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Nice guy.  Have some blogs.  Do baseball research.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Racist

The term is being used in National Basketball Association (NBA) circles because of comments made in private conversation by an owner who has now been banned for life.  The new NBA commissioner is being universally lauded for doing what was universally requested.  One wonders how many people would like their own private comments to become public.

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa.  Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Barry BondsRoger ClemensMark McGwireSammy Sosa.

What, you thought they were Conquest, War, Famine, and Death?  To Hall of Fame voters there's much worse...

Are transgressors lost forever?  Are there no prodigal sons?  Can they never be redeemed?  ...

 Is it part of the young guys trying too hard to show how smart they are?  Is it more of a backlash against steroids than they would like to admit?  After all, they are enlightened.  They can easily spot all those racists in baseball's past, especially the ones from a distant time and place like Ty Cobb, born in Narrows, Georgia in 1886, less than a decade after the Civil War reconstruction ended.  Sensibilities too fine to tolerate Cobb can easily be used to condemn McGwire and deny him redemption.

Bonds and Clemens are not the only ones to blame for this sorry state.  Those who stood and watched and now condemn are also to blame.
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When did it become OK to call someone a racist?  Sunday, January 26, 2014

...  described former Dodger manager Walter Alston as a racist ...

the president of the Hall of Fame.  In defending the voting results that have barred users of performance enhancing drugs (PED), presumably including steroids, he mentioned that Ty Cobb was a racist...

we should be much less inclined to simply call people racists, especially without good evidence and cause.  When did it become OK to call someone a racist?
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What if Leo Durocher had managed Jackie Robinson in 1947?  Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Leo Durocher managed the Brooklyn Dodgers 1939-1946, 1948 (35-37) ...

In Jackie Robinson's rookie season of 1947 Durocher supported him in spring training.  However, Durocher was suspended for the season and replaced by Burt Shotton...

MLB Network today has even more middle aged white guys saying really stupid things than in previous years.  The movie 42 has "educated" people in a comic book way.  Philadelphia manager Ben Chapman yelled epithets at Robinson.  Chapman says he would have done the same to other players.  I agree.  Maybe Robinson got more but human behavior in the late 1940s was very much along those lines.  Star players like Hank Greenberg and Joe DiMaggio had been subjected to epithets.  It didn't start with Robinson and it didn't end with him.

But what if Leo Durocher had managed Jackie Robinson in 1947?  Durocher would have been out on the field attacking the opposing teams when they went after Robinson, verbally or physically.  Durocher was known as a bench jockey himself, maybe not that different from Chapman...

A big part of the Robinson legend is that he was a victim.  Had Durocher been his manager in 1947, much of that moral high ground would have been diminished.  Robinson's own strength of character would, of course, prevail but the fairy tale component might have been denied to simplistic people like Selig.
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The Atlantic What Really Happened to Ben Chapman, the Racist Baseball Player in 42?

He told me he always wanted to be recognized as a great player. But his harassment of Jackie Robinson will now forever define his place in history—as is fair.

by ALLEN BARRA APR 15 2013, 2:27 PM ET

1933 Goudey baseball card of Ben Chapman (age 25)
of the New York Yankees via Wikimedia Commons
In 1979, having graduated the University of Alabama with no ambition more worthwhile than becoming a sportswriter, I had occasion to meet Ben Chapman—the "Alabama Flash," as we knew him—during a college baseball game at Rickwood Field in Birmingham...

he was remembered for his savage heckling of Jackie Robinson in Robinson's first year in the major leagues, 1947, when Chapman was manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Chapman was 71 and gray-haired when I met him, but he looked younger, and very fit ...

"Is it true," I wanted to know, "that you said those things to Jackie Robinson? You know, the names, the words, that everyone said you used?"

"Heck, yeah," Chapman said with a loud guffaw. "Sure I did. Everyone used those kind of words back then. Heck, we said the same things to Joe DiMaggio and Hank Greenberg."

I was puzzled. "You mean you called DiMaggio a ....?"

"We tried to rattle him by saying, 'Hey, Dago' or 'Hey, Wop.'"

What about Greenberg? "Oh, we called him 'Kike.' It was all part of the game back then. You said anything you had to say to get an edge. Believe me, being a southerner, I took a lot of abuse myself when I first played in New York. If you couldn't take it, it was a case of if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."  ...

Over the years, retired players and sportswriters I've talked to have confirmed that, yes, baseball banter was pretty harsh back then and ethnic slurs and insults were a big part of Depression-era and post-World War II baseball. They did say those things to DiMaggio and Greenberg, and, yes, a lot of northern players did harass southern boys mercilessly. (Sample: Ed Walsh, born and raised in Pennsylvania, loved to yell at. Georgia-born Ty Cobb, "Cobb, I hear you're from Royston, where men are men and sheep are nervous!")

... DiMaggio and Greenberg could give it right back, but Robinson wasn't allowed to: "Jackie had promised Branch Rickey that in his first season he wouldn't fight back."  ...

I saw him again six years later, by which time I was living in Brooklyn. I went home for an old-timers game at Rickwood Field...

Chapman managed a team of All-Stars; the other team was managed by Piper Davis, nine years younger but practically a contemporary of Chapman's. Piper never got the chance to play in the big leagues because of the color barrier...

Afterwards, they laughed and slapped each other on the back. I was surprised, to say the least.

Several years later, while working on a book on Rickwood Field, I asked the former owner of the Birmingham Barons, Art Clarkson, about that night. "All I can say," he told me, "is that Ben really was a different man in his later years—he acknowledged the error of his old ways...

Well, as my mother used to say, just when you think you know someone. Chapman died in 1993, age 84. Because of the success of 42—its opening weekend was the highest of any baseball movie ever—the Ben Chapman portrayed in the movie will certainly define his image in baseball history. And that's fair. But it's just possible that near the end of his life Chapman did change—or as we say today, he evolved. At least some people who knew him in his later years thought he did, and I think it's fair, also, that in some tiny corner of baseball history that Ben Chapman is be remembered as well.
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1 comment:

Old Marine said...

Post WW2 banter was ROUGH. Comments were designed to jar and disrupt you. Winning was everything and no holds barred and everyone was attacked with ANYTHING the opposition could think of. People were beaned, spiked,hit,
spit on, etc. and everyone understood it was part of life, which was much rougher back then, after all these men were products of WW1 and WW2 and Korea, where men were bombed, machine gunned, gassed and bayoneted so words meant little to them. Jackie Robinson really didn't endure different treatment than other rookies who had some success.