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Baseball Fans Across Nation Protest Strike

March 30, 1995

Don’t talk about opening day to these baseball fans.

Across the nation, fans are bristling at the thought of another wrecked baseball season. And some are fighting back.

From Baltimore to California, fans are organizing to show owners and players they’re tired of being ignored.

Some are planning to boycott games or stage demonstrations once the strike ends, others plan to boycott commercial sponsors of major league baseball or television stations that broadcast replacement games.

``Fans are organizing. We shouldn’t be taken for granted,″ said Ed Bunker, founder of Fan Out America, a Baltimore-based group of about 250 baseball fans.

``I’m concerned about the institution of baseball. What are we saying to kids? It’s a very cynical message,″ he said.

Fan Out America is urging a nationwide boycott of baseball for at least a week once the strike ends. Bunker, 30, a state health department worker, has organized his group through the Internet, where he has plotted strategy and talked to other disgruntled fans.

Petition drives supporting the boycott have been organized in California, Florida, Maryland and New York. Fans also have responded via electronic mail from Canada, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Support has even come from fans in Britain and New Zealand.

``Baseball and America deserve better than to have a piece of our heritage be held hostage by (a) bunch of greedy, pompous scum that is the owner corp. WE PAY THE BILLS,″ one anonymous fan said in an e-mail to Bunker.

``I think that both the players and the owners are being stupid and the fans lose out,″ said 12-year-old Eric Adelman via e-mail from his home in San Diego.

In Palmdale, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles, a group called FOWL TIP is organizing a demonstration for the first game with major leaguers. The group wants fans to party in the parking lot instead of going into the game.

``We’re going to sit outside so the owners and the players know we’re there, but show them we’re not interested in seeing them play,″ said Roberta Rothwell, the group’s organizer. ``We want to show them the same respect they showed us.″

Ms. Rothwell, a 40-year-old truck driver, said about 150 fans in the Los Angeles area have committed themselves to the demonstration. ``Our ultimate goal is to have enough people to surround Dodger Stadium outside and do the wave,″ she said.

Then, for the ultimate insult, she wants fans to leave the parking lots during the seventh-inning stretch, the middle of the game, just as the players left in the middle of last season.

``We’ll sing `Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ and then leave,″ she said.

A group of fans in Omaha, Neb., has a different strategy to get attention: hit baseball sponsors in the pocket book.

The group, called The Fans Respond, is organizing a boycott of the sponsors of major league baseball, such as Anheuser-Busch, Nike and Rawlings. The group also wants a boycott of TV stations that broadcast replacement baseball and is urging season ticketholders to file class-action lawsuits against the teams.

The owners and players ``have a national trust that they’ve been granted and they’re mishandling it,″ said Dick Katz, the group’s organizer and a San Francisco Giants fan. ``They’re killing the game for the next generation and they need to replenish the fans.″

Many of the fan organizers said they’re not taking sides but just trying to highlight the plight of the fans and also the workers who are hurt by the baseball strike.

``I have yet to hear any player or owner say that they feel bad about any inconvenience that has occurred for workers or fans,″ Bunker said.

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