Many Really Don’t Care If They Ever Come Back

Baseball may be enshrined in cliché as “the national pastime,” but the number of people picking it as their favorite spectator sport is slipping toward single digits. In a Gallup poll conducted just before the new season began, a mere 12 percent of respondents chose baseball as their “favorite sport to watch.” That’s down from 13 percent last year and from 21 percent as recently as 1994. Football held top honors (28 percent), followed by basketball (16 percent). More positively for the old ball game, 56 percent of respondents said they are fans of big-league baseball. These self-described fans generally favored such innovations as interleague play, league-championship playoffs and the inclusion of wild-card playoff teams. The feature of present-day baseball that irked them most is the rise in players’ salaries, decried by 58 percent as a “change for the worse.” In fact, 79 percent said team owners should be allowed to institute a salary cap. Displaying what looks like a craven tendency to root for the front-runner, a plurality of respondents cited the Yankees as their favorite team. The Braves were the only other franchise to score in double digits (11 percent). Asked to pick the “greatest baseball player of all time,” 32 percent chose Babe Ruth. Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron were the Babe’s closest competitors (6 percent apiece).