Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Costs of a Ball Club

Behind the scenes as a baseball team prepares to take the field, there are a flood of headaches which through the season ebb and flow as the club meets its commitments on the field and through the box-off. Tremendous changes have occurred and probably three-fingered Brown and his glamorous mates of another far-off era would have difficulty recognizing the game, particularly with the inclusion of the rabbit ball.
Ever since the socking days of Babe Ruth, the emphasis has been on hitting. The pitcher is fair prey. Most fans appreciate a tight pitching battle, superb fielding that cuts off runs. But when the big blow comes and the ball soars over the fence; that’s the signal for friend and foe in the stands and bleacher to gloat.
“It simply means there has been a necessary change in diamond strategy,” points of Bob Brown, boss of the Capilanos. He looks back over nearly 50 years of close association with the game and that just about takes in all the time during which baseball have progressed to its present status.
But the changes on the field are as nothing compared to the many new problems which are faced in every day financing of a ball club.
Costs have soared, taxes take a healthy bite out of potential profits.
No longer can anybody operate a pro ball club on a shoe-string. That would be gambling in the extreme, and gambling of any sort is frowned on in baseball.

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Capilanos drew approximately 130,000 last year – third in total attendance behind Spokane and Victoria. Capacity of the ball park, around 2900, meant that in the final days of the campaign when the Caps were driving to the Western International League pennant, customers had to be shut out of the park.
“We tried on two occasions to let some of them stand around the outfield,” explained Mr. Brown. “But a woman was hurt and we decided it was not worth while.”
Vancouver’s park has greater capacity with 3900 this season. Spokane’s capacity is 7500.
Breaking down operational costs is of interest.
First charge against the gate is 25 per cent in taxes – 5 to the Provincial and 20 to the Dominion governments. Then for the operation of the league there is another seven per cent. Next comes the one percent on each admission for the players’ pool. The first four clubs participate, in the case of the title-winning Caps of last year 20 men cut up $2200. (They give everybody a slice, including the trainer).
Then each visiting club gets 40 per cent of the remainder of the gate, with the home take taking 60 per cent.
“It helps clubs which are having difficulty in financing,” pointed out Mr. Brown.
The teams in the WIL play 154 games, with 80 of those scheduled for home grounds.
The City league, in the early 30’s, outdrew the Caps’ 1947 gate but women and children were free. In the matter of paid attendance there are no previous figures for any one year to compare favourably with the professionals’ 1947 performance.

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Salary limitation in Class B ball is set at $4000 per club a month but this figure does not include the manager. There are severe penalties if any club is caught violating the rule.
When your well-dressed ball player trots out on the ball diamond today he has a suit costing $52, shoes $20, gloves $20, sweat shirt and sliding pads, bringing the total to more than $100.
“Once,” signed Bob Brown, “we used to buy a good suit for $12 to $18.
And baseballs? Well, the Caps used 160 dozen last year at $24 a dozen. The Vancouver club got a break when Spaldings at Brantford, Ont., this season when they were able to buy International Baseball League balls from this company. Baseballs are still in desperately short supply. They used to cost $12 a dozen.
It is practically impossible to obtain Louisville Slugger bats. They are not sold to dealers any more. The bats now cost $3.25 and were once $1.25.
New lights at Cap stadium total 129, 1500-watt globes. When a slight mist gathers on the delicate globe at it goes pop, that’s $6. Seattle’s ball park has 300 globes. Our new ball park will have 260.
We have the shortest right-field fence in the league, 275 feet. But left field is rather respectable as you need a drive of 350 feet to clear it. Tacoma is really rough, though, their left field carry 360, the right field, 345.
Brushing aside the other problems of the moment, Bob Brown summed up the present ball club: “We are 20 per cent stronger than the club was at this time last year, but not any better than the team was at the finish of the season. I don’t think we are any weaker, either. When the boys get hitting, we’ll be tough to stop. You can rely on that.”

- Ken McConnell, Daily Prov. column, April 30, 1947

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