The way things stand now, as the competitors get stronger, the spectators weaken and more and more of them stay home to watch TV because they can't stand the exertion of a trip to the arena.
Maybe you can blame this on TV, along with the troubles which beset minor league baseball and minor league boxing. But time was when a real, hairy, oldtime spectator would battle for an hour to buy a ticket and two hours to get a seat at nearly any old contest, and that breed is becoming one with the whooping crane.
What the solution to the problem may be, we don't know. Perhaps a sort of spring training for spectators with courses in elbowing, sitting in the rain, sprinting up and down aisles and battling traffic would help.
Unless something is done, the 1960 Olympic crop will probably run faster, jump higher and throw farther before fewer people than ever in history.
BALLPLAYERS AND ECONOMICS
Back in the latter days of Happy Chandler's reign as commissioner of baseball (when there were 11 million U.S. television sets) the broadcast rights to the All-Star and World Series games were judged to be worth $1,150000 a year. With 60% of it going into the players' pension fund, major leaguers could look forward to their first professional "security": a modest $100 a month at 50 for 10-year men. Last week (there are now 40 million TV sets) the broadcast rights were reassessed at $3,250,000 a year—or enough to give a 10-year veteran of the majors a tidy $300 a month at 50.
Since the new contract suggests that major leaguers have never had it so good, it is a pity that the news came too late to be included in a thoroughgoing study of the ballplayer's lot just published by Professor Paul Gregory of the University of Alabama. The Baseball Player: An Economic Study (Public Affairs Press; $3.75) is a 213-page document which soberly analyzes the factors that determine baseball salaries. How much a player gets depends, among other things, on his ability, his box-office appeal and where his team finishes, Professor Gregory concludes. Ned Garver won 20 games with the last-place St. Louis Browns in 1951, but poor Ned had no bargaining power. As Bill Veeck observed when Garver hit him for a raise: "We finished last with you; it's a cinch we can finish last without you."
Since Gregory is a longtime contributor to the Harvard Business Review, he occasionally falls into professional economic jargon, but for the most part he covers the economic importance of batting records and trading ("In 1915 Manager Joe Cantillon of Minneapolis traded Outfielder Bruce Hopper to the Chicago Cubs for a hunting dog"), as well as the size of major league parks and the impossibility of replacing them, with the informal humor generally attributed to ballplayers. As a result, The Baseball Player must be one of the most entertaining works of economics ever written. It ranges over the whole baseball scene, including the economic importance of gifts from the fans (they once gave Rube Marquard an automobile they hadn't paid for and presented Chief Bender with a gold razor, not knowing Indians have no beards).
Perhaps the most memorable economic thesis in Professor Gregory's whole book, however, is one lifted from the saga of Babe Ruth. When Ruth asked for $80,000 in 1930 he was told that was more money than Herbert Hoover was getting as President. "What the hell has Hoover got to do with it?" roared the Babe, who then added thoughtfully, "besides, I had a better year than he did."
ON YOUR MARK—BOOM!