The concept of California seceding from the United States is not new. A lot of people have predicted it, but they meant via a cataclysm, namely the state sliding into the Pacific Ocean after an earthquake of biblical proportions.
This time around, the secession movement is political. As is the case with most of the ideas posited by politicos and policy wonks, one has to ask: have you really thought this through?
When Californians go to the polls in November 2018, they will be asked to authorize a referendum for the following spring as to whether their state should secede from the U.S. The secession movement is popularly known as Calexit. Given the numerous issues that an independence movement entails, California voters will have a lot of things to consider. Will baseball be one of them?
Before 1958, California could have seceded with no effect on major league baseball. Now that there are five teams in California, it’s a different matter. You might say so what? MLB has been international since 1969 when Montreal was granted an expansion franchise. What’s the big deal?
The big deal is that Canada was already a nation in 1969 when MLB came calling. Canada did not secede from the United States; it has never been part of the United States. Personally, I think the U.S. should have conquered Canada a long time ago, but that is not a topic to explore on this web site.
Let’s assume that California voters choose independence in 2019, the state legislature agrees, and all the remaining necessary steps are taken. Next, let’s assume that we don’t have a Fort Sumter moment followed by years of combat to force California back into the Union. What would this mean for MLB?
Imagine baseball historians looking back at Opening Day in California in April 2020. Hindsight, of course, is always 20/20, but the 2020 season is a whole new ball game. It’s a historic moment in California baseball, maybe the biggest one since 1958, when the Dodgers and Giants introduced major league baseball to the West Coast.
I predict that the Dodgers and Giants will be allowed to open the 2020 season one day earlier than the other California teams because they’ve been around longer than the A’s, Padres and Angels. The Dodgers and Giants are the legacy teams.
As in 1958, the two teams open the 2020 season with a six-game home-and-away series. The first three games in 1958 were actually played at Seals Stadium in San Francisco, but that venue is long gone. Dodger Stadium is the oldest major league park in California, so the Dodgers have the honor of hosting the first major league game in the new nation of California.
As the fans arrive at Dodger Stadium, nothing appears different at first. They experience the usual traffic jams on the nearby freeways (the 5, the 101, and the 110) as well as on Sunset Boulevard near Elysian Park Avenue. The parking lot attendant takes your money (admittedly, it’s now California currency…hard to get used to seeing Jerry Brown’s mug on a dollar bill), you park as close as possible, and begin the trek across the parking lot to the appropriate stadium entrance.
Once inside, however, the Dodgers fan realizes that California is not in Kansas any more. The traditional red, white and blue bunting, always in evidence on Opening Day, is no more. Oh, there is bunting hanging from the railings on the upper decks, but it’s just one color: gold. California is, after all, the Golden State. In northern California, there was a movement by Oakland A’s fans to proclaim gold and green as the new national colors, but it didn’t get far. Tommy Lasorda led a campaign to combine Dodger Blue with gold, but it was shot down by a coalition of Giants fans, Angels fans and USC fans. The latter found blue and gold unacceptable, as those were the colors of arch-rival UCLA.
Aside from the bunting, the Opening Day experience seems pretty much the same at first blush. The Giants and Dodgers are introduced and take their places along the first and third-base lines respectively. As usual, a celebrity vocalist comes out to sing the national anthem. Remember, this time around it’s not The Star-Spangled Banner. Francis Scott who? Never heard of him.
So what is the new California national anthem? Well, unless some contemporary songwriter comes up with something better, they will probably go with the official state song, I Love You, California. Not too many people know this ditty, but it is sung at the funerals of California governors. On that day when a supersize casket containing the earthly remains of Arnold Schwarzenegger is lowered into the ground, the tune will reverberate around the cemetery. Today, however, he’s still walking the earth. In fact, he’s here today to throw out the first ball.
I won’t reproduce all the lyrics of the song because, like The Star-Spangled Banner, the song has several verses, and one is sufficient for the national anthem. So here’s verse one plus the chorus:
I love you, California, you’re the greatest state of all.
I love you in the winter, summer, spring and in the fall.
I love your fertile valleys; your dear mountains I adore.
I love your grand old ocean and I love her rugged shore.
When the snow crowned Golden Sierras
Keep their watch o’er the valleys bloom,
It is there I would be in our land by the sea.
Every breeze bearing rich perfume.
It is here nature gives of her rarest. It is Home Sweet Home to me.
And I know when I die I shall breathe my last sigh
For my sunny California.
The other verses sing the praises of the redwoods, the Golden Gate, Catalina and Yosemite, among other iconic landmarks. The song is more than 100 years old, so there’s no mention of smog.
On Opening Day 2020, the song may not be familiar to Angeleno baseball fans, but the scoreboard will display the lyrics to help them get up to speed. As for the melody, they’ll just have to take the cue from the organist.
Meanwhile, in the other 25 major league ballparks in the U.S. (and dozens more minor league ballparks), the folks in ballpark operations are searching for recordings of the song because they’ll have to play it when the California teams hit town.
But what is the protocol for California baseball fans when they hear their new national anthem? Is it necessary for gentlemen to remove their hats? Should fans place their hands over their hearts, or would another gesture be more appropriate? The peace sign, perhaps? Considering California’s confiscatory tax policies, perhaps holding on to one’s wallet would be appropriate.
On Opening Day 2020, only the California national anthem will be sung, since the Dodgers are hosting the Giants. But Dodgers fans had better get used to two national anthems because when they’re not playing the Giants and the Padres (or the Angels and A’s in interleague contests), they’re going to have to listen to two national anthems. Now they can empathize with baseball fans in Toronto.
Most fans look toward the flag while the national anthem is being played. The fans at Dodger Stadium will quickly discover that the California state flag is now flying where Old Glory used to fly. “California Republic” is emblazoned on the state flag, so that still works. The logo is the California grizzly bear, a subspecies which is now extinct. Guess the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies didn’t get the memo about that.
At Dodger Stadium, they kept an American flag after the 2019 season because they knew they’d have to fly it when the Dodgers played U.S. teams. Then they realized that the flag was obsolete, and a 49-star flag was needed. This necessitated a rush order to the Chinese factory that had been humming away 24 hours a day for months to fill the orders from the U.S. In the days leading up to California’s secession, there was a movement afoot in the U.S. to add Puerto Rico to the Union so the 50-star flag could remain in effect, but it was to no avail. A last-ditch effort on behalf of Guam also went nowhere.
Well, one of the sometime perks of Opening Day at the ballpark is a flyover during the national anthem. You want to see jets over Dodger Stadium? No problem, we’ll just get Magic Johnson or Stan Kasten to pull some strings and get the commanding officer at Vandenberg Air Force Base to scramble a couple of F-15s, and…wait a minute. Forgot that the U.S. abandoned Vandenberg after secession. Now that California is a separate nation, it’s in the process of creating its own army, navy, air force and coast guard along with its very own military-industrial complex. No jets yet, however.
So far military recruitment efforts have been met with apathy. The five California teams offer generous military discounts on tickets, but there have been few takers. Rumor has it that the new nation might have to bring back conscription. The protests at Berkeley have already begun.
At any rate, once the opening ceremonies are out of the way, it’s baseball as usual at Dodger Stadium. The Dodger Dogs are still on the grill and the beer is still overpriced…odd to think that American beers are now imports, however.
Then we get to the seventh-inning stretch. Time for God Bless America! No, wait! That’s out! Take Me Out to the Ballgame still works, but where do we go from there? Hotel California? California Girls? California Gurls? California, Here I Come? California Love? Notable tunes all, but which one to use? Time for another referendum, I guess. Personally, I would choose California Sun, recorded by The Rivieras in 1964.
After the seventh-inning stretch, it’s back to baseball, and for the rest of the game it’s just like old times. Dodgers fans still leave early no matter what the score or the political status of California.
So it appears little has changed at Chavez Ravine despite the change in sovereignty. As the season progresses, it’s more or less business as usual for the Angels and Giants also. But the Padres and A’s are having major problems.
Since California has so much coastline, the loss of the U.S. Navy is particularly worrisome. Down in San Diego, the Navy was a major part of the economy, so the Padres are feeling the brunt of the loss. After the fleet moved up the coast to Astoria, Ore. (creating a raging economic boom as well as untold anguish for Beaver State environmentalists), San Diego’s population went into a steep decline.
The Padres won’t come close to selling out their 2020 home opener and the number of season ticket holders has plummeted. The long-term prospects for the franchise are bleak. The team denies reports that the Padres are talking to officials in Las Vegas about moving the franchise.
The news is not all bad in San Diego County, however. The abandonment of Camp Pendleton has opened up miles of coastline for development. Given all that new real estate on the market and the loss of population, now you can get a nice house within walking distance of the beach for a reasonable price.
Meanwhile in Sacramento, elected and appointed officials are starting to make noises about how the new nation’s capital deserves to have a major league franchise. After years of failing to find a suitable location for a new ballpark in the East Bay area, the Oakland A’s are seriously considering relocating. Reportedly, Billy Beane and GM David Forst were spotted scouting locations in greater Sacramento during the offseason. Since the Raiders have said they’ll move to Las Vegas, the Oakland Coliseum would have no tenants if the A’s leave. Marriott, however, has quietly explored the possibility of building a ski resort at Mount Davis.
Despite the turmoil, as the 2020 season progresses, California fans are getting used to all the new procedures and customs. Now it’s time for a road trip. So how about a long weekend in Phoenix while the Dodgers are there?
Imagine you’re a Dodgers fan packing up the car and heading east on I-10. Funny thing, though: now it’s called simply Highway 10. It’s no longer part of the U.S. interstate highway system, so all the signs had to be changed. Also, with no more U.S. funds to maintain it, it is now a toll road.
As you approach the Arizona state line, you notice the traffic backing up. Must be an accident. Probably some damn 18-wheeler. Oh, wait, it’s a border checkpoint. The old state line is now an international border! One armed guard approaches your car while another guard with a dope-sniffing dog gives your car the once-over. Hope you didn’t leave any joints in your overnight bag.
Once on the Arizona side, you note the U.S. Border Patrol is on the lookout for illegal aliens. They’ve been very busy since Calexit became reality. Before that came Calexodus, when millions of people fled California while they still could still legally migrate to the 49 states. The ones who didn’t get out in time are trying to do so now, but the U.S., having absorbed so many Californians during the Calexodus, isn’t taking any more legal immigrants from the new nation. So they’re trying to sneak in. A lot of them have died on the trek, some freezing in the Sierras, others perishing in the desert. There is a bill in Sacramento about rebranding Death Valley because the name is too insensitive.
Then there’s the currency exchange on the other side of the border checkpoint. Totally forgot about that. Can’t use California dollars in Arizona. Time to get re-acquainted with the dead presidents. Unfortunately, they’ve been working the printing presses overtime at the California Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Sacramento, so the exchange rate is pathetic. Arizona used to be cheaper than California, now it’s the other way around. Say goodbye to those spring training vacations. Maybe next year, the Dodgers will take a page out of the Cubs book, and move their spring training to Catalina Island.
It’s not all fun and games for the ballplayers either. The California players are getting tired of having to go through customs on almost every road trip. They’re concerned about the long-term prospects for that California currency and insist on being paid in American dollars. Major league GMs are worried that it may be difficult for California teams to recruit free agents.
Meteorologically speaking, the climate is still ideal for baseball in California. The socioeconomic climate is another story. Will baseball reign as the national pastime in California nation?
The question may not need to be answered. The secessionist movement may never get much traction. If so, this article can be dismissed as overheated rhetoric from the hot stove league.
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