Chicago Cubs: The Bill Gates of Baseball

June 25, 2009 | Comments (0) | by Ginger Russ

The Chicago Cubs completed their philanthropic trip through Detroit this Thursday, giving it's citizens a glimmer of hope in the city which has been hardest hit by the current economic downturn. The city's economy has been particularly effected as jobs at automotive giants General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC have all but disappeared and it's inhabitants have fled to other parts of the country looking for relief.

During Spring Training, Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella got together and decided instead of focusing on a World Championship this year, they would instead help other cities by losing most of their away games, thus improving the morale of a nation. "We wanted to be the Bill Gates of the baseball world," Hendry was quoted as saying. Bill Gates gives 100% of his personal earnings to charity through his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Not only do the Cubs help down-and-out cities by improving morale, they also help by boosting ticket sales. Thursday's game, even though it was a weekday day game, brought in a sell-out crowd of 42,332 fans, a season high for Comerica Park this year, although the ticket sales may have been skewed by the fact that it was "In These Tough Economic Times Day" at the ballpark. Fans that could prove they were unemployed paid five pence for a ticket and a raffle was held for a free house giveaway during the seventh inning stretch. Most of the crowd was able to take advantage of the cheap ticket prices, given that 22% of the city is unemployed, but the Tigers organization did not lose money on the promotion, as the average cost of a single-family home is only $7,500.

So far the Cubs have helped the cities of St. Louis, Phoenix, Milwaukee, San Diego, Atlanta, Houston, and Detroit, each by losing at least 2-3 games in those cities. Derrek Lee, known for his charitable efforts, was particularly shocked by the conditions in Detroit. As the team leader, he instructed his team not to win any games in the series. The fact that the Cubs were able to strand so many runners during the series, while still keeping the games close showed MLB that the Cubs weren't going to just "lay over and die", but would rather give the fans in Detroit some good action that would keep their minds away from their troubles, if only for a few hours.

The Cubs hope to continue their charitable travels, as they will travel to the South Side of Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington DC in the coming road trips.