long ago former baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti said of the game that it was designed to break its fans hearts, ending just when we needed it most, as the wind picked up and summer surrendered. Now, if he had the leisure, the average fan might be heard to ask of the end of the baseball season, who cares? He's flipping the channels between innings of the September and October games to keep track of his football bets. He's checking to see which hockey players are holding out during training camp, and making sure his basketball season ticket package includes the Lebron games.
Come to think of it, that's the big difference, isn't it? Baseball's essentially the game it was, despite the attempts to soup it up with glowing TV. Graphics, mischievous mascots, and rap music between innings. The stadium gates still open when they've always opened in the spring and close pretty much when they've always closed. It's just harder to hear the once-simple melody of the summer game in September under the clamor and drums of all the noisy neighbors.
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