Memorial Day and Baseball’s Bad Civics


Today is Major League Baseball at its best and worst. I can think of few better pastimes as memorial to the ultimate cost of freedom than a day at the ballpark. Baseball took us through two World Wars. It’s the game of our parents and grandparents. Football may have America’s televisions and pocketbooks, but baseball is America’s very soul.

The problem displayed on every ballplayer’s back and head today is baseball’s increasing greediness. Case in point, this tweet from mega-merch purveyor, Dick’s Sporting Goods:

I highly doubt Bob Feller missed some of his most productive seasons so Dick’s could peddle camo caps.

I have no issue with MLB creating and then selling special holiday merch. Major League Baseball, after all, is a business. Is the ever-increasing parade of camp, pink and blue-trimmed jerseys tacky? Sure. But owners don’t spend countless millions on teams and stadiums and player salaries out of pure altruism. Major League Baseball is a money-making venture.

What I take issue with are the Memorial Day jerseys and caps themselves. The camo-splashed designs ignorantly disregard the spirit of Memorial Day. Dating back to the Civil War, families set aside a day to commemorate those who died in service of their country. Nothing in MLB’s camogasm costumes commemorate the fallen.

The uniforms instead fall back on the tired trope of blind military glorification. Memorial Day isn’t about glory but the somberness of men and women who left families and never returned. If baseball truly wanted to Memorialize fallen soldiers, their caps and jerseys would feature traditional memorials like poppies, gold stars, and black ribbons.

The truth is a tasteful cap, embroidered with black and poppies, probably wouldn’t move as much merch for Dick’s. Camo is a proven, profitable design. Yes, MLB is donating the profits from their camo caps to charity, but what about the countless sales partners?

I highly doubt Dicks would pay for a camo cap ad-blast if there wasn’t going to be a return on investment. The problem with the latest iteration of MLB’s “Memorial Day” uniforms is that baseball has allowed merchandising to wag the dog, and in doing so, engages us all in bad civics.

On this Memorial Day, I encourage everyone to go online and browse newspapers from the 1940s. Look on page two and read daily lists of “Fallen Heroes” or “Missing in Action.” Whole column inches, name after name after heartbreaking name. Aged 19. Aged 24. Realize that there was, and continues to be, a human cost for the freedoms we enjoy.

That done, sit down with whomever you love and spend a few hours with America’s Pastime. It’s probably not appropriate to wish you a “happy” Memorial Day, but I do wish you one filled with the peace and family (and baseball) that so many gave so much for.

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