MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Baseball has long been America’s National Pastime and, in spite of Major League Baseball owners, remains so despite what the Park Avenue mopes at #NFLTheTVShow would have us believe.

Those guys are suits in a television production company, a gambling house, an investment firm and a hucksters’ house. It is where the Madison Avenue Mad Men have come into play since the mid-to-late 1960s.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, if you wish to believe it’s all true.

No gripe here, though, with The TV Show. I watch it. I enjoy it. I have never questioned the effort or the integrity of a single player … other than a couple in Super Bowl 3. I just don’t believe it.

Still, I am not saying football is not America’s most popular sport if you believe professional football is still sport in a sport’s purest sense. If you do, then you believe in professional wrestling as well.

Be that as it may, football is still not a pastime. Baseball was, is and will remain a pastime for as long as it is permitted to exist, which, given the way it is being produced and mismanaged these days, gives us serious pause to wonder how much longer it will remain an entity of any kind.

Of all the moments that cemented baseball as America’s National Pastime, one of the most compelling came during one of the darkest hours of our country’s history.

President Franklin Roosevelt’s “Green Light Letter” to Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis signaled that the country would continue to thrive despite the challenges and horrors of World War II.

Not long after the bombing of Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the war, Landis wrote to Roosevelt asking for his advice: “If you believe we ought to close down for the duration of the war, we are ready to do so immediately,” Landis wrote. “If you feel we ought to continue, we would be delighted to do so. We await your order.”

First of all, Landis, a failed and miserable federal judge, was a mean and bigoted old man who craved power; and he was given absolute power by the owners, who put him in charge of baseball just after they avoided killing the game themselves with the help of their mobster and muscle cohorts following the 1919 Black Sox scandal.

Landis only had to wait one day to hear from the president, as Roosevelt drafted his response quickly and informed the commissioner in a letter dated Jan. 15, 1942 that baseball should continue.

“I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going. There will be fewer people unemployed and everybody will work longer hours and harder than ever before.

“And that means that they ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than before.

“Here is another way of looking at it — if 300 teams use 5,000 or 6,000 players, these players are a definite recreational asset to at least 20,000,000 of the fellow citizens — and that in my judgment is thoroughly worthwhile.”

Baseball went on, through the entirety of World War II, in one form or another. It did because the President of the United States green-lighted the baseball commissioner’s request on guidance for what to do with our nation’s pastime. And even this bitter, power-craved and bigoted commissioner understood that the day-to-day of baseball was needed for John Q. Public in one of the darkest and most frightening times in American history.

Well, guess what? We’re not at war ourselves (yet), but these, clearly, are not the best of times. They are, in fact, very ominous times, given what we’ve been through for the past three years, what we continue to go through in the current days, and for what we concern ourselves with over the possibilities of the days ahead.

In short, there is a lot of stress floating around out here …

Yet the current Commissioner of Baseball, Rob Manfred, who is the poster boy for Weasel, and his bosses, the baseball owners, no longer care about our stress, or anything that concerns human feelings or baseball fans’ happiness or peace of mind.

They care about lining their own pockets even further, and they live to break the Major League Baseball Players Association – the union; just as most wannabe autocrats wish to break unions.

To repeat: The weasel Manfred and his bosses the owners will never break this union, for it is the best and strongest labor union in the world.

They may, however, succeed in eliminating America’s last true pastime, because baseball is a pastime and a game that is quite fragile right now. And if the owners proceed to cancel games just so the players will lose paychecks, they will succeed in losing fans they cannot afford to lose.

Because this time, particularly given the weak condition the game itself has suddenly found itself in, the fans are not likely to care if they never come back.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT