The tying run was on second base and the go-ahead run was on first. It was a must-win game for the team. As I squared my stance, I looked up into the bleachers. Two of my heroes were sitting there. One was Willie "Pops" Stargell. "Wow!" I thought. "How cool!" Here was the Pirates star first-baseman, watching me play ball at the Frick Park little league diamond, just as I would watch him play ball at Three Rivers Stadium. (Actually, Stargell was there to watch his daughter play. She was on my team. But at that moment, I was the center of attention.) Standing at the plate, I was nervous -- somehow I didn't think Stargell got so nervous at bat when I was in the stands at Three Rivers watching him. I struck out. Come to think of it now, Willie struck out a lot too. But when it really mattered, like in the 11th inning of game one of the 1979 World Series, he might just come through with a home run. I can remember cheering on Willie and the rest of the Pirates with all my heart and all my soul that summer. The Pirates were family. They were part of my family. · A lot has changed in my hometown since that summer day 12 years ago. And a lot has changed in baseball. Once again, the Pirates are contending for the championship. But this time, I'm not cheering so loudly. Almost 500,000 people have lost their jobs to foreign competition in the Pittsburgh steel industry since the Pirates' last World Series appearance. Most of the "iron men," who poured molten steel into huge molds and who drank Iron City Beer after work to wash the dust out of their throats, have retired or moved away. Those that still work in Pittsburgh probably wear brown polyester uniforms to work at minimum-wage jobs in the service industry (so much for the Reagan Revolution). It seems like the only new people coming to work in the Steel City are young, upwardly mobile corporate free agents. Intent on making a killing and leaving for the big leagues in New York or Los Angeles, they don't have kids. They buy their homes purely as personal investments, not as investments in the community. Worst of all, these Yuppie doctors, lawyers and technocrats have made Coors Light the number-one selling beer in Pittsburgh. Art Rooney is rolling in his grave. And there aren't any heroes on my Pirates team anymore; not this bunch of whiny crybabies unsatisfied with $2.3 million-a-year salaries. They don't even come close to being heroes. Hell, most of 'em don't even live in Pittsburgh. I can't really blame Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla, though. Their sniveling is just a reflection of what's gone wrong with this country. We don't have any pride in our work anymore. Sure, it's important to be rewarded fairly for a job well done. But it's more important to have pride in what you do and a sense that your efforts are benefitting the community. · One of my classmates in Economics, Joshua Engel, did an interesting regression of major league baseball players' salaries against measures of their performance like Home Runs and Runs Batted In. He found that salaries awarded in arbitration consistently followed certain performance measures. Here are some performance measures and their impact on player salaries, holding all other variables constant. Batters: +1 Home Run = +$9000. +1 Run Created = +$6000. +.001 Points in Batting Average = +$6000. Pitchers: +1 Win = +$38,000. +1 Save = +$16,000. -.1 Points in Earned Run Average = +$12,000. Now, economic theory would tell us that if players are being paid more than their marginal productivity, they're being paid too much. Is an extra home run by Barry Bonds worth $9000 to society? Maybe. Regardless of what the theory says, I still think Bonds is a crybaby. · There was one other hero in the stands during that long-ago little league game. He's still in Pittsburgh and he's anachronistically defying the "greed is good" values of our country. This hero taught me the value of fortitude and follow-through. He taught me the importance of work for work's sake (even though he's a trained economist). And through his eyes, I see what it means to care about your family, your neighbors and the stranger on the street you've never even met before. When he played in little league, he played with such intensity that he would get headaches. His heart was set on being the first left-handed third baseman in the majors. Hell, he'd pay them if they'd have let him into the bigs. Well, he didn't make it onto the Pirates team. But he's still committed to his family, his work and his community. And he's still underpaid. Thanks for the example, Dad. Steven Ochs is a senior Economics major from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the editorial page editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. Whose Dream, This Reality appears alternate Thursdays.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.