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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Fans strike back?

The web site has an unflattering picture of Bud Selig.  The photo itself is not really disrespectful to Bud; he is wearing a nice suit and his hair is neatly combed.  His image merely reflects the attitude of major league baseball toward its fans at the moment.  Selig stares straight into the camera as if looking at us, and is giving the up yours signal.  Most can draw their own conclusions.

The web site is www.takebackbaseball.com.  Take back baseball was officially launched by baseball fan Heather Holdridge in December of last year as a response to the baseball’s contraction plans. (Holdridge believes Expos fans have been given a bad rap.  They like baseball, she says, but don’t like the way the team is run.  She points to the simple fact that Montreal has never been to the World Series since its inception in 1969.  The Expos are the only one of the four teams created that year that hasn’t appeared in a Series.) While Holdridge is still firmly against contraction, her site now focuses on the potential baseball work stoppage.

Operating with the slogan, “Don’t Let the National Pastime Become the National Bottom Line,” Holdridge, along with other fan groups and websites in Oakland, Seattle and Milwaukee, is calling for a boycott of baseball on July 11.  In addition to not attending baseball games, they are asking fans not to watch baseball on TV, listen on radio, or do anything else that would constitute support for baseball.

“They (the baseball establishment) are in for a rude awakening,” Holdridge said referring to a potential fan backlash.  “Loyalty is vulnerable.”

“They don’t think fans don’t matter,” she added.  “We’re pleading that they don’t screw it up again. (regarding a possible strike or lockout).  The game won’t be able to take it.”

Thus far the site has garnered over 7,000 signatures of fans that have vowed to take part in the July 11 boycott.  Holdridge is happy with that progress saying the boycott movement has “come from nowhere.”

“1994 is a flash point for a lot of people,” Holdridge said referring to the continuing fan disillusionment.  “I know many who still don’t go to games.”

Along with hoping that the owners and players solve their differences, Holdridge wants fans “to have a seat at the table.”  While she doesn’t expect fans to have an actual seat at the table whether it is at collective bargaining sessions or when owners decide on what direction to take the game, she wants fans to have a say.  One way is the July 11 boycott.

“It’s time to organize and take action,” Holdridge said.  “We will see what happens after July 11.”

Though a great deal of her venom is aimed at the owners and the remainder of the baseball establishment, Holdridge also feels the players have begun to lose touch with the average fan.  She is a strong believer workers having collective bargaining rights, but she also thinks cavalier remarks made by players who think the fans will just come back only worsens the whole situation. 

“Fans don’t think of the players as Joe-Six Packs trying to make a living,” she said.  “Players have to keep in mind that fans don’t have much sympathy for anyone that averages $2.4 million a year.”

Holdridge works for Carol/Trevelyn Strategy Group, a Washington D.C. firm that develops grassroots activism with online technology.  Holdridge acknowledges that fan based groups have been short on influence and longevity.   She notes, however, that every baseball market has fan groups formed to vent out frustrations.  She also feels that the Internet allows fans to connect and take real action. 

Holdrige has written, “It’s time for fans to get off the bench, hit the field and take back baseball.”


Editor's Note:  Dan Helpingstine is a free lance writer living in Highland, Indiana.  In the early 80's, he worked as a stringer for The Times, then based in Hammond, Indiana, covering business-labor news.  For six years, he worked as a part-time sportswriter for the Merrillville Herald, a weekly that was a part of a chain of weeklies in Lake and Porter Counties.  He covered high school football and basketball.  In 1995, Helpingstine had a short story published in a murder mystery anthology entitled Murder Is My Business.  He also has had articles on the JFK murder published in the Post-Tribune of Gary.  His new book is titled "Through Hope and Despair."  It is the story of one fan's roller coaster ride with the luckless White Sox.

More features from Dan Helpingstine here!

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