In his talk Hamric described the preseason sale of tickets as the single most important reason for Corpus Christi's success. But he made eminently clear that the success of the preseason sale and the overall success of the club depended very greatly on other things, too: a favorable local press, good public relations, condition of the ball park, intelligent promotion, a hustling, winning team. These are tried-and-truisms of baseball success, but you'd be surprised how often they are overlooked and by no means only in the minor leagues. Hamric made their application to Corpus Christi seem fresh and new by describing in detail how each was achieved. Boiled down, it came to utilization of modern business techniques: hard, energetic work all day and all year round; knowledge of and attention to all facets of the operation; identification of the firm with the community's general business activity; good sources of distribution and supply (in Bob Hamric's case the Milwaukee Braves, with whom Corpus Christi has a working agreement).
Hamric's remarks were echoed and amplified by Dewey Soriano of Seattle; Duke Zilber of Reading, Pa.; Austin Brown of Boise; Al Unser of Decatur, Ill.; Dick Wagner of Lincoln, Neb.; Harold Cooper of Columbus, Ohio; Bill Bergesch of Omaha. They talked about painting stadiums, selling family tickets, keeping rest rooms clean, taking part in community activities, making the game of professional baseball a highly attractive source of entertainment for local citizens and then going out and selling hard to the prospective customers rather than waiting for them to come to the park.
All of this was cheering and encouraging. These were the men and this was the kind of thinking that could save the minor leagues.
But a nagging doubt persisted. After all, these were only a dozen or so of the hundreds of club executives in the minors. How many more were not painting their ball parks, were not keeping their rest rooms spotlessly clean, were failing to gather community support for their teams, were not running their clubs as lively, intelligent business operations?
Gabe Paul in his controversial interview mentioned that attendance in 11 leagues had gone up in 1955, but he failed to add that attendance in 22 others had gone down and that two leagues had folded up and quit baseball for good as the season ended. Obviously, more men of the high caliber of a Bill Bergesch, a Bob Hamric or a Dick Wagner are needed.
But how can such men be attracted to baseball as a career? Indeed, how can the ones the minor leagues have now be persuaded to remain indefinitely? In baseball one or two years of success does not guarantee continued success. The law of diminishing returns operates with terrifying speed in the nation's favorite game. Even pennant winners can have financially trying seasons. And it must be realized that the successes discussed at the promotional clinic in Columbus were achieved only after a tremendous effort by highly capable men. Such effort and success in other fields is usually the prelude to a long and prosperous career. In baseball do such men have such prospects for the future?
Dick Wagner of Lincoln was not too optimistic. "I'm only 28," he said, "but I've been in baseball for nine years. I'd like to stay in it. But the future—I don't know. You'd like a little security, and there isn't too much of it in this game."
THE NEEDS OF BASEBALL
It boils down to a set of reasonably simple theorems. Major league baseball needs minor league baseball. Minor league baseball needs sound businessmen; but it is the kind of wild gamble that sound businessmen avoid. Therefore, it would behoove major league baseball to take what steps it could to make minor league baseball more stable and less of a wild gamble. It can do this only by taking steps to guarantee the financial structure of the minor leagues, where baseball's inherent insecurities are aggravated by certain major league practices which could probably be corrected.
One week later, at the major league meetings, every proposal the minor leagues had sent on with an eye to improving their lot was turned down. Ah there, again, Mr. Paul!