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Robinson can't sub for Bonds

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by creamora, Apr 14, 2007.

  1. creamora

    creamora Member

    This is an excellent article by Chafets.

    Jackie Robinson can't sub for Barry Bonds
    Baseball stands to lose its remaining black fans if it downplays Bonds' stellar achievements.

    By Zev Chafets
    Los Angeles Times
    April 14, 2007

    April 15, by decree of Major League Baseball, will be Jackie Robinson Day. On Sunday, a player on each big league team will be designated to wear Robinson's uniform number, 42. The Dodgers, Robinson's club in its Brooklyn incarnation, intend to go one better; every player will wear the hallowed number.

    Jackie Robinson Day is an exercise in racial public relations. Baseball desperately wants to repair its connection to the black community, whose younger generation seems to regard the national pastime as only slightly more relevant than curling.

    How did this happen? In the bad old days of segregation, Negro League stars such as Satchel Paige and Cool Papa Bell were cultural icons, and young black athletes gravitated to the game. Robinson was followed by a starburst of great players. Willie Mays, Roy Campanella, Larry Doby, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Don Newcombe, Monte Irvin, Frank Robinson, Willie McCovey — these were men who fell in love with baseball when it was still forbidden.

    That love was unrequited, even after baseball grudgingly integrated. No one knew this better than Robinson. He watched as great franchises such as the Red Sox, Tigers and Yankees resisted integration for a decade or more. He saw black players forced to repress their athletic creativity and cultural identity in order to conform to the conservative norms of baseball. And he keenly felt his own exclusion from the game after his playing days were done.

    Sick with diabetes, Robinson was honored by Major League Baseball at the 1972 World Series. He was under-whelmed. "I'd like to live to see a black manager," he said with bitter irony. Nine days later, he was dead. Thirty-five years later, there are just two U.S.-born black managers and one general manager in Major League Baseball.

    Football and basketball are the African American sports now. You see it in the stands, where the number of black fans at baseball games sometimes doesn't reach triple digits. You see it on the field too; most of today's great black players come from Latin America.

    The most luminous exception is Barry Bonds, who will be wearing 42 for the San Francisco Giants on Sunday, instead of his customary 25. Bonds is easily the greatest player of his era. He is a seven-time MVP. He holds the record for most home runs in a season. Now he is closing in on the all-time home run title, which Hank Aaron took from Babe Ruth in 1973.

    Bonds is a cantankerous figure (he has that in common with Jackie Robinson) and widely hated by sportswriters and fans. Baseball purists despise him for allegedly having used steroids. This, they claim, profanes baseball's holy of holies, its statistical integrity. How can you compare records if they are compiled under unequal conditions?

    This is, in a word, nonsense. Ruth broke into baseball when a dozen homers led the league. Then the grandees of the game decided to soup up the ball — a form of artificial enhancement at least as intrusive as steroids — and presto, the Babe (and, in his wake, others) hit 50 a season out of the park.

    Despite this great break with the past, baseball venerated Ruth. When Hank Aaron, a black man, broke his record in 1973, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn didn't bother coming to the game. The snub left Aaron embittered. He (and millions of his fellow African Americans) correctly saw it as another example of baseball's Negro Problem.

    Now it is Bonds' turn. He'll probably pass Aaron this season, a feat that will be greeted — outside of San Francisco — with near universal resentment and animosity by white fans and writers (the press boxes of baseball are even more monochromatic than the stands). Commissioner Bud Selig says that a new home run mark will be treated as a routine event, just another record being broken. He might not bother to attend.

    Baseball's few remaining black fans will see the double standard. What's so bad about what Bonds is accused of, they will ask? He used drugs? See Jim Bouton's great baseball diary "Ball Four," on the rampant use of amphetamines in the Golden Age of Mickey Mantle. Bonds broke the law by allegedly taking illegal substances? The Babe himself openly boozed his way through Prohibition. Bonds broke baseball's rules? If that were a major crime, spit-baller Gaylord Perry wouldn't be in the great hall at Cooperstown.

    Whether Selig and the writers and the fans like it or not, Bonds is the black Babe Ruth. If they demonize him, put a disqualifying asterisk next to his records and ban him from the Hall of Fame, a thousand Jackie Robinson Days won't bring back the missing millions of African American fans. It's fine to venerate No. 42, but Robinson is a page in the history books. It's what happens to No. 25 that will determine the next chapter in the star-crossed relationship between blacks and baseball.
  2. outofplace

    outofplace Well-Known Member

    Oh, this should be fun...
  3. sportschick

    sportschick Active Member

    This won't end well.
  4. PCLoadLetter

    PCLoadLetter Well-Known Member


    Two thoughts...

    Perhaps someone who's more of a baseball historian can help me out with this, but I've never seen anyone suggest that Jackie Robinson's temperament and personality was even vaguely similar to Barry Bonds.

    And seriously, trying to make the Bonds thing racial is just wrong. Hank Aaron is refusing to show up for any ceremony for Bonds. Does he hate black people too?
  5. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    Who thinks of Bonds as black? He crosses all races. Asshole has no pigment.
  6. RokSki

    RokSki New Member

    How did Zev Chafets come to write this article? Isn't his area news? Maybe I'm thinking of the wrong guy.
  7. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    That's just laughable.

    Robinson was a fiery guy, by all accounts but I've never heard him described as "cantankerous" ... a.k.a. disagreeable. He was a private man, and -- for obvious reasons -- he certainly had a chip on his shoulder. There were plenty of guys he didn't get along with on the field, but that was mostly due to their bench-jockeying (and/or race baiting), and/or head-hunting, etc. Also, he was a scrappy player -- but Billy Martin and Eddie Stanky and Clint Courtney made a lot of enemies that way, too.

    He and Bonds don't have that in common. Sorry, Zev.
  8. Trouser_Buddah

    Trouser_Buddah Active Member

    "How can you compare records if they are compiled under unequal conditions?

    This is, in a word, nonsense. Ruth broke into baseball when a dozen homers led the league. Then the grandees of the game decided to soup up the ball — a form of artificial enhancement at least as intrusive as steroids — and presto, the Babe (and, in his wake, others) hit 50 a season out of the park."

    Is this point made to detract from what Babe Ruth accomplished? If so, the point might be a decent one if Babe Ruth wasn't massively outhomering everyone else in the league...
  9. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    Bonds outfield defense and his power/speed threat in the early days of his career made him one of the top three LF of all time. He was a HOF player before he "allegedly" hit the needle or the cream or the powder or whatever it was that tripled his hat size.

    Now his career is stained.

    Simple as that.

    Jackie fought for civil rights decades before Rosa Parks and MLK. He and Bonds should never be written about in the same light.

    Oh, how many years did it take someone to break Ruth's HR mark? A lot, right? That means it was a strong record.

    Kuhn not being there for Aaron though, does make me ask why?
  10. RokSki

    RokSki New Member

    93 Devil - Nice avatar. He was one tough guy.
  11. Trouser_Buddah

    Trouser_Buddah Active Member

    He's dead?
  12. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    Thanks. I just wish I was a little bit older when he was in his prime so I could appreciate him (and about 12 other guys on that team) more. Thank God for ESPN classic, NFL network and DVDs.
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