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Opening day on July 4 could have been something special. Too bad MLB blew it.

Mike DiGiovanna, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

If only baseball had gotten its act together this spring, it could have staged a grand reopening act this summer, a kickoff to a pandemic-shortened season for America's pastime on the most American of holidays -- the Fourth of July.

"Oh, you mean baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet?" sports business consultant Andy Dolich, 73, said, recalling the television advertising jingle that first aired in 1975. "Fireworks, families and communities coming together for a celebration ... who'd be interested in that?"

The sarcasm in Dolich's voice was as clear as his message: Major League Baseball missed a golden -- actually, a red-white-and-blue -- marketing opportunity by failing to launch its season July 4.

Sure, there would have been less pomp under the circumstances. With stadiums empty, there would be no need for the unfurling of giant American flags, military flyovers and extravagant postgame fireworks shows.

But if owners and players hadn't spent three months haggling over money, a dispute that pushed what is now a scheduled 60-game season to July 23, baseball could have had the domestic sports stage to itself for weeks, returning well before the NBA and NHL.

And MLB could have produced a Fourth of July extravaganza, airing multiple season openers throughout the day to a country craving live sporting events and a distraction from the coronavirus.

 

Fans couldn't attend games, but gathering around the television to watch stars such as Mike Trout, Cody Bellinger and Gerrit Cole might have fostered a sense of normalcy and community amid the swirling political, racial and viral tensions that have turned the U.S. into the Divided States of America.

"With the damage we have from a pandemic and the injury to the moral soul of our country, I don't think any sport can be that warm arm around a fan's shoulder," said Dolich, who spent five decades in professional sports and held executive positions in the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB. "But can it help? Yes.

"Whether it was the (Bay Area) earthquake in 1989, the Sept. 11 attacks or Hurricane Katrina, what baseball did in those circumstances was to come in post-trauma and provide some sort of upside for the community."

Dolich, who spent 14 years in the front office of the Oakland Athletics, said he believes baseball eventually can be part of a healing process, but the patriotic Fourth of July holiday would have been a perfect place to start.

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