Drop-in ads during radio broadcasts aren’t a new thing. And I kinda like them.


Just read a column by Bob Greene over at CNN.com which itself launches off Richard Sandomir’s article from last week about “drop-in” ads during radio broadcasts of baseball games. Those are the little plugs you hear meshed into the game action such as “with that RBI double the Orioles have scored the First Financial First Run of the Game” or “and now here’s Terry Collins with the Samsung Galaxy call to the bullpen.” There are a gabillion of those. Mostly radio, but increasingly on TV too.

Sandomir’s article counts them and notes that their use is expanding. Greene neither approves nor condemns, using them as a larger point about how we’re living in a commercialized world so this sort of thing is inevitable. They’re both right about the points they make. There isn’t mention of the fact, however, that while drop-ins are ubiquitous, they aren’t new or really different than that which we heard even in the alleged Golden Age of Baseball.

Mel Allen used to do drop-in ads for Yankees sponsor Ballantine Beer, coining the term “Ballantine Blast.” As in “Mantle drives one to right … it’s gone! There goes another Ballantine Blast! How about that!”  At other times the Yankees were sponsored by Getty Oil. The announcers would refer to homers as “Getty Goners.” Obviously that didn’t happen 60 times a game but it did happen during what were often the game’s highlights. What we’re seeing now is a difference in degree, not a difference in kind.

And to be honest: I sorta don’t hate the drop-ins. I actually kind of like them on some narrow level in that it reminds you that you’re listening to a local broadcast. National games and even a lot of local TV games have gotten so slick with standardized national commercials and advertisers. Bud and Pepsi and big movies and everything else are all over the place. But if you listen to a radio broadcast you hear ads for muffler shops and local restaurant chains and other weird things unique to an area (and in my case foreign to me as I listen to a lot of out-of-town radio broadcasts).

I like hearing those ads for the same reason I like driving on older highways instead of interstates: it’s a small part of America that, for now anyway, is resisting the standardization that is so prevalent. It’s not “pure” or fantastic or anything — it’s still just an ad, or a motel or diner or what have you — but there was a time when you could travel in this country either literally or virtually and be exposed to weird stuff you don’t see in your town. The digital age and national advertising initiatives are helping erase that weird stuff the same way the interstate highway system has erased the apparent differences in communities. And that’s kind of a bummer.

So let’s hear it for weird brands of local sodas — if there are any left — sponsoring a stolen base. Or some local insurance agent with a surname that is common in Minneapolis but weird elsewhere sponsoring that collision on the basepaths. They’re not as good as some old highway through that forgotten town, but they’re the closest things we have to that in baseball.

Oh, and for no reason:

Spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws

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Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post reports that, according to three congressional officials familiar with current talks, an upcoming spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws. This is an issue we have spent some time covering here. A bill proposed in 2016, H.R. 5580, would have amended language in Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 which would have made it so minor leaguers wouldn’t be protected under a law that protects hourly workers. There is also an ongoing class action lawsuit over unfair labor prospects.

As DeBonis notes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is among the representatives backing the measure. The provision specifically concerning minor leaguers didn’t appear in any of the draft spending bills, but DeBonis spoke to officials familiar with the negotiations under the condition of anonymity who said it was under serious consideration by top party leaders.

DeBonis got a comment from Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner. He said, “We’re not saying that [minor league pay] shouldn’t go up. We’re just saying that the formula of minimum wage and overtime is so incalculable. I would hate to think that a prospect is told, ‘You got to go home because you’re out of hours, you can’t have any extra batting practice.’ It’s those kinds of things. It’s not like factory work. It’s not like work where you can punch a time clock and management can project how many hours they’re going to have to pay for.”

O’Conner said as much in an interview back in December. It’s an extremely disingenuous deflection. O’Conner also said, “I don’t think that minor league baseball is a career choice for a player.” This is all about creating legislation that allows Minor League Baseball to keep money at the top, which is great if you’re a team owner or shareholder. If they could get away with it, every owner of every business would pay its employees as little as possible, which is why it’s important to have unions and people keeping an eye on legislation like this that attempts to strip laborers of their rights in the dead of night.

Minor league players need to unionize. Or, better yet, the MLBPA should open their doors to include minor leaguers and fight for them just as they would a player who has reached the majors. Minor leaguers should be paid a salary with which they do not have to worry about things like rent, electricity, food, and transportation. They should be provided healthcare and a retirement fund. And if anyone tries to tell you it’s not affordable, MLB eclipsed $10 billion in revenues last year. There’s plenty to go around.

The owners are banking on this legislation passing and labor still coming in excess due to young men holding onto the dream of making the major leagues. According to CNN, “far less than 10 percent of minor league players ever get the chance to make it to the major leagues.” Some of these players have forgone college to work in baseball. They arrive at the park in the morning and leave late at night, putting in far more than your standard eight-hour work day. Since their bodies are their vehicle for success, they have to exercise regularly and vigorously off the field while maintaining a healthy diet. (And teams are still reluctant to invest even the smallest amount of money to ensure their young players eat well.) Minor leaguers make tremendous sacrifices to pursue their dream and now Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying Congress to legalize taking further advantage of them.