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Originally published July 9, 2009 at 8:38 PM | Page modified July 10, 2009 at 1:14 AM

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Poll shows baseball fans' biggest beef is high ticket prices

Major League Baseball attendance is down more than 6 percent this season. The average ticket price is $26.64, up 5 percent over last season.

Clarence Eckstein grew up in Ohio, when a great summer day meant driving 2 ½ hours with his dad to see Pete Rose and the Big Red Machine.

At 51, Eckstein still cheers for Cincinnati. From home, on TV.

"Tickets, gas, food, it's a few hundred dollars," he said. "Other bills are more of a priority."

He's got company. The high price of attending games is by far the biggest problem in Major League Baseball, an Associated Press-Knowledge Networks poll of fans released Thursday shows.

A whopping 63 percent said the steep cost was the game's top trouble -- up from 45 percent in a survey right before opening day. Worries over players making too much money or taking steroids lagged behind.

"It's sad when people can't afford to come to a game. No doubt. I would love for every kid and every adult to be able to afford to come to a ballpark," Texas Rangers pitcher Eddie Guardado said. "Somebody's going to come up with a good idea to fix it."

MLB attendance is down more than 6 percent this season. The average ticket price is $26.64, up 5 percent over last season, according to the Team Marketing Report.

In other poll results:

• 72 percent of respondents said MLB is not doing enough to prevent the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

• 15 percent of fans who went to a game last year said they aren't likely to attend a game this year.

• About two-thirds said Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa should not be allowed into the Hall of Fame if they are found to have taken steroids or performance-enhancing drugs.

Notes

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• Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino and Detroit Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge have been elected by fans to Tuesday's All-Star game in record-shattering online voting. Victorino received 15.6 million votes; Inge got 11.8 million.

• The Oakland Athletics will retire Rickey Henderson's No. 24 jersey, making him the fifth player in the team's Oakland history to receive that honor. Rickey Henderson Day will take place Aug. 1, with an extended pregame ceremony before the Athletics' home game against Toronto.

Henderson, the major leagues' all-time runs and stolen-bases leader, is being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 26. He spent 15 of his 25 seasons with the A's, spread across four stints.

Pedro Martinez says his agent is negotiating with the Philadelphia Phillies, trying to get the pitcher back into the major leagues. The 37-year-old Martinez is reported to have worked three innings in a simulated game against a Phillies summer league team, with his fastball clocked at up to 93 mph.

• Top prospect Fernando Martinez is the latest New York Mets player to go down with an injury. The rookie outfielder was placed on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right knee.

• Former major-leaguer Jim Leyritz burst into tears in court Thursday after learning a postponement would keep him in jail for at least another weekend as he awaits trial on a DUI manslaughter charge. Judge Marc Gold delayed a decision until Monday on whether to release Leyritz on bond. Leyritz has been jailed since he was charged last week with domestic battery against his ex-wife, which was considered a probation violation.

• The San Francisco Giants recalled infielder-outfielder John Bowker from Class AAA Fresno and he was in the starting lineup in left field against the San Diego Padres. Bowker played 111 games with the Giants last year. It was just a matter of time for him to return, considering he was among the leaders in the Pacific Coast League in several categories. He was hitting .347 with 17 home runs.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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