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The National Pastime Today—March 1, 2018

Well, we've made it. We are now in the month of Major League Baseball's Opening Day! That's a thing, right? March 29th, the earliest Opening Day ever, will be here before we know it. As is our Thursday custom, in TNP Today we link the links, providing a current story with a historical perspective piece. Enjoy!

March 1, 2018
Opening Day is coming! We are as excited as these Atlanta Braves fans cheering their team at Atlanta Stadium on Opening Day, 1966.

MLB Stadiums and Revenue

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported yesterday that the Atlanta Braves enjoyed a 47% increase in revenue (a tidy $124 million) last year. The reason for this rather significant spike? The Braves’ new SunTrust Park.  It was an “astounding” increase gloated Braves ownership. In light of this news, there has been some blowback regarding the $400 million contributed to the stadium project by Georgia taxpayers. The is-a-new-stadium-really-an-act-for-the-public-good question continues. 

Historically speaking, however, two issues come to mind. First, the simple concept of enclosing a baseball space and then charging fans to access it lies at the very heart of the game of professional baseball. The Union Grounds of Brooklyn was the first fully fenced-in baseball venue. The park opened in May of 1862. So yes, $124 million in new revenue sounds new, but the fundamentals here—control a space, put a team on it, charge people to get in—is more than a century and a half old. Second, Baseball is not dying! For those who like to trumpet the NFL’s popularity (concussions) or the NBA’s global reach (teams systematically tanking), rest assured that baseball is doing just fine. Or as Bob Klapisch summed it up: “Baseball’s epitaph will have to wait just a little longer.”

So Long Yawkey Way

The Red Sox made it official. The club, according to the Boston Herald, officially requested that the city of Boston rename Yawkey Way due to for club owner Tom Yawkey’s racist past. Under Yawkey’s leadership, the Red Sox were the last MLB club to racially integrate. Sam “The Jet” Jethroe, Boston’s first African American player, may have been treated fine once he arrived in Boston, but it took far too long for him to get there. Thus this move has been a long time coming.  It’s about more, obviously, than a street name. Rather Yawkey Way is Boston’s Calvin Griffith statue—a monument that sits outside Minnesota’s Target Field and was called “the most shameful statue in baseball” by Craig Calcaterra. At a time when America is considering monuments and memory, it’s good to see the Red Sox moving forward thoughtfully.