Smart Ball

Smart Ball: Marketing the Myth and Managing the Reality of Major League Baseball

ROBERT F. LEWIS
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 176
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tv7b1
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  • Book Info
    Smart Ball
    Book Description:

    Smart Ballfollows Major League Baseball's history as a sport, a domestic monopoly, a neocolonial power, and an international business. MLB's challenge has been to market its popular mythology as the national pastime with pastoral, populist roots while addressing the management challenges of competing with other sports and diversions in a burgeoning global economy.

    Baseball researcher Robert F. Lewis II argues that MLB for years abused its legal insulation and monopoly status through arrogant treatment of its fans and players and static management of its business. As its privileged position eroded eroded in the face of increased competition from other sports and union resistance, it awakened to its perilous predicament and began aggressively courting athletes and fans at home and abroad.

    Using a detailed marketing analysis and applying the principles of a "smart power" model, the author assesses MLB's progression as a global business brand that continues to appeal to a consumer's sense of an idyllic past in the midst of a fast-paced, and often violent, present.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-217-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ON DECK
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. AT BAT
    (pp. 3-8)

    In 1999, economists James Quirk and Rodney Fort publishedHard Ball: The Abuse of Power in Pro Team Sports. A sequel to their generic 1992 treatment of sports economics,Pay Dirt: The Business of Professional Team Sports, Hard Ballargues that professional sports should be more competitive and that government should act as a principal corrective of monopoly abuses. By using an analogue to an international political crisis, one could conclude that Quirk and Fort view the four major U.S. professional sports—baseball, football, basketball, and hockey—as possessing domestic “weapons of mass destruction” in the forms of monopoly license,...

  6. FIRST BASE BASEBALL AS A SPORT: CREATING POWER
    (pp. 9-35)

    In the beginning was the ball. But no one knew when the beginning was. InBaseball before We Knew It, David Block contends, “The roots of baseball were planted the moment the first cave kid hit a stone with a club. Since then, the game’s progression has been a little more difficult to figure out.” He observes that baseball’s origin can be claimed by a handful of nations on three different continents but that there is neither a single, conclusive beginning nor a traceable confluence of influences that chart the history—“an ironic (if not embarrassing) predicament for a sport...

  7. SECOND BASE BASEBALL AS A DOMESTIC MONOPOLY: DEVELOPING POWER
    (pp. 36-69)

    “Play is play, but sport is all business, big business, and it has been for a long time,” observes John Dizikes in his history of American sport.¹ Professional sport, including baseball as a significant but declining portion, is now America’s tenth-largest industry, with annual revenue approximating $220 billion.² Baseball assumed business elements as early as the 1860s. As Roger I. Abrams quips, “Money has been as much a part of the game as peanuts, popcorn, and Cracker Jack.”³ Indeed, ballpark concessions, later broadened from food to merchandise, combined with gate receipts to enhance baseball income in its early business evolution....

  8. THIRD BASE BASEBALL AS A NEOCOLONIALIST: ABUSING POWER
    (pp. 70-103)

    As MLB evolved from a sport and matured into a business, it increasingly sought what all businesses seek in the face of competition: cheap resources in the form of players. In baseball, however, the player is the labor as well as the raw material, while the processors are managers, coaches, and trainers. As a combined labor/material resource, a player group is subject to neocolonial appropriation in baseball as in other “manufacturing” processes. MLB’s history reflects its internal and external neocolonial initiatives among European immigrant, Native American, rural white, black, and Latino players. MLB’s neocolonial pursuits result from nineteenth-century cultural influences...

  9. HOME PLATE BASEBALL AS A GLOBAL BUSINESS: BALANCING POWER
    (pp. 104-132)

    This chapter concludes the progressive synthesis of baseball, viewed through MLB, as sport, domestic monopoly, neocolonial power, and global business. Each of those elements is an important part of MLB and is represented in the World Baseball Classic (WBC), an international showcase competition initiated by MLB and MLBPA in 2006 and cosponsored by league organizations of the fifteen other participating countries. A complementary event and emerging counterpoint to the WBC was the Summer Olympics, which terminated baseball participation after the 2008 Beijing games. These events provide insight into MLB’s opportunities and challenges in the global arenas. The WBC’s continuing success...

  10. FINAL SCORE
    (pp. 133-138)

    Exemplified by the World Baseball Classic (WBC), Major League Baseball (MLB) is a composite of a sport, a domestic monopoly, a neocolonial power, and an international business. The WBC represents the blend of myth and reality that MLB strives to balance in pursuing its international strategy. MLB’s “smart power” implementation of the WBC represents a merger of its soft power cultural and celebrity attraction to co-opt participating countries and their fans with the hard power economic leverage to induce countries to follow its leadership.

    Although baseball generally meets Allen Guttmann’s definition of a modern sport, with its organized and measured...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 139-152)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 153-162)
  13. INDEX OF MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL NAMES
    (pp. 163-165)