It was only 15 years ago that Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle were banned from baseball for their association with Atlantic City casinos. Now, the casinos are starting to come to baseball.
At least five major league teams accept advertising money either directly from casinos or through umbrella organizations, the Broward Daily Business Review reported in Monday's editions.
The Florida Marlins and Minnesota Twins accept direct advertising from casinos. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is a sponsor for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Such a relationship would have been forbidden only a few years ago. But restrictions have been loosened as baseball officials grudgingly acknowledge society's acceptance of gambling.
"After all, gambling is legal everywhere," acting commissioner Bud Selig told the newspaper. "So as life changes and society changes, frankly, we also have made some of those changes."
To some, it's a disturbing change.
"I'm very surprised to hear this," said John Dowd, the Washington lawyer who conducted the investigation that led to the 1989 ban of career hits leader Pete Rose. "A few years back, baseball wouldn't let Mantle and Mays associate with casinos, but apparently the game itself is now associating with casinos."
Mays and Mantle were barred by former commissioner Bowie Kuhn in 1983 for accepting public-relations roles with Atlantic City casinos. Kuhn's successor, Peter Ueberroth, reinstated them two years later.
At the Diamondbacks' Internet site, visitors can link with the Las Vegas authority's own home page. There, its "gaming guide" includes a page on sports books. Selig said he found no trouble with the setup, even though the gaming guide appears side-by-side with the Diamondbacks' logo and home-page index.
"I still thing there's enough of a firewall so that it doesn't affect our game or our integrity or the integrity of the game played on the field," he said.
Minnesota's Treasure Island Casino has a similar cyberlink with the Twins' Internet site. The Marlins run stadium and broadcast ads for casinos operated by the Miccosukee and Seminole tribes.
©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed