Baseball’s Cavalcade of Bigotry
the perp: St. Louis Browns (1887)
the rap sheet: Wrote letter to club owner Chris Von der Ahe before exhibition game against the all-black Cuban Giants: “We the undersigned . . . do not agree to play against Negroes tomorrow. We will cheerfully play against white people at any time, and think by refusing to play, we are only doing what is right.” the verdict: Von der Ahe announced that his team was unable to play, and canceled the game. Later that year, won third straight American Association championship.
the perp: Ty Cobb, Outfielder, Detroit Tigers (1905-28)
the rap sheet: Attempted to choke the wife of a black groundskeeper, pistol-whipped a black butcher’s assistant, and punched a black groundskeeper. the verdict: Suspended 10 days for beating up a fan who had called him a “half nigger.” First man elected to Hall of Fame, 1936.
the perp: Jake Powell, Outfielder, N.Y. Yankees (1938)
the rap sheet: Claimed he kept in shape in the off-season by “cracking niggers’ heads” as a policeman. the verdict: Suspended for 10 days by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Later committed suicide after an arrest for passing bad checks.
the perp: Clay Hopper, Manager, Brooklyn’s Montreal farm club (1946)
the rap sheet: Asked Dodger GM Branch Rickey, “Do you really think a nigger’s a human being?” the verdict: Was given Jackie Robinson by Rickey as his starting second baseman. Team won 100 games and the International League pennant.
the perp: St. Louis Cardinals (1947)
the rap sheet: Threatened to refuse to take the field if Jackie Robinson was playing. the verdict: Told they were “guilty of complete madness” and threatened with immediate suspension by NL president Ford Frick, who, one year earlier, had coauthored a report recommending baseball not integrate.
the perp: Calvin Griffith, Owner, Minnesota Twins (1978)
the rap sheet: Told a local Rotary Club, “Black people don’t go to ball games, but they’ll fill up a ring and put up such a chant they’ll scare you to death. We came [to Minnesota] because you’ve got good, hardworking white people here.” the verdict: No official action. Star first baseman Rod Carew demanded trade, saying he’d no longer play on Griffith’s “plantation.”
the perp: Al Campanis, GM, L.A. Dodgers (1987)
the rap sheet: Said blacks “may not have some of the necessities” to be managers. the verdict: Fired, never worked in baseball again.
the perp: Bob Knepper, Pitcher, Houston Astros (1988)
the rap sheet: Said women shouldn’t be umps because “In God’s society, woman was created in a role of submission to the husband.” When NOW picketed Astros games, called the group “a bunch of lesbians.” the verdict: Apologized to NOW. No official action taken.
the perp: Marge Schott, Owner, Cincinnati Reds (1992-96)
the rap sheet: Said Hitler “was good at the beginning but he just went too far,” that “I’d rather have a trained monkey working for me than a nigger,” and that “only fruits wear earrings.” the verdict: Twice suspended from baseball, ultimately forced to sell team.
the perp: John Rocker, Pitcher, Atlanta Braves (1999)
the rap sheet: Told Sports Illustrated, “I’m not a very big fan of foreigners,” and made disparaging remarks about gays, people with AIDS, ex-cons, young mothers, and kids with purple hair. the verdict: MLB “will take appropriate action,” according to Commissioner Bud Selig.
the perp: Major League Baseball (1876-2000)
the rap sheet: Banned non-Caucasian players for over 60 years. Hired only two nonwhite males as general managers over its first 125 years of existence. the verdict: Still on the lam.
Oy! how the Liberty are coming apart this off-season: If it’s not forward Rebecca Lobo reinjuring her ACL, it’s shooting guard Sophia Witherspoon being shipped to Portland. Now, All-Star Vickie Johnson has dislocated her left shoulder, forcing her out of winter-season play in Israel. The Ramat HaSharon team’s “most loved player,” according to team chairperson Rachel Ostrowitz, VJ first injured her shoulder in a Women’s Euroleague game in Hungary in November, and then came back to help Ramat HaSharon snag an 81-80 Israeli cup victory against Karmiel on December 20. In the last 30 seconds of the game, as VJ was helping out in a double-team, she knocked shoulders with Karmiel forward Chastity Melvin and went down.
Still unable to make a living on WNBA wages, many U.S. players sign up to play overseas in the off-season. Like Israel’s 10-team league, most play from September to April, leaving athletes little time for rest and recuperation between seasons. Other WNBA players sweating out the winter in the holy land include Melvin, Smith, Shalonda Enis, Mawadi Mabika, Penny Moore, Mila Nikolich, Umekki Webb, and Jamila Wideman.
According to Ostrowitz, Johnson returned to New York this week for an MRI to determine whether surgery will be necessary. “She needs at least two months of rest,” says Ostrowitz. As far as treatment goes, “Thank God for the union,” says Erica McKeon, who works for the agency that represents Johnson. “If this had happened a year ago [before the collective bargaining agreement], in order to have her rehab covered, she would have had to stay in Israel.”
“The loss to Ramat HaSharon is huge,” says Ostrowitz. “VJ’s abilities are not all shown on the statistics sheet. She is all heart and sportive spirit on the court—small ego and very, very big heart.”
For Jockbeat‘s money, there was some amusement in the whole John Rocker affair; it came when Post columnist and resident xenophobe, Rod Dreher, tried to distinguish between Southern folk of Rocker’s ilk and those like himself. Dreher, whose angry blather can make colleague Steve Dunleavy look like a sensitive ponytail man, offered an explanation that defies summation in his Thursday column. But we know what the real difference is: vocabulary.
CONTRIBUTORS: NEIL DEMAUSE, ALISA SOLOMON, RAMONA DEBS
SPORTS EDITOR: MILES D. SELIGMAN