November 29, 2003

Politics, pollution, and baseball?

NOW with Bill Moyers aired an interview with Jim Bouton last night. Bouton is the former Yankees pitcher (and a good one--see here) whose first book was Ball Four, which absolutely scandalized the baseball owners and commissioner back in 1969. He's written a new book, in which big media and small town politics collide. It's the story of the attempts to renovate an old ballpark in Pittsfield, MA rather than build a brand-new one.

...he lines up against the economic lynchpin of pro sports: publicly funded stadiums. Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is the site of venerable Wahconah Park, home to various minor-league teams since 1892. Bouton and most of the area's citizenry feel the stadium should be repaired, updated, and preserved. The city government, however, along with various business interests, wants to build a new $18 million stadium--at taxpayer expense. This relatively small skirmish is portrayed by Bouton as a microcosm of the publicly funded sports facility battles that have been fought around the country. Typically, taxpayers foot the bill--under the pressure of team abandonment--so owners and players can get rich.

The book is self-published; the original publisher (Public Affairs), Bouton claims, backed out under pressure from General Electric, which may have been polluting the city's preferred site for a new ballpark. Both the publisher and GE deny the allegations, but Bouton stands by them. If you've ever lived anywhere where you felt fighting city hall was hopeless, you may recognize the situation described here. I want this book! Incidentally, the publicity from the PBS show can't have hurt: as of 1250hst today, it's ranked number 34 at Amazon.

Posted by Linkmeister at November 29, 2003 01:06 PM