Response To Bud Selig's Letter to Congress

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Save the Hall of Fame Game                                                     Contact:
Kristian Connolly

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Commissioner Selig's Letter to Members of Congress Obtained, Responded to by savethefamegame.com:

WASHINGTON, DC (April 9, 2008) -- Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig recently responded to requests made by various United States senators and representatives to reverse the decision to end the annual Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown after 2008.

The savethefamegame.com campaign obtained copies of three of those letters -- sent to Representatives Michael Arcuri and Maurice Hinchey and Senator Hillary Clinton -- and savethefamegame.com creator Kristian Connolly's response, as well as the text of the commissioner's letter, follows below:

"Commissioner Selig's identical, form-letter response to members of Congress is stunning in its refusal to directly address the lawmakers' concerns, and in the way it sweeps the central issue under the rug in favor of self-congratulating or hollow statements. It's insulting to the senators and representatives that have expressed their desire to see the tradition continue, and insulting to baseball fans across the globe.

"The commissioner's obvious disregard for his responsibility as the steward of America's national pastime -- not national industry -- is appalling, as is his clear lack of caring about the sport's fans -- unless it involves how they can increase the bottom line. For all intents and purposes, Commissioner Selig should have used the word 'customers' rather than 'fans' or 'visitors' in his response, since it is unmistakable from his words that he views those of us who care about baseball -- its past, present and future -- only as sources of revenue.

"Furthermore, I am in complete and utter disbelief that the commissioner of baseball believes that people need to be made 'more aware of the Hall of Fame and its importance.' As someone who grew up in Cooperstown and has traveled all over the country and met many different people -- baseball fans and otherwise -- I feel confident that there is not a single village in America that is more well known than Cooperstown, and baseball and the Hall of Fame are the main reasons why. For some, Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame are symbols. For others, they're a goal. For others still, they're the centerpiece of debate. And for many, Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame are destinations held in such high esteem that people spend months, years, or even a lifetime dreaming about and planning for a trip to visit them.


"As the commissioner and his deputy Bob Dupuy know first-hand from the letters that savethefamegame.com has helped facilitate, disappointment over the decision to cancel the Hall of Fame Game is found not only among the local residents of Cooperstown and the surrounding area, but stretches far and wide across the United States, and beyond.

"To say that the Hall of Fame Game creates a scheduling problem is completely ludicrous. The CBA specifically allows for the Hall of Fame Game, and even allows for it to be factored into consecutive-days-played and off-day provisions, so saying that the game takes place on an off-day is disingenuous, at best. If the commissioner was so concerned about giving players days off in lieu of maximizing profits during a 162-game, six-month season, then perhaps his office could craft a schedule which contained a few doubleheaders mixed in, to create further opportunities on the calendar for players to get some rest. But simply throwing in the towel on a nearly 70-year-old tradition rather than making it work -- in the interest of what is best for the sport -- should be embarrassing for those making that decision.

"The recent steroid and drug scandals, the late starts to playoff and World Series games, and more have all helped to put baseball on the defensive against accusations of greed, of having lost sight of tradition and sportsmanship in baseball over profit motives, and of ignoring and/or imperiling its most impressionable fans, the nation's children. Since 1940, the Hall of Fame Game has celebrated the national pastime on the sport's historic home field in the sport's celebrated hometown. It has been symbolic of sportsmanship, of exciting kids and adults alike about the game, of connecting to the present and reconnecting to the sport's revered history, and of fine athletic traditions.

"Many of the game's greatest players have played on Doubleday Field, and they've done so for fans in a setting that is as pure, intimate and historical as there is in baseball today. Baseball is a sport that thrives on values and traditions, and preserving the Hall of Fame Game is a relatively easy way to help restore and retain the values and traditions that have been celebrated annually for almost 70 years."


The full text of Commissioner Selig's letter to lawmakers is copied below, and copies of the originals can also be found by using the following links (Clinton | Arcuri | Hinchey). PDF copies of each letter are also available upon request. Bracketed text indicates the two parts of the letter that were different in the various versions.


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Commissioner Selig's Letter to Lawmakers

Dear [Lawmaker]

Thank you for your thoughtful letter of [Date]. I certainly agree with you that the Hall of Fame and Cooperstown are important parts of Baseball's heritage.

While I appreciate the sentiments expressed in your letter, allow me to elaborate on some of the reasons that went into the decision to eliminate the annual Hall of Fame Game in its current format after this year. As you know, our teams play 162 games in 180 days. With interleague play and interdivision matchups, finding two teams that could be scheduled into Cooperstown during an off-day has become exceedingly difficult. As you know, for several years the game has not been played in conjunction with the Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, making the logistics of presenting the game that much more complicated.

Also, as you are aware, the Hall of Fame, while a key part of Baseball history and lineage, is independently owned and operated. Major League Baseball and my office provide significant support to the Hall. I, myself, serve on its Board. Just this year, we committed to an $8 million dollar grant over three years to assist the Hall in its funding requirements. We share your view that the Hall is a special place for all baseball fans and a significant tourist attraction for that part of the State of New York. That is why we have embarked on a program to make our fans more aware of the Hall of Fame and its importance. This year at the All-Star Game in New York's own Yankee Stadium, we will be featuring a tribute to all the living Hall of Famers, bringing as many as possible to New York for this historic event at considerable expense to Baseball. Beginning this year, and continuing into the future, we will use the Hall of Fame's Induction Sunday in all of our major league parks where games are played that day as a special event, complete with video and on-field tributes and a recognition of what is going on in Cooperstown that day. We developed this plan in full conjunction and cooperation with the Hall of Fame's management. Frankly, we think this is a much better deployment and our resources in terms of ensuring the Hall of Fame's long-term success, and will attract far more visitors to the area than a single game, played on a variable date each year, with the Major League players participating for a only a few innings. While I am sure the local residents of Cooperstown will be disappointed, we are hopeful that a thriving base of visitors each year enhanced by our promotion will help assuage their disappointment. And remember exciting minor league baseball can be found in the area all summer in Oneonta, Binghamton, Troy and Syracuse among other locations.

Thank you again for your interest. I hope you will be able to attend the Induction ceremony some year. It is always a memorable occasion.


Sincerely,

Allan H. Selig
Commissioner of Baseball