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Blowin' in the Internet wind: a strike by some fed-up fans

By Craig Hill, Tacoma News Tribune
June 22, 2002

The baseball fan revolution has begun.

It started in a den in Tacoma, Wash., the Marquette University student union building, a corporate office in Washington, D.C., and a home office in Rockwall, Texas.

It continues in cyberspace.

Thousands of fans, enraged that baseball labor negotiations are spiraling toward the game's 10th work stoppage since 1972, are organizing a grass-roots effort to send a message.

"It's time for the fans to take back the game," said Don Wadewitz, a 28-year-old administrator at Marquette University in Milwaukee. Wadewitz and 40-year-old New Jersey resident Jeff Santaite recently launched mlbfanstrike.com, a Web site designed to promote a fan boycott July 11 of baseball games, telecasts and merchandise.

What they quickly learned was other fans are planning similar boycotts across the country and were eager to help.

A 41-year-old Tacoma man who goes by the name Commando Dave is trying to start a fan union.

Bob May, a 60-year-old retired businessman in Rockwall, Texas, has started a nonprofit fan organization.

Heather Holdridge, a 30-year-old Web page designer in D.C., is also promoting a fan strike.

Fans trying to revolt against baseball isn't new, but most of their protests have gone unnoticed in the past because they've been unable to organize.

But this time, these fans believe things will be different because of the Internet.

"There are two reasons it will be different," Holdridge said, citing baseball's declining attendance as evidence that fans are already sending their message to the game.

"First, the Internet has allowed us to connect. In 1994, I didn't know some of these fan groups in Milwaukee and Minnesota even existed and I wouldn't have known how to communicate with them.

"Second, there is a residual anger from 1994. We can't believe the owners and players didn't learn their lesson."

In 1994, when baseball was heading toward a work stoppage, Commando Dave wanted to organize a fan strike. The only problem was he had no idea what to do.

Internet access hadn't yet become as commonplace as cable TV. And he certainly didn't have the money for mass mailings or an advertising campaign.

"The only thing I could think of was that Donahue show," Dave said.

Phil Donahue wasn't interested, so Commando Dave began calling sports radio stations, challenging fans to take a stand. He keeps his identity secret because "I am not the story," he said.

The response was minimal until 1999 when he started a Web site, wethefans.com. In three years, about 1,000 fans signed up for his mailing lists and he formed partnerships with other fan sites across the country.

Commando Dave has grand plans. He wants fans to have a spot at the bargaining table with players and owners. He also wants 100,000 fans per team to join his union.

"I don't see why we can't do that," Dave said. "Then we will have real power. With the potential to massively strike with 3 million fans, the players and owners would have to listen to us."

 
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