Stories indexed with the term ‘minor leagues’

Column: Playing Hockey with the Pros

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

A few years ago – okay, a bunch of years ago – I bit on a bet I never should have touched.

I was writing for the Detroit News, and a top minor league hockey team called the Detroit Vipers played at the Palace. So, I got to thinking: just how big is the gap, really, between the pros, and beer league players like me?

Good question. And even better if I didn’t try to answer it. But, being the hard-hitting investigative journalist that I am, I had to go down to the Palace and find out. Bad idea.

I called the Vipers, and they said, sure, come on down to practice. Now, I couldn’t hear them laughing themselves silly when they hung up – but I bet they were. I should’ve known I was biting off more than I could throw up. [Full Story]

Column: Take Me Out to the Minor Leagues

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

If you’re sick of the big leagues, but not baseball, check out your backyard.

Here in Michigan you can watch the Beach Bums in Traverse City, the Lugnuts in Lansing, the West Michigan Whitecaps near Grand Rapids, the Great Lake Loons in Midland, and the Kings in Kalamazoo. Michigan fans can see six minor league teams if you count the Toledo Mud Hens – and seven if the Tigers start slumping again. Michigan baseball fans haven’t had it this good in decades.

In 1949, the U.S. boasted almost 500 minor league teams, supported by 42 million fans. But their ranks shriveled when major league baseball expanded, TV blossomed and air conditioning made staying at home much cooler. In just three years, attendance dropped almost 80%.

But when major league baseball turned its back on its fans with strikes and lockouts, the minor leagues aggressively courted them. Almost every fan-friendly custom you see at major league stadiums today they stole from the minors, including fancy food, daily promotions, pop music and endless stunts to keep the fans coming back, win or lose. As a result, the minors have grown back to a robust 176 teams nationwide.

Visit one, and you understand why. [Full Story]