Cover image for Fair ball : a fan's case for baseball
Fair ball : a fan's case for baseball
Costas, Bob, 1952-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Broadway Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
179 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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Material Type
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GV880 .C68 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
GV880 .C68 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
GV880 .C68 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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From his perspective as a journalist and a true fan, Bob Costas, NBC's award-winning broadcaster, shares his unflinching views on the forces that are diminishing the appeal of major league baseball and proposes realistic changes that can be made to protect and promote the game's best interests. In this cogent--and provocative--book, Costas examines the growing financial disparities that have resulted in nearly two-thirds of the teams in major league baseball having virtually no chance of contending for the World Series. He argues that those who run baseball have missed the crucial difference between mere change and real progress. And he presents a withering critique of the positions of both the owners and players while providing insights on the wild-card system, the designated-hitter rule, and interleague play. Costas answers each problem he cites with an often innovative, always achievable strategy for restoring genuine competition and rescuing fans from the forces that have diluted the sheer joy of the game. Balanced by Costas's unbridled appreciation for what he calls the "moments of authenticity" that can still make baseball inspiring, Fair Ball offers a vision of our national pastime as it can be, a game that retains its traditional appeal while initiating thoughtful changes that will allow it to thrive into the next century.

Author Notes

Bob Costas has won the Emmy Award as Outstanding Sports Broadcaster eight times & has been named National Sportscaster of the Year by his peers seven times. He has also received Emmy Awards for his writing, interviewing, & reporting. In addition to his sports broadcasting, Costas hosted the Emmy Award-winning interview show "Later ...with Bob Costas" on NBC, & will be hosting a new sports journalism program on HBO beginning in February 2001. A native New Yorker, Costas now lives in Saint Louis, Missouri.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Costas isn't the first announcer to write a manifesto on what's wrong with baseball, nor is he the only person to think the game's soul has been debased by hyper-escalating salaries, bonehead revisions to the league and shortsighted owners toeing the bottom line. But he is one of the more persuasive and eloquent. Costas firmly grasps the game's economics, and he marshals mounds of evidence and countless wise insights to show why the sport needs revenue sharing, a salary cap and a salary minimum to restore competitive balance. Next, he dissects other gimmicks of 1990s baseball, such as interleague play, the wild card, the oft-proposed radical realignment. Thankfully, Costas never sits back and says, "It was better when...." Instead, he carefully shows that these gimmicks have been implemented poorly, that they've achieved nothing they were supposed to and that they've instead made pennant races obsolete. In the last frame, Costas briefly pushes a few more hot buttons--umpire oversight, Pete Rose, the DH--and offers what may prove his most controversial opinion: he advocates using instant replay during the playoffs. Throughout, Costas remains evenhanded. If he blames most of the game's problems on the owners, he's no less critical of the superstars and their union lackeys, who, he argues, care more for a few huge paychecks than all the guys making minimum. Author tour. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Ensuring competitive balance is one of the most contentious issues facing major league baseball today, and to a lesser extent other team and individual sports as well. The alleged dominance of a few franchises, generally those with the highest payrolls and from the largest markets, coupled with perennially weak teams, is seen as a threat to the national pastime; it is a topic of considerable interest to fans, commentators, sports economists, and public policy decision-makers. Into this fray jumps well-known sports broadcaster and avid fan Bob Costas. In a short, lively, no-holds-barred account Costas lays out his proposals addressing current imbalances and inconsistencies. His recommendations: more revenue sharing (including broadcast revenues and ticket sales) among owners; restraints on players' salaries (individually and total team payroll); some adjustments to player free agency and arbitration; and revised regular-season and postseason schedules (eliminating, among other things, "wild-card" teams). He closes with rants--akin to some from Dennis Miller on Monday Night Football--about designated hitters, All-Star games, instant replay, umpires, Pete Rose, the World Series, and commercialization. Fair Ball should appeal to, and provide the basis for, animated water-cooler and ballpark arguments among knowledgeable baseball fans; casual readers may find the brevity, sidebars, and prescriptions confusing, insufficient, or unimportant. All levels. A. R. Sanderson; University of Chicago

Booklist Review

Think of it this way: your incredibly cute drinking partner opens his mouth and metamorphoses into a baseball wonk. He pushes aside your brew and delivers--in the cadenced tones of a very famous sportscaster--an extended diatribe, carefully thought out and logically developed, about the current and future state of the game. You are enchanted. That's what it's like reading Costas' passionately argued screed. He has a Plan. Balance the revenue, he pleads, laying it out in charts that show how major-league baseball could practice revenue sharing and make it work, saving the lesser franchises from being permanent also-rans. Cap and bottom salaries, he exhorts, laying that out with incentives and a reworking of free agency. He realigns baseball with only one team shifting leagues: the Houston Astros, and makes so strong a case against the wild card that any objections are swept aside with the beer. In the end, he talks about the designated hitter, the All-Star game, umpires, and Pete Rose, too. He makes it all seem right without once letting go of his toe-curling delight in the game itself. Costas says he's a Bull Durham guy, not a Field of Dreams guy, but if we read it, maybe they'll all come to their senses. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

Library Journal Review

Costas, NBC sports analyst, is nationally known for his insightful commentary and has long made no secret that of all the sports he has covered, baseball is his favorite. Here he offers nostrums to the deep-seated problems affecting baseball in a book with thoughtful but easy-to-read chapters. He explains that only big-market teams can compete anymore and that revenues and resources of baseball can and should be more evenly spread so as to increase competition. An equitable distribution of profits would certainly give fans of small-market teams reason for hope in the spring. Costas does not like the so-called innovations of the past several decades, including the use of the designated hitter in the American League. He provides an eloquent voice for the everyday fan who is becoming more obsolete owing to the increased costs of visiting a ballpark. This quality volume will circulate well in all public libraries. Highly recommended. [Originally scheduled for release in 1998, this book was covered in the Baseball Roundup, LJ 2/1/98.--Ed.]--Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



INTRODUCTION Let's say it's late October, and you're in what should be baseball heaven, sitting on the couch watching the fourth game of the World Series, Yanks vs. Braves. Suppose for a moment that you're a Minnesota Twins fan. You've been a baseball fan all your life, grew up playing the game, once got Rod Carew's autograph at a Little League clinic, spent your eighth birthday at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, and your fifteenth at the Humpdome in downtown Minneapolis. You played baseball in high school, took a summer vacation in college to Cooperstown, and once joked that you wouldn't leave the country between September 1 and the end of October, because you couldn't stand to miss the end of a pennant race or the playoffs. But tonight you find yourself watching the Series not because you're passionately rooting for either the Atlanta Braves or the New York Yankees. Instead you're watching mostly because, well, watching the Series is what you've done every October for as long as you can remember (save for that lost fall of 1994). So you sit there and contemplate the Atlanta Braves, a team the Twins vanquished eight years earlier in perhaps the greatest Series ever. And you wonder about the fortunes and forces that, since then, have sent your club into a decade-long financial and competitive tailspin, while the Braves have been in the playoffs every full season since. The two cities are roughly the same size, and, competitive factors being equal, Minnesota has supported the Twins at least as well as Atlanta has supported its team. Yet in the weird logic of late-'9Os baseball, Atlanta is a big market and Minneapolis-St. Paul is a small one. While your team still plays in the depressing dome, Atlanta has a new state-of-the-art facility with natural grass, good sight lines, a cozy retro feel, and all the modern amenities. When you look across the field at the New York Yankees, you just shake your head. It's hard to work up the old "Damn Yankees" antipathy these days. Partly because of Joe Torre, and partly because baseball's proudest franchise seems to be playing in a league, if not a sport, entirely different from your own. They got your best player two years ago, even though the Twins' owners would have paid him a team-record contract to stay in Minnesota, near where he grew up. He wanted to go to another club, Chuck Knoblauch said, because he wanted to play for a title. You recall that as a rookie Knoblauch had won a World Series ring. He was a Twin, and it was your team's second world championship in five seasons. You were sure then that Knoblauch would be a Minnesota fixture. But these days, you know better. No player of consistent All-Star quality is going to remain in Minnesota throughout his career. And yet just this summer, you watched George Brett--who played as recently as 1993--inducted into the Hall of Fame. Brett played his whole career with Kansas City, passing up bigger offers elsewhere. Not that he wasn't well-compensated, both financially and competitively. His Royals were perennial contenders, and won the AL West six times. He was happy to stay. Yet if he came up today, his competitive nature would make a move not just probable, but mandatory--not because of greed or disloyalty, but because teams like Kansas City and Minnesota can no longer even hope to compete. Now back to the Yankees. After winning their second Series in three years, with a payroll that was already four times that of the Twins, they began the 1999 season by trading for the Cy Young Award winner, Roger Clemens. He's a pitcher you've long respected, but one who has bewildered you in recent years: Hadn't the Texan Clemens said he wanted to be closer to home after leaving the Boston Red Sox in '97? So didn't his decision to sign with the Toronto Blue Jays betray either a disingenuous streak or a staggeringly bad grasp of geography? But Clemens can pitch, so he proceeded to win two straight Cy Young Awards for the Blue Jays. Then Clemens demanded a trade in '99, because, he said, he wanted to play with a contender. And you wondered, "If a team like Toronto--which won back-to-back World Series in '92 and '93, and only recently drew 4 million fans for a season to a new ballpark--can't qualify as a contender, what does that tell you?" And all through the '99 season, as the pitching-shy Blue Jays were fighting toward the brink of contention on the bats of talented young sluggers like Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green, you couldn't help wondering how good they might be if they still had Clemens pitching for them. After Clemens closes out the Series in Game 4, with a vintage, overpowering performance, you wonder if all this means the same thing to him as it would have if he'd stayed with the Red Sox and they'd somehow won it all. Or if it means anything like what it meant to Kirby Puckett, who took less money to stay in Minnesota, where he won world championships in 1987 and 1991. In the weeks ahead, instead of the normal shake-up of hot-stove action, the rich get richer, and the ranks of those who can no longer compete grows to include what once were considered "middle-market" clubs. Seattle has a brand-new stadium and a string of sellouts, but they're convinced they'll have to trade Ken Griffey Jr. and/or Alex Rodriguez. Toronto is working on deals to ship away Green and Delgado before they bolt for free agency. You still call yourself a baseball fan, and you still get out to the Metrodome a few times a season. But the game seems more distant today than it did only a few years ago. You can't follow pennant races anymore--because there aren't any--and the wild card seems hard to get excited about. The media characterizes the game as "on the way back," thanks largely to Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. But even at its most epic, the '98 home-run race seemed somewhat disconnected from the season it was part of--less a highlight of the season itself than a thing unto itself (through no fault of the particulars), or a substitute for the plain fact that when the last several baseball seasons began, you knew that your team had no living chance to contend for a pennant. No, the rising tide has not lifted all boats. And as you watch the games from your living room now, you realize that something essential has changed. You're not nostalgic for the "old days" as much as you are for the more recent ones, when the fact that you had one of the best managers and farm systems in baseball was a crucial advantage. When star players wanted to be with the Twins. When the Twins' owners weren't eyeing other cities. And when you could greet April with the hope that your team had a prayer. But as you sit and watch the Yankees celebrate, those days seem far removed. You might wonder if anyone on the other side of the screen is feeling the same way. Excerpted from Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseball by Bob Costas All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
1 1993: What Should Have Happenedp. 15
2 1993: What Did Happenp. 27
3 The Nature of Sports Leaguesp. 41
4 It's Not the Revenue, Stupid (It's the Revenue Sharing)p. 51
5 Balancing the Fieldp. 63
6 Union Menp. 81
7 The Floor-to-Ceiling Capp. 91
8 If It Ain't Broke ... (The Foolishness of Radical Realignment)p. 105
9 Radically Simple Realignmentp. 115
10 Pennant Races and Wild Cardsp. 123
11 The 3-and-0 Countp. 149
12 Loose Endsp. 157
Conclusionp. 173
Acknowledgmentsp. 179