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Players Take to the Field

Aired August 30, 2002 - 13:41   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: As we continue to look at these live pictures from Wrigley Field as the players get ready to play the St. Louis Cardinals, we are going to bring our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield, back in. He is in New York -- Jeff, you and I, it is interesting. Brett Butler made this point, and you and I were talking about this, back while growing up, players were so accessible. I remember San Diego Padres, and showing up before the game, and getting right down on the edge of the field and players would sign balls, sign cards, talk to you. They were so friendly. As we look at a shot of our Jeff Flock and his studly chest there on Wrigley Field, getting ready for a live shot. He's there, which is good news.
Jeff, what do you think about what Brett Butler said? I mean, this is something players are going to have to do to repair this image, right? They have got to be more accessible, they have got to really try to draw those fans in again.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: I think that is an excellent point. In fact, one of the things that, I think on a low level way, must really rankle fans is you get a player who is making -- say he is just making the average, $2.5 million a year, maybe he is making more, and to get his autograph, you have to pay $10 to go to a show where the players can...


GREENFIELD: I mean, it is quite literal, you know what I mean, Larry.

PHILLIPS: If they do the show, Jeff.

GREENFIELD: You pay 10 or 20 bucks, and if it is real superstar, you might have to pay a premium for that autographed picture, and so on top of the millions they make on the field, and whatever they make endorsing products, they pick up an extra couple hundred thousand dollars signing autographs that you used to be able to get if you were persistent enough to wait outside the player's entrance. I think that is a real reality. I also think, and this is real shift, and it is one that you are never going to change because you shouldn't, there was a time, again, reserve clause, pre-1960-something, when players were earning something like working class salaries, when the 5,000 or $6,000 a year they got for making the World Series represented for many players, not the Babe Ruths or Joe DiMagios or Stan Musiels (ph), but the average player, that was like 30 percent bump. Now, they make 10 or 20 times that much for the World Series, and it is basically tip money. And there is a sense that they have become, to some extent, divorced. Now, that is a broad brush. There are plenty of players who give a lot of money to charity. Who spend time, who buy blocks of tickets so the poor kids can come to the game, and we need to point that out. Plenty of players who have done that. But, the days when ball players, you know, took the subway, if you were in New York, to work, that doesn't happen all that often. The days when players would rent a home in middle class neighborhood and actually be among fans -- we are a long way away from that. For one thing, players move around so much, they tend to stay in one town, their families are there, and they will jet home when they can or in the off season. It is a problem, that I think is just one of many problems that baseball faces. Yes.

SMITH: Jeff, I would bet they never take the subway, unless they just got called up from the minors, then they have to go. One thing you did bring up, the consumer price index, since 1967, baseball salaries have increased more than 100-fold, the salaries of the average U.S. household increased five-fold. So, you are absolutely right in terms of the money and in terms of the being accessible.

Jeff, stand by real quick. We want to go back to Chicago now, Wrigley Field. We saw his chest a moment ago, now we can see the rest of him. Jeff Flock is now inside on the field, Wrigley Field -- Jeff, what do you got for us?

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Finally, I got on the field. I'm thrilled to be out on the field here, as I'm sure you would be. Look at all these Cardinals and Cubs out here. You know, it is just like nothing ever happened, and this is the resilience of the game.

I was listening to Jeff Greenfield's comments, it is absolutely right, though, I mean, you look at the fans in this stadium. They don't have the same relationship with the players that they had in the past. It used to be baseball players, it was a blue collar profession, sort of like journalism in some ways, hate to say that too and make that analogy, but it used to be a blue collar profession and the people that were in the stands were of the same socioeconomic background as the players. But when you get to be a Major League player, no matter where you came from, you are making a whole lot of money. These guys out on this field are making a pile of money, and that really puts them into a different strata. So there isn't that same sort of connection, I think, there unfortunately -- there you go. I'm going to go walk around and see if I can talk to some of these guys while you guys chat on more.

PHILLIPS: All right. You let us know as soon as you have some players, and we will go back to you Jeff...

FLOCK: I will indeed.

PHILLIPS: ... with his prime time seat there on Wrigley Field. All right. We want to thank our Jeff Flock there, we are going to check back in with him, also want to thank our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield, adding his insight to a deal that has been reached between players and owners in this baseball strike that was looming. I think we are playing ball today folks, and we are going to continue to cover it.




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