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Sites mobilize baseball fans, threaten walkout

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 30, 2002

Eight years ago, if baseball fans had sought to counter a baseball strike with a walkout of their own, their best hope to get word out across the nation might have been a token mention on ESPN, or a story picked up by newspaper wire services.

The Internet has mobilized thousands of fans this summer as talks of a strike escalated all season, with several sites devoted to fans' discontent popping up and gaining attention.

Logic would say these sites wouldn't have enough of an audience to support themselves beyond the current labor stoppage and its immediate aftermath, but then again, the sheer volume of bitterness flowing from these sites shows there could be enough residual anger to carry them well into the next threat to the game.

-- mlbfanstrike.com: This site got enough media attention this week that it went down Thursday afternoon, most likely from more traffic than it can handle. The site promoted Thursday as its third and final day for fans to take a stand by not attending games, watching highlights on TV or even (hey, easy now) reading about the sport in newspapers.

-- wethefans.com: You know they're serious, because of so many CAPITAL LETTERS and multiple exclamation points!!! Not too much details as to what their "FAN REVOLUTION!" would actually include, but visitors are invited to join the MAHFIA (Mad As Hell Fans In America), whose members are still really mad about things like the 1995 NHL lockout.

-- mlbfan.com: More optimistic than most sites, it featured a photo Thursday of a fan holding up a sign that read: "I gave up smoking. I can give up baseball." Like many sites, it includes the address, phone number, fax and e-mail to reach the players' association.

-- baseballfansunite.org: Offers some real, if somewhat naive, economic suggestions, such as a salary cap, competitive balance draft and shared revenue from local broadcasts. "Membership" costs for the nonprofit group range from $15 to $250 a year, "to maximize our ability to help ensure a strong future for baseball," but that does include a quarterly newsletter.

-- nobaseballstrike.org: A "Boo Your Player Rep" link shows you each team's union representative, allowing fans to focus their negativity on one player. The home page greets you with a special strike rendition of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and with one click, you can send an e-mail to any team's owner or any state's governor.

-- takebackbaseball.com: The word "strike" isn't even mentioned on this site, which focuses solely on ousting commissioner Bud Selig. The main page has a doctored photo of Selig making a crude gesture, and in a poll for who should succeed him, Cal Ripken Jr. has a slight lead on Rudy Giuliani, with Hank Aaron, Bob Costas and, um, Pete Rose rounding out the top five.

-- contractbudselig.com: Awkward photos of the commissioner with fake captions. You can also visit nomoreselig.org, or just plug Selig's name into a search engine and see what comes up. The first links Thursday included now-defunct dumpbud.com, two more petitions for his removal and another site titled "Bud Selig is the Devil."

Even with a completed season, it's clear from the time spent on sites like these that damage has been done just by the threat of a strike. Even eBay.com bought advertising at search engine Google.com that would specifically bring up a link when the term "Baseball Strike" is searched.

TID-BYTES: Of the two U.S. cities vying for the 2012 Olympics, New York has a far superior official site than San Francisco. NYC2012.com has an interactive map so you can check out proposed venues, including the centerpiece Olympic Stadium. San Francisco's site, basoc2012.org, has good information but not nearly as compelling a presentation. ... Looking for something good about baseball? Check out MLB.com's "Memorable Moments" feature, with video clips of many of baseball's all-time highlights, from Willie Mays' catch to unforgettable home runs from Carlton Fisk, Hank Aaron, Kirk Gibson and Barry Bonds.

-- If you have a question or comment about the Internet or a site to suggest, e-mail Times staff writer Greg Auman at auman@sptimes.com.

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