The All-Star Game is comically awash in corporate sponsorship

26 Comments

This is not one of those “oh, the All-Star Game” is horrible columns people like to write. With the exception of the home field advantage thing and some minor complaints about how voting is conducted and rosters are filled out, I like the All-Star Game well enough. It’s still a real baseball game in most respects, which can’t be said for its football, basketball and hockey counterparts. The Home Run Derby, especially with the tweaks made for last year, is a good deal of fun. It’s basically harmless and sometimes quite enjoyable.

But one thing has been sticking in my craw about it over the past couple of years, and that’s the level of corporate sponsorship involved.

Don’t get me wrong: I know it’s a business and that everyone wants to make a buck. This is not some pinko liberal commie anti-corporate screed. It’s more bemusement than beef. I’m bemused at what the All-Star sponsors think they’re getting out of their sponsorships given how diluted each of them are.

I get a lot of press releases from Major League Baseball in the runup to the All-Star Game, and by doing a cursory search of those in my inbox, I found the following sponsorship notes attached to the Midsummer Classic. I’m probably missing a few:

  • On Tuesday night we will witness the Major League Baseball All-Star Game presented by MasterCard;
  • Before the first pitch is thrown on Tuesday there will be multiple performances by Grammy-winning recording artists, whose names will be identified first by the name of their record labels which, you can imagine, gave some sort of consideration to MLB and/or Fox to get their artists on the telecast;
  • The actual All-Star Game will be preceded by Monday’s Gatorade All-Star Workout Day;
  • The key part of Gatorade All-Star Workout Day is the T-Mobile Home Run Derby;
  • Before we get to that, however, there will be All-Star Sunday featuring the SiriusXM Futures Game;
  • All of these things will be taking place at Petco Park, but stadium sponsorship is pretty quaint by now I suppose;
  • A great many of the participants in the All-Star festivities were selected by fan voting, which was sponsored by Esurance, culminating in the 2016 Esurance All-Star Final Vote (note: all the press releases heavily hashtag these things despite them not having links);
  • This week and over the weekend there are a lot of side events in and around San Diego, including youth league field refurbishment events sponsored by Scotts, a 5K presented by Nike, a group yoga event sponsored by something called Soul Pose and a block party sponsored by Pepsi.

Again, most of these events are probably pretty cool in their own right. Some of them have charitable aspects to them, separate and apart from the many charitable activities MLB will hold in the coming days. I don’t begrudge their existence or the fact, in and of itself, that they’re sponsored by some company. We all have a price. If Pepsi or Esurance wants to throw some money my way I’ll hold some event and allow them to put their logos all over it.

I just can’t help but wonder what, say, MasterCard gets from being the official sponsor of the All-Star Game when there are a dozen others sponsoring a dozen other aspects of it all. Well, I don’t get what MasterCard gets from advertising at all, actually, given how people choose their credit cards, but that’s another topic. How about Gatorade having a subset of its “workout day” sponsored by T-Mobile. Etc.

Mostly, though, I just wonder who or what the All-Star Game is supposed to be serving. The fans? The league? The sponsors? I guess it’s not a mutually-exclusive proposition, but it I imagine all of those complicated business relationships make changing any one aspect of the All-Star Game, if baseball wants an aspect changed, pretty complicated. I imagine that, even if we’re not super unhappy with the All-Star Game, little things that could make it better are unlikely to occur without a lot of meetings and hassles, and who wants any of that? I imagine that the sponsors get the final say on anything that even remotely enters their bailiwick.

This post has been brought to you by “Jason Bourne,” in theaters July 29th, from Universal Pictures.

Gaylord Perry, two-time Cy Young winner, dies at 84

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

GAFFNEY, S.C. — Baseball Hall of Famer and two-time Cy Young Award winner Gaylord Perry, a master of the spitball and telling stories about the pitch, died at 84.

Perry died at his home in Gaffney, Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler said. He did not provide additional details. A statement from the Perry family said he “passed away peacefully at his home after a short illness.”

The native of Williamston, North Carolina, made history as the first player to win the Cy Young in both leagues, with Cleveland in 1972 after a 24-16 season and with San Diego in 1978 – going 21-6 for his fifth and final 20-win season just after turning 40.

“Before I won my second Cy Young, I thought I was too old – I didn’t think the writers would vote for me,” Perry said in an article on the National Baseball Hall of Fame website. “But they voted on my performance, so I won it.”

“Gaylord Perry was a consistent workhorse and a memorable figure in his Hall of Fame career,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement, adding, “he will be remembered among the most accomplished San Francisco Giants ever … and remained a popular teammate and friend throughout his life.”

Perry was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and spent 10 seasons among legendary teammates like Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who said Thursday that Perry “was a good man, a good ballplayer and my good friend. So long old Pal.”

Juan Marichal remembered Perry as “smart, funny, and kind to everyone in the clubhouse. When he talked, you listened.”

“During our 10 seasons together in the San Francisco Giants rotation, we combined to record 369 complete games, more than any pair of teammates in the Major Leagues,” Marichal said. “I will always remember Gaylord for his love and devotion to the game of baseball, his family, and his farm.”

Perry, who pitched for eight major-league teams from 1962 until 1983, was a five-time All-Star who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991. He had a career record of 314-255, finished with 3,554 strikeouts and used a pitching style where he doctored baseballs or made batters believe he was doctoring them.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame said in a statement that Perry was “one of the greatest pitchers of his generation.” The Texas Rangers, whom Perry played for twice, said in a statement that the pitcher was “a fierce competitor every time he took the ball and more often than not gave the Rangers an opportunity to win the game.”

“The Rangers express their sincere condolences to Gaylord’s family at this difficult time,” the team’s statement said. “This baseball great will be missed.”

Perry’s 1974 autobiography was titled “Me and the Spitter,” and he wrote it in that when he started in 1962 he was the “11th man on an 11-man pitching staff” for the Giants. He needed an edge and learned the spitball from San Francisco teammate Bob Shaw.

Perry said he first threw it in May 1964 against the New York Mets, pitched 10 innings without giving up a run and soon after entered the Giants’ starting rotation.

He also wrote in the book that he chewed slippery elm bark to build up his saliva, and eventually stopped throwing the pitch in 1968 after MLB ruled pitchers could no longer touch their fingers to their mouths before touching the baseball.

According to his book, he looked for other substances, like petroleum jelly, to doctor the baseball. He used various motions and routines to touch different parts of his jersey and body to get hitters thinking he was applying a foreign substance.

Giants teammate Orlando Cepeda said Perry had “a great sense of humor … a great personality and was my baseball brother.”

“In all my years in baseball, I never saw a right-handed hurler have such a presence on the field and in the clubhouse,” Cepeda added.

Seattle Mariners Chairman John Stanton said in a release that he spoke with Perry during his last visit to Seattle, saying Perry was, “delightful and still passionate in his opinions on the game, and especially on pitching.

Perry was ejected from a game just once for doctoring a baseball – when he was with Seattle in August 1982. In his final season with Kansas City, Perry and teammate Leon Roberts tried to hide George Brett’s infamous pine-tar bat in the clubhouse but was stopped by a guard. Perry was ejected for his role in that game, too.

After his career, Perry founded the baseball program at Limestone College in Gaffney and was its coach for the first three years.

Perry is survived by wife Deborah, and three of his four children in Allison, Amy and Beth. Perry’s son Jack had previously died.

Deborah Perry said in a statement to The AP that Gaylord Perry was “an esteemed public figure who inspired millions of fans and was a devoted husband, father, friend and mentor who changed the lives of countless people with his grace, patience and spirit.”

The Hall of Fame’s statement noted that Perry often returned for induction weekend “to be with his friends and fans.”

“We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife, Deborah, and the entire Perry family,” Baseball Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark said.