Two items that caught my eye today struck me as examples, in their own way, of how money, the "root of all evil," has truly taken a toll on baseball.
First up: a cretin named Sam Zell, the current CEO of the Tribune Co., the conglomerate that owns the Chicago Cubs. Zell told CNBC in an interview that he wouldn't hesitate to sell the naming rights to Wrigley Field. Why? "Wrigley is an obvious world-wide icon and Wrigley Field is world-wide known. But, in the world of economics, when I bought the Tribune, I didn't get a discount because I wasn't going to use the naming rights that field represents."
"Perhaps the Wrigley Co. will decide that, after getting it for free for so long, that it's time to pay for it," he continued. Of course, the park was given its current name in 1926 to honor then-owner William Wrigley Jr. While the Wrigley family owned the gum company, it's hardly an example of product placement. I don't think the gum logo was ever incorporated into the park's signage the way corporate logos are plastered all over the place now.
Considering that Zell only bought the Tribune Co. to get his hands on the newspaper, and plans to sell the Cubs and Wrigley Field anyway, what difference should it make to him? A ballpark with such history shouldn't be given a lame corporate name that will probably change in a few years anyway. Examples such as Pacific Bell SBC AT&T Park and the CoreStates First Union Wachovia Center come to mind.
The other example is much more amusing. Yesterday's Today Show featured a "Murphy Brown" cast reunion. Back in 1992, you may recall, Murphy gave birth on the show, and dim-witted Vice President Dan Quayle made it an issue on the campaign trail: "It doesn't help matters when primetime TV has Murphy Brown, a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid professional woman, mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice."
On the Today show, Candice Bergen fondly remembered the Philadelphia Daily News' front page headline that followed: "Murphy has a baby, Quayle has a cow." The show requested a copy of the paper to use in the following season's premiere episode, which dealt with the controversy.
The Daily News today reported that a problem came up, however. It seems that in the upper-right hand corner was a small picture of Philadelphia Phillie Dave Hollins. Now, it's a small picture and the paper was only seen on the show for maybe two or three seconds, but that didn't matter. Hollins decided he wanted to be paid for allowing his photo to be used. The problem was solved by recreating the front page, replacing the picture of Hollins with that of the paper's publisher.
If only it were that easy to solve the Wrigley Field problem. Perhaps we could replace Sam Zell with Dave Hollins? -- Joe Guckin