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The Babe Calling Foul On This Strike

David Teel Newport News (Va.) Daily Press

Baseball Heaven. The postmark was too good to be true. But there it was, nestled in among the credit card bills and junk mail. Inside was a letter, handwritten on tattered paper. The penmanship was sloppy, the message heartfelt.

Dear baseball fans: Today is my 100th birthday, and before Gehrig and I go out for a few cold ones, I want to tell you how disillusioned we are up here.

This baseball strike: We just don’t get it. Call us oldfashioned, call us naive. We just don’t understand.

Back in our time, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the iron-fisted commissioner, would not have tolerated such insubordination. He would have declared a settlement himself before allowing a World Series to be canceled.

The World Series! I played in 10 of ‘em. I called a home run during the ‘32 Series in Chicago. Cancel the World Series? That’s like canceling Fourth of July fireworks. Today, you don’t even have a commissioner. The guy in charge, this Bud Selig fellow, is a bigger loser than Herbert Hoover was. He has no juice (juice: pretty hip word for a dead guy, huh?).

Selig is an owner, and owners want a salary cap. What a joke! Imagine if they had a salary cap back in the Yankees’ glory days.

Murderer’s Row - Combs, Lazzeri, Gehrig, Koenig, Meusel and I - would have been a figment of someone’s imagination. We would have been more watered down than that pointless light beer you folks drink nowadays.

God bless Peter Angelos. He owns the Baltimore Orioles, the team from my hometown, and he says he’ll refuse to play next season with replacements - scabs.

Angelos is as right as steamed crabs crusted with Old Bay. Expansion has diluted Major League talent enough. Scabs would be an insult.

The owners don’t need scabs, or a cap. They need selfdiscipline. Kinda like me. If I’d spent less time eating hot dogs and chasing ladies, I’d have hit 814 homers.

But I paid my dues. I grew up in a saloon in Baltimore and learned baseball at the local orphanage. I was a lefthanded catcher using a right-handed mit.

In 1920, the Red Sox sold me to the Yankees like a piece of property. Did I have right of refusal? Of course not. After I hit 60 homers in ‘27, did I have the option of offering my services to the highest bidder? Hell, no.

The most I ever made was $80,000 in ‘30 and ‘31. People were aghast that I made more than President Hoover. But like I said then: I was having a better year than Hoover.

So today’s players can spare me that bleeding heart crap. They’re making millions to play a kid’s game!

Players need to acknowledge that their salaries are out of whack. They need to sacrifice a few hundred thou’ for the sake of others, for the sake of kids. Have you been to a game in the past few seasons? You can count the kids with your fingers. That’s because tickets, concessions and parking are too expensive for the average family.

Attendance hasn’t suffered because corporations are more than willing to pay the freight so they can schmooze clients at the ballpark. It’s revolting to watch these suits sipping chardonnay during a game. They’re more concerned with the bond market than Barry Bonds.

Send those clowns to the opera. Cut the prices for tickets and popcorn, and bring back the kids.

It’ll work. Trust me.

And as Gehrig brings me my rum cake, complete with 100 candles, I have only one wish. Play ball.

Best wishes, Babe.

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