Monday, April 17, 2006
Another last laugh for the St. Paul Saints
By Darren Rovell ESPN.com
The St. Paul Saints are at it again.
The independent minor league baseball team, partly owned by comedian Bill Murray and Mike Veeck (the son of the great baseball promoter Bill Veeck), has dreamed up yet another attention-grabbing promotion.
Team executives say the rubber boats, each three inches by five inches, they'll be giving away on May 27 to the first 2,500 fans at Midway Stadium is to honor the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the television show, "The Love Boat."
But they have another vessel in mind, too, a "Love Boat" that has nothing at all to do with Capt. Stubing, Gopher and Cruise Director Julie.
Here's a hint: The boat's colors are purple and yellow.
Thanks to the Saints, now you, too, can cruise with those fun-loving players . . . in your own bathtub!
Yes, it's meant to be a replica of one of the ships rented by members of the local NFL team back on Oct. 6. For that little cruise, four Minnesota Vikings were charged with indecent conduct and lewdness related to alleged sexual activities that took place on the charters.
The charges against former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper were dropped recently, but the trial for running back Moe Williams is scheduled to begin on Tuesday. Two other Vikings -- cornerback Fred Smoot and tackle Bryant McKinnie -- are scheduled to stand trial in May. The players face fines of up to $1,000 and as much as 90 days in jail.
"This promotion just fell into our laps," said Tom Whaley, the Saints' vice president. "Because we're independent, we don't have to answer to anybody."
But it won't surprise Whaley if a few people might be upset about it.
The Saints, as a point of reference, heard from the Vikings after their Randy Moss Hood Ornament Night in August 2003. The ornament was handed out to remind fans of an incident in which Moss bumped a traffic control officer with his car while he attempted to make a turn.
"We were told to call the Vikings and apologize," Whaley said. "But when we did, they wanted us to send them two of the ornaments."
In this case, Vikings spokesman Tom West said the team would have no comment on the "Love Boat" promotion.
The Saints aren't about to shy away from the connection to the Vikings' incident. Just in case fans don't "get" it, they can check out the name of the ship on the giveaway models: "The Minnetonka Queen."
That isn't the real name of either of the two ships the Vikings rented from a charter boat service called Al & Alma's. But it references the widely publicized location of the cruise, which took place on Lake Minnetonka.
"We think people empathize with the owners of the boat service," Whaley said. "They don't know what they got themselves into."
That's why Whaley wants to invite them to throw out the first pitch the day the boats are given away. An initial call didn't produce a response, but Whaley said the team will try again.
An employee for Al & Alma's referred ESPN.com to the company's lawyer Steven Doyle, who did not return phone calls.
Although the Saints sell out almost every game, Whaley said the team has to do promotions like this one to make sure they generate news in a city that plays host to four major pro sports teams and a major college program in the University of Minnesota.
For example, the Saints handed out seat cushions with pictures of Bud Selig on one side and Don Fehr on the other when tensions over labor negotiations were at their height back in 2002, and they gave away Selig ties that same year in honor of the commissioner's decision to end the All-Star Game in a 7-7 tie.
While their quest to get attention occasionally offends some, they've never had to cancel a promotion.
However, one of Veeck's other teams -- the Charleston Riverdogs -- had to cancel Vasectomy Night, a Father's Day promotion in which at least one lucky fan was to have won the operation, after a local Catholic diocese complained. And that team's Voodoo Night was also shelved after the plan to give out dolls and hold chants on Friday the 13th fell apart. Turns out this particular Friday the 13th was also Good Friday.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business can be reached at Darren.email@example.com.