Dennis Lyons

Horace Stoneham, the owner of the New York and later San Francisco Giants baseball teams from 1936 to 1976, was vilified in New York when he announced he would move the team out west prior to the 1958 season. 

By most accounts, with declining attendance and a crumbling ballpark in the old Polo Grounds, Stoneham made a justifiable decision to join fellow owner Walter O’Malley, who moved the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles at the same time. 

History shows that O’Malley took the brunt of criticism from fans, even though the blame probably rested more squarely with powerful then-New York City planner Robert Moses.

But Stoneham also had his share of detractors, one of whom asked him how he could do such a thing to the kids of New York.

In response, Stoneham is reported to have said the following:

“I feel bad for the kids, I’ve seen lots of them at the Polo Grounds. But I haven’t seen many of their fathers lately.”

He wasn’t wrong. The paying fans had stopped showing up in large numbers. Attendance, once close to 1.5 million, had dropped to about 700,000 per year.

I got to thinking about all this on Thursday when UMPC Susquehanna announced its plan to close its hospital in Sunbury. 

In the press release making the announcement, Steven Johnson, UPMC Susquehanna’s president, said that according to market data, “patients are utilizing facilities other than UPMC Susquehanna Sunbury for their care.”

Some numbers we reported Thursday back that up. According to the Pennsylvania Healthcare Cost Containment Council’s 2018 data, the acute inpatient market share for Northumberland County showed 77% choosing Geisinger, 19%  Evangelical and just 4% UPMC Sunbury.

Also, according to federal tax filings, the hospital finished the fiscal year that ended June 30. 2018, with an operational loss in excess of $2 million.

There are likely all sorts of reasons why this happened, reasons that developed over a long period of time under multiple owners. Our news team will continue to explore them in the coming days and weeks.

Like so many other things we feel bad about losing, though, sometimes the end of an era comes as much due to a lack of public support as anything else.

It’s happening in the newspaper business. A report last year from the University of North Carolina showed that the country has lost nearly 1,800 local newspapers since 2004. 

There will no doubt be a myriad of meetings and brainstorming of ways to try to keep Sunbury’s hospital open in some form.

State Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-108, has already requested the Governor’s Action Team to assist UPMC Susquehanna Sunbury employees and to market the facility should UPMC choose to sell the property.

A meeting of community leaders, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce to address the planned closure, was already held Friday at The Edison Hotel. There will be, no doubt, a lot of concerned people coming together to try to develop a strategy.

Who knows? Maybe something can be done. After all, five years after the Giants and Dodgers left, after a lot of maneuvering and strategizing, the New York Mets were created to help fill the void.

It seems to me, though, that throughout history, we’ve been more adept at reacting to a crisis than we’ve been at maintaining and supporting what we already have.

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