Looking at the past to see Major League Baseball’s future

This week in North Philly Notes, Lincoln Mitchell, author of Will Big League Baseball Surivive? considers how MLB has changed since Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard ’round the world.”

On November 23rd of this year, 90 year old former big league pitcher Ralph Branca died. Bianca was a solid pitcher, winning 88 games with a very respectable 3.79 ERA over 11 year seasons in the 1940s and 1950s. Branca, however, is mostly remembered for giving up the most famous home run in baseball history. He was the relief pitcher who gave up a three run home run to Bobby Thomson in the bottom of the 9th inning of the third and final game of a playoff series to determine the National League pennant in 1951. Even casual baseball fans have seen the clip of Thomson running the bases, Branca looking dejected and the Giants fans at the old Polo Grounds in northern Manhattan going crazy while announcer Russ Hodges keeps repeating “the Giants win the Pennant.”

That was, by any measure a great game, unless I suppose, if you were a Brooklyn Dodger fan. Thomson’s home run highlighted the Giants comeback after trailing by 4-1 in the last inning. Five future Hall of Famers, including Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays, played in that game between two teams who had been rivals for over half a century. The game was further immortalized by Dom DeLillo who opened his Cold War Epic The Underworld with a fictional scene of Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason, Toots Shor and J. Edgar Hoover sitting together at that game.

Perhaps the most interesting and overlooked statistic about that game is that there were 20,000 empty seats for this most exciting and anticipated of games. Baseball fans today assume that big league baseball was always played by the best players in the world in front of full stadiums, but for much of baseball’s history that was not true. Ironically, while baseball played a bigger role in our culture then—it is hard to imagine any home run in the 21st century becoming as widely remembered as Thomson’s or known as the “shot heard ‘round the world’—it was a much smaller industry.

will-big-league-baseball-survive_smThis is significant because to understand where Major League Baseball (MLB) is going, it is essential to understand how it got to be where it is. In 1951, only a few years after Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Dodgers, baseball at the major league level, was still a game played entirely in the northeast and Midwest in mostly empty ballparks. Integration was still in its nascent stage as there were informal limits on the number of African-American players on each team, and Latinos with dark skin were still almost entirely excluded.

Baseball’s journey to becoming a multi-billion dollar industry with the best players from the baseball-playing world vying for lucrative spots on 30 teams in North America was a complex one. Baseball did some things well, like being ahead of the national curve on integration and adapting well to new technologies, notably the internet, but it also encountered problems such as its mishandling of the steroid crisis while poor attendance remained a problem as recently as the 1990s when baseball considered eliminating two teams.

The recently concluded season ended on a high note as the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series since 1908. The final game of the World Series between the Cubs and the Cleveland Indians drew more viewers than any game in the last quarter century. Since the World Series, the major baseball story has been the efforts to renegotiate the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the players and the owners. The most visible issues that have been raised with regards to the CBA thus far have been the possibility of adding a 26th player to big league rosters and introducing an international draft for all amateur players around the world.

These issues, however, are only very dim reflections of the bigger challenges baseball will confront in the coming decade or two. In the last 10-20 years globalization has brought more top players from everywhere in the world to MLB, but as globalization continues, many baseball loving countries, particularly those with some economic power, will chafe at this system, while MLB may realize that concentrating entirely in North America leaves many markets untapped. Similarly, new technologies and ways of consuming information will make lucrative cable contracts a thing of the past while MLB will need to find ways to more efficiently monetize its impressive advanced media products. Additionally, as fewer American children grow up playing more than one sport, fewer Americans grow into adulthood with a working knowledge of the game, raising important questions about how baseball will find the next generation of fans.

The last decade or two have been almost a perfect storm for MLB. Cable revenues have remained high while advanced media has brought in even more money. Globalization has made the best players available to American teams, while not being quite powerful enough to challenge American baseball hegemony; and there are still enough middle aged and older Americans who grew up with the game to fill stadiums and watch the postseason on television. This won’t continue and how baseball responds to these changing conditions will determine the future of this complicated and rarely fully understood American institution.

 

 

 

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Temple University Press Annual Holiday Sale!

Celebrate the holidays with Temple University Press at our annual holiday sale
November 30 through December 2 from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm (daily)
in the Diamond Club Lobby, lower level of Mitten Hall at Temple University

All books will be discounted

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Celebrating University Press Week

This week in North Philly Notes, we celebrate University Press Week!

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The theme of University Press Week 2016 is Community: from the community of a discipline to a regional home and culture, from the shared discourse of a campus to a bookstore’s community of readers.

The Association of American University Presses community uses the #ReadUP hashtag to highlight on social media the best of what our members are publishing all year long. It beautifully captures what we celebrate when we celebrate University Press Week: the scholarship, writing, and deep knowledge that is shared with the world through our books and publications. Follow #UPWeek for more news and info about the 2016 celebration!

Check out these videos featuring members of the Temple University Press staff talking about what working at a University Press means to them:

Sara Cohen, Editor

Gary Kramer, Publicist

Mary Rose Muccie, Director

Commonwealth: A Journal of Pennsylvania Politics and Policy

This week in North Philly Notes, we promote our new online-only journal, Commonwealth.

Commonwealth_sm.jpgA peer-reviewed, online-only journal that publishes original research across a broad range of topics related to the politics, policy, and political history of Pennsylvania, Commonwealth is interdisciplinary in nature and appeals to scholars and practitioners across political science, public administration, public policy, and history fields.

Issues will cover general interest pieces, applied research, practitioners’ or experts’ analyses, research notes, essays, and book reviews. The first annual “special policy issue” of Commonwealth highlighted educational policies in Pennsylvania. The next special policy issue, which will focus on the environment, will be assembled by a guest editor selected in consultation with the journal’s editor and editorial board. The print “Year in Review” issue will be a compendium of the best articles of the year.

Commonwealth collaborates with the Pennsylvania Policy Forum to plan special issues… The Forum is a consortium of faculty members and academic and policy institute leaders… who share an interest in generating ideas, analyses, and symposiums that might prove useful… in addressing major issues confronting the Commonwealth and its government.

Highlights from  the journal’s Special Issue on Education Policy include:

Commonwealth invited Senator Argall… and Jon Hopcraft… to summarize the argument that the (property) tax is an antiquated and unfair levy and should be abolished. We invited Dartmouth College economist William A. Fischel… to summarize his argument that, compared to statewide taxes, the local levy provides voters – even in households without school children – with stronger incentives to support high quality public schools.

A paper that outlines the rationale behind Student-Based Allocations for Pennsylvania School Districts, and investigates the extent to which the (Basic Education Funding Commission) proposal would allocate funds on the basis of students.

An evaluation of Pennsylvania’s Keystone exams that finds that race, socioeconomic status, and a schools English Language Learner and special education populations drive performance.

Subscribe at: https://tupjournals.temple.edu/index.php/commonwealth/index

Examining the Paid Family Leave Act and its future

This week in North Philly Notes, Megan Sholar, author of Getting Paid While Taking Time, writes about the presidential candidates’ paid family leave policies.

On November 8, Americans will go to the polls to choose a new president of the United States. This election cycle has been marred by scandal and personal attacks, and policy issues have often taken a backseat. In such a climate, it would have been easy to miss the announcements from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in support of paid family leave. But the significance of this moment should not be overlooked: It is the first time in U.S. history that both major party presidential candidates have proposed paid family leave policies.

Many Americans are shocked to discover that the United States is one of only eight countries in the world—and the only industrialized nation—that does not guarantee any type of paid family leave at the national level. Hillary Clinton wants to change this by implementing her plan to ensure that employees taking leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) receive at least two-thirds of their wages (up to a ceiling). Benefits would be available for up to twelve weeks to both women and men who become parents through pregnancy, surrogacy, or adoption. Employees would also be covered if they are caring for a family member with a serious illness or injury, or if they are suffering from their own serious medical issue. Clinton’s program would be funded through increased taxes on the wealthy.

Donald Trump’s approach differs from Clinton’s in many ways. He proposes six weeks of paid maternity leave for women who give birth and work in a company that does not currently provide paid leave. The plan would be administered through the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program. In essence, women would receive unemployment benefits to cover a portion of their salary while on leave; benefit levels vary by state. Funding for Trump’s program would come from eliminating fraud in the UI system.

In the past, paid family leave policies have been sponsored primarily by Democrats. Republicans have generally opposed such policies, labeling them as big government interference into Americans’ private lives. Although Clinton advocates a more comprehensive approach to paid family leave, Trump has broken new ground by becoming the first Republican presidential nominee to put forward any type of paid leave policy. So how did we get here?

getting-paid_smIn Getting Paid While Taking Time, I tackle this question by explaining the development of family leave legislation at both the national and state levels in the United States. Long a laggard on the issue, the United States did not even offer unpaid family leave until the FMLA was passed in 1993. By contrast, almost all developed nations provided women some form of paid maternity leave by World War II.

In the more than two decades since the passage of the FMLA, little has changed at the federal level. However, there has been significant progress at the state and municipal levels. Three states—California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island—have successfully implemented paid leave programs. Beginning in 2018, New York will also guarantee paid family leave. Dozens of cities and counties across the country now cover the cost of paid leave for municipal employees, and San Francisco has adopted the first city-wide paid parental leave law in the United States.

To understand these developments, I pay particular attention to the role that women’s movement actors and other activists (e.g., labor unions and critical actors in the government) play in the policy-making process, while similarly exploring the influence of opposition movements—especially business interests. I also consider the effects of partisanship, noting that governments controlled by Democrats are significantly more likely to adopt paid family leave policies than Republican-led governments. Ultimately in Getting Paid While Taking Time, I present a detailed account of the main reasons that the United States remains the only industrialized country without paid family leave at the national level.

Only 13 percent of workers in the United States have access to paid family leave through their employers; this lack of paid leave hurts women, men, children, families, and businesses. As the 2016 election demonstrates, politicians on both sides of the aisle have now begun to recognize the detrimental effects that this policy dearth has on workers and their families, and they are working to rectify it. This change of heart is largely a result of the tireless activism of family leave advocates. It has taken a long time to get to this point, but if we continue in the direction we are headed, the United States may soon join the rest of the developed world on family leave.

 

 

 

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