PLAYING HARDBALL by David Whitford


The High-Stakes Battle for Baseball's New Franchises
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 Assuming that Bismarck was correct in his judgment that citizens should not see how either their sausages or laws are made, baseball fans might be well advised to eschew reports like the absorbing one at hand--which documents the many ways in which the national pastime is, at the major-league level, more a commercial venture than a sport. In his eye-opening, behind-the-scenes account of how the Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins earned the right to join the National League's roster, Whitford (Extra Innings, 1991, etc.) dashes any sentimental notion that crass realities are not top priorities for club owners. Apart from paying the steep price of admission ($95 million apiece), the winning entrants not only had to beat out rival groups representing other locales (Buffalo, Orlando, Sacramento, etc.) but also had to survive a rigorous screening by the arrogant and grasping proprietors of extant teams. In addition, they were obliged to enlist the aid of municipal, state, and national officials with variant agendas while convincing voters that the diamond game was worth higher taxes and/or public debt. As Whitford makes clear in his episodic, anecdotal narrative (notable for its vivid profiles of key players), the process went most smoothly in southern Florida, where immensely wealthy entrepreneur Wayne Huizenga became the area's leading investor once he'd satisfied himself that baseball could be a profitable proposition. By contrast, the Denver-based partnership that also landed an expansion franchise hustled for money, political support, and a stadium from its opening pitch. While Whitford does not focus exclusively on the megabuck finances that make professional baseball a risky enterprise throughout North America, dollars play the leading role in his text--whose redeeming characters are limited largely to talent scouts. A fine and revealing report on economic man at work and play on a field of dreams.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-385-42282-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993