AUGUST 1999 |
MARC CIAMPA, a native of St. Albert, Alberta, Canada is the staff sports writer for Renaissance Online Magazine. A student at the University of Alberta, Ciampa is the public relations coordinator for the St. Albert Saints and writes a weekly article in the Edmonton Sun on junior hockey during the winter. During the summer he runs the official Calgary Cannons website.
David Cone's Imperfect Game
To most it seemed like the perfect day. Arguably baseball's most hard luck pitcher, David Cone, had finally put his name on a list where a mere eighteen ball players out of the thousands and thousands who have ever laced up the cleats reside. In baseball's one hundred and thirty year history, only eighteen have ever faced the minimum number of batters - twenty-seven.
Several of those eighteen have been Yankees. Among them David Wells, who accomplished the feat only fourteen months earlier. Another former Yankee, Don Larsen, pitched a perfect game - in the world series no less. What added to Cone's perfection was that none other than Larsen himself threw out the opening pitch to Yogi Berra.
July 18 started out as Yogi Berra Day, but quickly became David Cone Day by the time the final pitch rolled around.
The immediate reaction of media and fans everywhere was "what an amazing coincidence for David Cone to pitch a perfect game on a night like this!" Well, in a way it was a coincidence but it was brought on by the disparity between the rich and poor in the game of baseball.
The New York Yankees have a payroll bordering on $80 million while the Montreal Expos payroll is no more than $17 million.
While money alone is not the reason Cone mowed down the Expos - a large amount of cash is not helping the Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles among other teams - it certainly doesn't help the small market club. Does anyone think that any member of the Expos will be able to even throw a no-hitter sometime in the near future?
In virtually all professional sports leagues in North America there is an uneven playing field, but nowhere is that more prevalent than in the grand ol' game of baseball.
The sport is dangerously close to the two-tier system that European soccer uses. In the last three years, teams with payrolls below $40 million dollars did not even come close to making the playoffs - in fact, the only team with a payroll below that figure that had a better than .500 record last year was the Toronto Blue Jays ($36 million). While teams like Cone's Yankees, the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros continue to thrive, for teams like the Expos, Pittsburgh Pirates, Florida Marlins, the once-mighty Oakland Athletics and Milwaukee Brewers it's a struggle day-by-day to find enough money to stay afloat.
For Montreal, the club has the additional burden of a White Elephant for a baseball stadium that's been driving fans away since 1977 - back when the club played at the downtown outdoor Jarry Park baseball, which was the hottest thing in town - not to mention, the majority of the club's expenses are in US dollars while the small amount of revenues they receive are in Canadian dollars.
The plans have been laid out for a brand new 35,000 seat stadium in the heart of downtown Montreal but investors have been unwilling to ante up to this point - and for good reason.
As long as the teams with money refuse to help the teams who have to scramble for cash just to stay afloat, baseball's problems will continue. The main sticking point, of course, is convincing teams in large markets with insane profit levels to part with some of their profit for the overall good of the game and competitive balance. So even though baseball needs an NFL-style revenue-sharing plan so teams like Montreal have a chance to compete with the likes of the New York Yankees on a regular basis, don't expect a solution any time soon.
Without question, David Cone's achievement is to be applauded but even though Canada's Montreal Expos went twenty-seven up and twenty-seven down against him, it was by no means a perfect game.
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