Minor league organizations wary of the Grinch
Lake Elsinore's first Dr. Seuss Night in 2005 included characters and rhyming. Even the players got into the promotion, wearing crazy socks.
By Chuck King
Dr. Seuss created the famous Christmas-stealing Grinch. Dr. Seuss Enterprises created its own monster, becoming the Grinch who stole merriment from a night at the ballpark.
When Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that overseas the interests of the deceased children’s writer, learned that Lake Elsinore planned Dr. Seuss night for May 2, it served the Storm with a cease and desist order. Other minor league clubs immediately took notice.
Lincoln of the independent American Association immediately cut down on its Dr. Seuss promotion. Then, a week later, scaled it back some more. The original plan included striped hats for players, rhyming public address announcements and staffers dressed like characters.
Four days before the scheduled event, the Saltdogs limited themselves to between-inning trivia questions. They even changed the red fish, blue fish race to red ball, blue ball.
“We wanted to make it as much fun as possible for our fans, but we didn’t want the hassle of dealing with (Dr. Seuss Enterprises),” Lincoln Director of Promotions Anne Duchek said.
Disregarding the entertaining use of language that created the Dr. Seuss legacy an official at Dr. Seuss Enterprises offered a quick “no comment” and abruptly hung up the phone as an explanation of their position.
The distance between Lincoln, Neb. and Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ La Jolla, Calif., headquarters likely would have allowed the Saltdogs to carry out their vision of Dr. Seuss night with more verve. Modesto, which like Lake Elsinore is a member of the California League, may have more to worry about.
The Nuts scheduled their Dr. Seuss Night for June 3. Like Lincoln, the Nuts are scaling back their fun.
“Based on the situation that happened in Lake Elsinore, we’re going to limit stuff inside the park to rhymes and riddles,” Modesto Director of Media Services Grant Boring said. “Their company has their policies. You have to respect that.”
Following Lake Elsinore’s lead, Modesto incorporated Dr. Seuss Night into its reading program. The Storm’s program has been so successful that it received additional funding from Riverside County.
As part of the program, Lake Elsinore takes its mascots to local schools and staffers read to youngsters. Any student that read 10 books – Dr. Seuss or otherwise - earned free tickets to a ballgame. The Storm may stop using Dr. Seuss books as part of its reading program.
Lake Elsinore was preparing for its fourth annual Dr. Seuss Night. Storm officials said Dr. Seuss Enterprises would have let the night continue provided the Storm paid $1,000, rented costumes from them and didn’t use copyrighted pictures or text.
“We were amazed. I understand the copyright protection, but this was more about promoting reading for kids,” Lake Elsinore General Manager Chris Jones said. “Deciding to cancel the event wasn’t about the thousand dollars. It was about everything else they were asking.”
The Storm issued a rhyming press release canceling Dr. Seuss Night (read it on the MinorLeagueDugout blog). Lake Elsinore still had a successful night thanks in part to the already scheduled post-game fireworks.
Jones received multiple emails from concerned general managers after canceling the promotion.
“We’re not trying to steal anything, we’re just trying to make it fun for our fans,” Duchek said of Sunday’s scheduled promotion. “I understand they want to keep the integrity of their image, but we didn’t want to degrade that. We just wanted to do stuff people would enjoy.”
Check out my blog for more on wild minor league promotions and minor league baseball.