Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Pre-Season, April 10, 1952

Eric Whitehead’s FAN FARE
[Vancouver Province, April 10, 1952]
Gordon McLendon, the self-styled “Old Scotchman” of the Liberty Broadcasting System, stirs no love in the bosom of Ruby Robert Brown, the Old Irishman of Capilano Stadium.
McLendon, the brash young tycoon who parlayed a nasal Yankee drawl into a sprawling new radio empire, has a $4,000,000 suit pending against a group of major league ball clubs who refuse to co-operate with his famed Game of the Day broadcasts.
This action brings a snort of derision from Ruby Robert, a gent who can snort with the best of ‘em when his dander is up.
“Who is this fellow,” said Robert, “to think he can tell ball clubs what to do about their own baseball broadcasts? I’d like him to try and tell me, by jingo.”
Brown has nothing against baseball broadcasts—by the local club. He is dead against McLendon’s Game of the Day, which brings big league baseball right into the minor league’s living room.
Baseball, Bob and Boom Times
His theory is that by feeding the bush league fans those daily, highly-colored blurbs on the Musials, the Kiners and the Fellers, Mclendon is teaching us bushers to look down our noses at such modest local performers as the Schusters and the Trans.
“Why, by jingo,” says Bob heatedly, “I’ll tell you right now because of those broadcasts, plenty of our own fans know more about major league ball players than they do our own boys. And that’s not good for baseball.”
What he particularly means, of course, is that this is not good for the box-office. But Bob is one of the very few minor league park operators who has little to worry about on that score.
Last year his club drew 170,000 fans, a local record. This year with a whole season in the new stadium, he himself predicts an increase of 25 to 35 percent.
If the Caps, a very colorful looking club at this early stage, get a break with the weather, the total could well hit a quarter million.
In the present day of dwindling gate receipts all over the baseball hinterlands, that figure would be phenomenal.
On the other end of the stick are towns like Flint, Michigan, a 1951 entry in the now suspended Central League.
A Moral Here Somewhere
Paul Jones, Brown’s young rookie Negro pitcher, played with Flint, along with Cap outfielder Joe Scalise.
At one time last season, he relates, the club was mired down in a horrendous 17-game losing streak. Things hit rock bottom the night exactly two paid customers occupied the stands. This is probably organized baseball’s all-time low attendance mark. (Although Bill Schuster can recall the night 93 fans paid to watch Sacramento of the Coast League.)
As Flint, to bring the fans back after that two-man attendance, the management threw open the gates the following night, admitting every one free. Eight thousand loyal fans swarmed in.
Then the next night, the usual admission prices returned.
So did the fans. All 190 of them.

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