10 To sum up: The future of baseball, rather than being gloomy, is almost overwhelmingly bright.
The calamity howlers can't believe this. They say attendance is dropping, that the decline of the minor leagues is evidence of the decay in baseball, that it's only a matter of time before chaos envelops the game.
Even Larry MacPhail, who was an optimist in his younger days, has taken to talking like an old man. MacPhail took over the Cincinnati Reds in the depths of the Depression, when the Reds finished dead last for four consecutive years, and stimulated the club so that five years later (after he had moved on to Brooklyn) it won the pennant. He took over the Brooklyn Dodgers when they were a perennial second-division team, stumbling along in the red, burdened by mortgages. Within four years they were pennant winners, the most popular team in baseball and a gold mine. But now MacPhail grumbles that baseball is in jeopardy, that "the national pastime may be in danger." In a recent article in LIFE magazine he struck out in all directions, but cited no reason for the above statement except: "All other sports figures are going up, but baseball is the same. Racing and...football are making tremendous strides, and when you compare what's been going on in baseball it doesn't measure up."
Nonsense. Major league attendance figures today compared with those of 20 years ago are tremendously advanced. Ten major league clubs drew more than a million spectators in 1957, and 15 of the 16 clubs were over 600,000. In 1937 only one club drew over a million, and 12 were under 600,000. Compare attendance figures of any 16 top collegiate football teams for the same two years.
In the future this interest in baseball will be even greater if the major leagues expand to more than 16 teams, as everyone expects they eventually will. In the past five years the number of major league cities has grown from 10 to 15, a remarkable development and for baseball a fact of major historical importance. In the next five or 10 years it is entirely possible that the number of major league cities will grow to 20 or, better, 24. And in the event the present major league structure remains the same, the scheduling certainly will change. Interleague play is sure to come about, and intraleague games will wander to nonmajor-league cities. Thus, Detroit may on occasion play Cleveland in Toronto, and the White Sox may schedule a series with the Red Sox in Minneapolis.
And, of course, telecasting—under the present system now and the pay system later—will expand. The number of Americans who watch major league baseball—and who pay, either directly or indirectly, for the fun of watching—will continue to increase.
More baseball will be played, too. The Little League, for example, has become so much a part of community life that its impact is not fully appreciated. More boys play more baseball now than ever before in the nation's history. And more parents, and older brothers and sisters, and casual bystanders watch baseball than ever before. There's more and better high school baseball, more and better college baseball. The college sport up to a few years ago was a stepchild, nothing on the campus to compare to football or basketball. It was on a level with the so-called minor sports, like soccer and lacrosse and tennis. Now it is truly a major sport once again; the annual National Collegiate baseball championships are growing in prestige and glamour year by year. When colleges extend their scholastic term through the summer, as seems almost certain to happen in the near future, baseball, the logical summer sport, will become that much more important. This, of course, means that major league baseball will have a constant source of well-coached and well-conditioned young players to tap for professional play.
Finally, the huge increase in revenue that will come from pay television when it is an established fact will provide funds for a new, fully subsidized minor league structure; will permit a broader pension coverage that will cover all employees of baseball, minor leaguers, office personnel, umpires, groundskeepers, everyone; and will raise all players' salaries high enough so that the good athlete will continue to be attracted to a professional baseball career.
The future is just fine.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]