New ideas will help sell MLB

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 8, 2004

Spider-man on the bases? How about The Hulk on Jason Giambi's biceps? Or The Terminator on Roger Clemens' hat?

Major League Baseball said "yes" and then "no" to promoting the upcoming Spider-man II movie. The original plan was to put the Spider-man logo on the bases for one weekend.

Baseball purists, the New York Yankees and Mike Mussina balked at the idea. As a result of the outcry opposing the promotion, MLB sent the idea to the bench before it ever got to the plate.

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But why the big uproar? Oh, maybe putting the logo on the bases was crossing the foul line, but hawking advertising is nothing new to baseball or any other sport.

NASCAR makes a living out of its wide-spread use of ad stickers regardless of the sponsor. Baseball has signs all over the ballpark and keeps changing sponsor ads on message boards electronically throughout a game.

So why get upset? In fact, baseball could improve its revenue and split the money with the smaller markets by extending its advertising access.

In youth leagues, each team has a sponsor on the back of its shirt or jersey. Maybe baseball should think about marketing each individual player.

Obviously, Barry Bonds could have "BALCO" sewn across the back of his jersey. FOX Sports might like its logo on Expo Andy Fox, but since he plays for Montreal it's doubtful anyone would ever see it.

The Reds have several players who could be targeted for commercial ads.

Todd Van Poppel would be ideal for Orville Reddenbacher popcorn. Jimmy Haynes is a natural for Hanes underwear, Corky Miller is the right choice for some champagne company, Juan Castro would be perfect for a public service campaign to spay or neuter pets, and Danny Graves could be the official spokesman for Woodland Cemetery.

Naturally, there are plenty of other players who would draw the advertisers' eyes, and not just Arizona pitcher Brandon Webb who could revive the Spider-man II media blitz.

Boston's Derek Lowe could have a picture of a hardware store on his back. The Mets Mike Piazza might help promote the fact Giovanni's Pizza turns 40 this year.

The Orioles have a couple of candidates. Buddy Groom could sell tuxedos while Darnell McDonald is the easy choice for McDonald's.

Another obvious choice is Florida's Josh Beckett for Beckett baseball cards, or Cleveland's Coco Crisp for Coco Crispies cereal. And don't forget the Ford Motor Company teaming up with the Twins Lew Ford.

On the religious side, Paul Abbott might help recruit priests. Getting youngsters to eat their vegetables would be a job for Jose Lima (bean).

Of course, there are some negative ideas. Houston's Wade Miller promoting Miller Beer or Mike Gallo hawking Gallo wine sends the wrong message.

So if MLB needs help promoting its sport and making money, I'm only a phone call away.

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.