For the purists, the new Marlins’ ballpark is a tribute to ostentatious excess. True to form, owner Jeffrey Loria went over the top in his choice of people to celebrate the stadium’s opening by getting Muhammad Ali.
Rather than have opening night be about Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Giancarlo Stanton, Ozzie Guillen or Logan Morrison, the first game of the season was dedicated to vicious attacks on social media directed at Loria; they were visceral and bordering on threats to his safety.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise. The park has attractions—a nightclub, fish tanks, carnival acts—that have nothing to do with baseball. Why would the first pitch ceremony have a baseball-related theme?
Considering Loria’s shady business practices and his Steinbrennerian way he runs his club (without spending the money that George Steinbrenner did), I’m not defending him, but if he’s going to be attacked he should be attacked for the right reasons.
Because Loria and the Marlins had Ali deliver the first ball to Commissioner Bud Selig, it was seen as an attempt on the part of Loria to protect himself from being booed by the Miami “faithful” who aren’t all that faithful to Loria’s baseball team and whose disinterest is a major factor in the aforementioned shady practices in pocketing revenue sharing money and the tactics he used to get the new park built in the first place—tactics that are getting him investigated by the SEC.
But is it warranted to savage him for using Ali?
It’s not as if Loria kidnapped the former champs’ children, held them for ransom and forced him to appear. Or that the Parkinsons afflicted former champion was picked up like a drooling vegetable and stuck next to Loria without benefit to him.
I’d be surprised if Ali was aware of who Loria was before and after the appearance.
(Ali was the same person who, during a clowning session with the Beatles, posed for pictures danced around and joked…then after the session turned to an assistant and asked, “Who were those little faggots?”)
At this point, Ali doesn’t do much of anything unless he’s heavily compensated. Whether he’s cognizant of his surroundings is known only to him and those closest to him.
I wasn’t able to find Ali’s direct appearance fees, but in this review of Thomas Hauser’s book, The Lost Legacy of Muhammad Ali, one of the editors of a prior Ali book, GOAT: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali, Ovais Navqi, writes that Ali’s appearance fee was “apparently $200,000”.
The Hauser book was published seven years ago. It’s safe to assume that the appearance fee is substantially more now.
I’d guess Ali got at least $400,000-500,000 to appear at Marlins Park last night.
As for the connections between Ali and Miami, there are plenty. He won his first heavyweight title by knocking out Sonny Liston on 1964 and in this link to the 2008 PBS documentary “Muhammad Ali: Made in Miami”, you can read how Ali and Miami are inextricably connected. The final paragraph says the following:
Until now, Muhammad Ali’s time in Miami has been treated as little more than a prologue to his worldwide fame. Muhammad Ali: Made in Miami provides a fascinating chronicle of the personal and professional transformations the legendary fighter experienced in the city, and argues compellingly that, without Miami, there might never have been a Muhammad Ali.
Was Loria thinking that if he had his arms around Ali as a human shield to protect him from the raining boos that not even the retractable roof would prevent from drenching him?
But was the aged and infirm Ali a random American hero that was plucked out of nowhere for Loria to use without benefit to Ali himself?
Trust me, Ali wasn’t doing anyone any favors by showing up.
He got paid.
You and Ali can take that to the bank along with his check.