Flashback Friday: Subsidy Saga Pt III (1987)

Goodland Field in mid-March of 1987. (Mark Courtney/Post-Crescent)

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | November 2, 2012 6:25 AM ET

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The first two Flashback Friday columns of this off season have focused on an off the field controversy involving the Appleton Foxes and the City of Appleton that cropped up before the start of the 1987 season.  You can get caught up on the Subsidy Saga with part one and part two.  This week, an influential sports voice from the community chimes in for part three.

John Paustian, the Executive Sports Editor of The Post-Crescent at the time, wrote the following column.  It was published on March 15, 1987. 

Paustian's column was four days before the picture above was published in the paper.  In case you can't make out the caption it reads: The continuance of city payments to the Appleton Baseball Club Inc. for maintenance of Goodland Field remains unsettled.  A resolution before the Common Council Wednesday to make the $23,000 payment promised for next year the city's last was referred back to the Park and Recreation Commission, which approved it last week.  Ald. Thomas Riederer referred the matter back, saying he wanted to give club officials a chance to present their side.

Keep that caption in mind as you read the column.

Trouble's brewing in paradise

It's fortunate that Sports Illustrated didn't wait until this year to glorify Appleton with a 33-page salute to its recreation activities.

You'll recall that the national magazine, in its August 11, 1986 issue, characterized Appleton as "a place where people take their games seriously" and extolled the city's sports virtues.

The glowing words are becoming a mockery.  Appleton is blowing its image.  There's trouble brewing in this sports sports paradise.

Several recent actions and proposals by city officials are hard to believe, let alone explain.  Little League and Babe Ruth League baseball are being hit with a $7,000 bill for field maintenance, and the Appleton Foxes are likely to lose a $24,000 maintenance subsidy soon.  The sudden anti-sports sentiment has even included a proposal to sell the Reid Municipal Golf Course.

One wonders what financial roadblocks will next be set up to prove SI wrong when it proclaimed, "Sport is a way of life in Appleton," and when it said, "Appleton is a special place for minor league baseball."

Appleton and the Fox Valley have long been boomed as meccas of the food life.  Because expanded leisure time is a reality to our society, people are turning more and more to athletics - either as participants or spectators - as part of the good life.  One would expect local government to be as helpful as possible in such endeavors.

I'm not suggesting that it has to go beyond reasonable limits in underwriting such activities.  I'm no more anxious than anyone else to see property taxes increase.  But, I'd gladly pay the few extra bucks it would take to assure the continued operation of youth baseball, the professional Foxes, and the municipal golf course.

Pinching pennies on such worthwhile enterprises is hardly the way to go.

The Appleton LL and BRL programs have received a 1-year reprieve but only because an anonymous donor will pay an estimated $7,000 in maintenance costs.  Unless there's an official change of heart, these groups will be hurting next year.

The most pronounced public reaction to the $7,000 charge came at the January Red Smith banquet.  MC Bob Lloyd's announcement that the city intends to impose the large fee was met with a chorus of at least 1,000 boos.

In my opinion, the city ought to continue providing maintenance service not only because it keeps youths occupied in wholesome endeavors - as the alternative to various forms of delinquency - but because their accomplishments should be a source of pride.  Appleton baseball - from Little League though high school and American Legion - is known statewide for its excellence.

Appleton's Foxes, about to launch their 30th season, have given the community national attention.  Their facilities and local management skills rank among the best in minor league baseball.

The Foxes' quality of play has been consistently high, for they have won more championships than any other Midwest League team.

The Foxes have given Appleton an identity of its own - something that such state pro teams as the Packers and the Brewers cannot provide.  Among the other more obvious attributes of this franchise are the revenue it generates for the area and the family-oriented entertainment it provides.

The civic asset could be in peril after the '88 season if its $24,000 assistance from the city is cut off.  The Parks and Recreation Commission has already recommended such a cessation.  The Common Council will act on the recommendation Wednesday.

Business and political leaders championed the Foxes' cause when the franchise came into being and have supplied aid and encouragement through most of the club's history.  Lately, however, it seems the Foxes have been increasingly left to their own devices.

It will be interesting to see if any new tangible support surfaces in the near future.

Parts of the Foxes story in the Sports Illustrated Appleton issue were republished in a
Flashback Friday in late 2009.

Here is a link to the entire Hearts on the Diamond article in the SI Vault.

This is a link to the table of contents of that issue

And a link to the digital issue

We'll wrap up the subsidy saga next week.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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