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Baseball: ‘Tis a Season for Giveaways

There’s something strange going on in baseball these days. It’s these promotional nights. They’re out of control and there’s no stopping them. Someone pass me a can of Raid.

It used to be that you’d pay to get into a game and be happy to watch baseball. Once in a while, you’d get a free helmet or a batting glove and that was great, too.

But I never remember wanting to see the Angels because it was Night Lamp Day. Or Day Lamp Night, for that matter.

But that’s what you received on Mother’s Day at Anaheim Stadium this year. A great gift for a game--if you’re breaking in a new novel between innings.

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Last week was Father’s Day at the park and every dad received one of these nifty desk calendar/clocks. Rumor has it that had the Angels run out of clocks, they were planning to unload some of the extra Ginzu knives they had stored for an upcoming “Wok and Roll Night.”

The Chicago White Sox now have Musical Headband Night in tribute to a football player, Jim McMahon. Seems there’s a little disc implanted in the band. Press it and it plays the White Sox’ disturbing “Na, Na, Hey, Hey” song.

And the great thing is, everybody gets one!

So where did we go wrong? What was wrong with peanuts and Cracker Jack and all that baseball jazz? What was so wrong with Ryan pitching to Jackson?

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When did baseball turn into a series of blue light specials?

Ladies and gentlemen, please turn your heads to the scoreboard and join Shay Torrent on Hammond organ as we salute the new rallying cry in baseball : “VOLUME! VOLUME! VOLUME!” Boston, bless its soul, seems to be the lone bastion of baseball integrity.

The Red Sox have only six promotional giveaway nights a season.

“We don’t want fans there for any other reason other than seeing the ballgame,” said Kathy Speight of the team’s promotional department.

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How refreshing, but what about all the others? What about the White Sox and their 50-plus giveaway nights? What about the Minnesota Twins and their 45?

The Twins this season have already held a “Nuns Night.” (Note: Nuns were not actually given away, only let in free.) On the agenda are Wallet Night, Fishing Night (free spool of fishing line), Tube Sock Night, Salute to Agriculture Night and Megaphone Night.

How can they do it? Their prices must be Innnnnnnnsane!!! Comedian Jay Leno likens the modern American game show to Karl Marx’s worst nightmare. Leno calls “Let’s Make a Deal” “capitalism on acid.”

But gee, what might Marx have thought of the Texas Rangers and their Las Vegas Night?

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Here’s how you play. A local airline puts up two free tickets to Las Vegas, but the winning fans in the stands must be willing to leave the game immediately and board a limousine to the airport.

That’s right, the deal is good only if you leave the game immediately. Most years in Texas, that isn’t such a bad idea.

The Oakland A’s have a day that would have made Caesar jealous.

The A’s vow to stuff the gullets of the first 10,000 fans who attend one of their games on Safeway’s Saturday Baseball Barbecue.

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In this Oakland “gorgy,” each fan is force-fed a hot dog, soft drink, chips, chocolate bar, sunflower seeds, Cracker Jack, almonds, ice cream, chili, Twinkies and Kool-Aid.

Of course, the event is traditionally followed by “Stomach Pump Day.”

The Angels say their giveaways are intended to cater to their base of 17,000 season ticket holders.

“Most of our season ticket holders are not teen-agers,” said Jan Miller of the team’s promotional department. “We try to gear some of the items to adults.”

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Stay tuned for Haley’s M-O Night.

Miller added that the Angels have cut their number of promotional nights to 15 a season, shifting emphasis from quantity to quality.

Frank Sullivan, director of promotions for the Philadelphia Phillies, has worked in major league baseball for 42 years. He says the proliferation of giveaways is a recent phenomenon, and not necessarily a repulsive one.

The idea, Sullivan said, basically is to lure people into the stands with trinkets, hoping they’ll like what they see on the field and come back. Some of us thought baseball was bigger than that. And how far off is the day when a team, desperate for an attendance boost, hires a disheveled-looking guy named Melvin to stand out on the corner of the stadium to hustle fans into a game?

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“Psssssst, hey, you in the knickers? Come on, ain’t nothing gonna bite ‘cha in there. Hey, kid, you ever seen Morganna up close? There should be a law against it. Yeah, she’s here tonight. That’s right, Mack, five bucks gets you in.”

Maybe the whole idea wouldn’t be so annoying if some of these giveaways were purposeful items that fans could put to good use.

I’m sending off my list of suggestions today.

CLEVELAND--Sludge-Scraper Night. First 10,000 fans get this useful item designed to clear away a place to swim on Lake Erie.

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NEW YORK--Crowbar Night. (Would take the place of Bat Night.)

MILWAUKEE--Bicarbonate of Soda Night.

MINNESOTA--Domed Stadium Repair Kit and Umbrella Day.

BALTIMORE--Bilge Pump Night.

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OAKLAND--Shoelace Tip Night. (First 5,000 fans receive tiny plastic lace covers and then rally together to come up with a name for them).

CALIFORNIA--Night Lamp Desk Digital Clock/Calendar Day (with fries).

Wouldn’t it be easier for some of these teams if they just combined their home games with swap meets?

But, please, someone let me know if the Angels ever have a Portable Typewriter Night.

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