All Hail to the Bacon
Bacon upsets some people. That’s what the president of the Macon Bacon discovered recently when he received a letter asking him to change the minor league baseball team’s name.
“Macon Bacon’s glorification of bacon, a processed meat that raises the risk of colorectal cancer and other diseases, sends the wrong message,” the letter said. It came from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit that advocates for plant-based diets.
Now, as the coauthor or editor of a number of health-oriented books, I understand PCRM lobbying against bacon. But sometimes one has to plant (pun intended) one’s tongue firmly in one’s cheek and appreciate the humor that characterizes minor league baseball.
Bringing out Fans
The subject is relevant for me, sitting between the major league city of Cincinnati (three hours west) and the minor league city of Charleston, West Virginia (an hour east).
In mid-April, before the Reds overhauled their roster and surprisingly rose (albeit for only a short time) to first place, they drew just 7,375 fans for a home game. The turnout marked the smallest crowd in 20 years of the 42,000-seats-plus Great American Ballpark.
Four days later, the Savannah Bananas (gotta love that name) came to Charleston. They drew standing-room-only crowds of 5,500 who came to watch the Bananas as much as the hometown Dirty Birds (gotta love that name too).
A few weeks later, owner Jesse Cole released Banana Ball, the story behind the colorfully named team. It’s worth noting the volume was published by a major league house, New York-based E.P. Dutton.
A Sense of Humor
“The reason this team is on the forefront of a movement is less about the play on the field and more about the atmosphere that the team culture creates,” says part of the recap about Banana Ball on Amazon.
“For the first time in this book, Jesse reveals the ideas and experiences that allowed him to reimagine America’s oldest sport by creating a phenomenon that is helping fans fall in love with the game all over again.”
By all accounts, the Bananas are a hoot. While I didn’t get a chance to watch them play, the advance newspaper and TV coverage were quite entertaining.
I still love the team’s name, which I became aware of two years ago when an old friend told me about stopping in Savannah on a trip. He had once worked with a woman who is now part of the team’s promotions department.
But it isn’t just Savannah fielding colorful characters. Exhibit A is the Macon Bacon. After asking fans to suggest a new name for the city’s team, Bacon topped the 2017 online poll by a landslide.
I chuckled when I read about the team later revealing its mascot, a seven-foot-tall strip of bacon named Kevin—in honor of actor Kevin Bacon. And the Bacon players wearing hats and jersey whose numbers and letters look like bacon strips.
Recapturing the Fun
The point here is that minor league baseball has recaptured the spirit of the sport that attracted me as a youngster: fun. That I later faded away from it testifies to the mega-salaries (and mega-ticket prices to match) that have turned baseball into just another millionaire-making venture.
Who else would do things like the Fresno Grizzlies “Taco Truck Throwdown,” a 2011 event that became so popular it turned into an annual two-day extravaganza? Or the Toledo Mudhens’ “Back to the Future” doubleheader in 2015 to celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary?
If they make the 2023 World Series, maybe the Cincinnati Reds ought to throw out the first banana.