Madison Avenue Comes To Mudville

SAY IT AIN'T SO, JOE. THIS summer, commercialism has come to the venerable Cape Cod Baseball League. Corporate logos are spread across outfield fences of these fields of dreams where top college players perform. That is bad for the 10-team league's "family atmosphere," says long-time fan Jim McElvenny.

Why the ads? Major League Baseball, reeling financially from the player strike, has sliced its annual $85,000 subsidy to $40,000, with no sign of restoring it next year. Result: a big hole in the Cape League's $135,000 annual budget. The Majors cut back on all 10 NCAA-sanctioned summer leagues, many of which have long welcomed ads. But the century-old Cape League was a legendary home of baseball purity.

Financing came mostly from fund-raising events and passing the hat in the stands. Only a few ads appeared. Now they're pervasive. Sponsors include Ocean Spray and Friendly's. "I don't think a few signs detract," says league President Judy Walden Scarafile. Small wonder. The $130,000 from the sponsors is almost triple what the league lost.

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