Smoking Gun: Red Sox Owner Was Blatant Racist

In case you don’t know, the Boston Red Sox was the last MLB team to sign a black player - 14 long years after Jackie Robinson inked a deal with the Dodgers. Because of that, there’s been plenty of speculation as to why it took the Bosox so long to integrate.

Tom Yawkey Clemente Aaron Mays All In MLB Before Red Sox Signed Black Player

Longtime baseball writer and editor Glenn Stout went back into the archives to see if he could turn up any published evidence of racism by the Red Sox Owner at that time: Tom Yawkey. What he culled, from a 1965 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED piece on Yawkey, was startling.

Upon examination, Yawkey’s final statement - “We scouted them right along, but we didn’t want one because he was a Negro. We wanted a ballplayer,” might be the most telling statement of all.

For if we follow Yawkey’s logic – “We looked for black ballplayers but we wanted talent first and foremost” – then compare it to the fact that from the time of (Jackie) Robinson’s signing through July of 1959 the Red Sox neither put an African player on the major league field who they signed themselves nor traded for one, the conclusion is inescapable: Tom Yawkey and his organization simply did not believe that any African American ballplayer had the talent to play for the Red Sox.

This, despite the fact that they were playing on every other team in baseball, and that by 1959 there were dozens and dozens of African Americans winning championships, winning Cy Young awards and MVP awards and playing on All-Star teams throughout the major leagues, players like Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Don Newcombe and many, many, many more.

But none, apparently, were good enough for Boston. “We wanted ballplayers,” indeed.

Was Red Sox Owner Tom Yawkey a Racist?

View Results

There’s more.

Read more…

Negro League Museum Needs Former Stars’ Help?

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City has struggled since its strongest proponent, Buck O’Neil, passed away in 2006.  Surely part of the museum’s woes are related to the omnipresent financial times, but the museum also misses the tireless O’Neil, whose mission to create a shrine to the young men that couldn’t play Major League Baseball inspired many.

Buck O'Neil

While the museum’s leaders try to find a place for themselves in the current world, the KANSAS CITY STAR’s Royals writer Sam Mellinger reached out to current and former great African-American ballplayers with a simple idea: what if 3-4 men took the place of the irreplaceable O’Neil and spoke on behalf of the museum?

What if those men played in the Negro Leagues and were in the Hall of Fame? Or perhaps simply destined to arrive there? So Mellinger called upon Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Ken Griffey, Jr., and others and asked, “Would you be interested?”

Let there be no surprise how they answered: a thousand times, yes.

Read more…

Speed Read: Penn St. & Illinois Stink Up The Joint

Basketball: it’s a beautiful game. Or fantastically ugly, depending on which game you watched last night. On one hand, you had the Phoenix Suns putting up 140 points for the second straight game in their 142-119 victory over the depleted Los Angeles Clippers. On the other, there was Penn State and Illinois, who combined scored exactly one-half as many points as the Suns did in the Nittany Lions’ 38-33 upset victory over the Fighting Illini.

Penn State vs Illinois

Let’s talk about the latter game first. It wasn’t the lowest scoring game since the 45-second shot clock was introduced in 1986, but it was close. (That distinction belongs to Monmouth’s 41-21 win over Princeton in 2006.) They also flirted with the record for fewest combined points in a half, with the two team’s output of 32 just eclipsing the record of 28 set by Mississippi and South Carolina back in 2003.

The box score tells you all you need to know about the debacle. Exactly one player scored in double digits: Penn State’s Talor Battle, who put up 11 points on 3-for-11 shooting. Heck, the Nittany Lions as a team shot 28.3 percent from the field, and they won.

At least the two teams didn’t let a little thing like not being able to hit the broadside of a barn stop them from shooting the deep ball: they combined to go 6-for-33 from the three-point line. And Illinois didn’t attempt a free throw. For the game. Way to be aggressive, guys. But I guess a win’s a win, even if it’s the most embarrassing and pathetic kind possible. Congratulations, Penn State, I guess.

Steve Nash and Al Thorton

And then there are the Suns. You’ll excuse me if I don’t get too excited by the sudden return of the high-scoring, fast-paced, exciting Suns with Alvin Gentry as head coach after putting a hurting on the Clippers on back-to-back nights. First off, it’s the Clippers to begin with, but if a team with Amare Stoudemire (for now) can’t murder a team that’s missing Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, Brian Skinner and Zach Randolph, then something is seriously wrong.

Check back with me on Sunday after you guys visit Boston, and we’ll see how you’re doing.

But the Suns have a date with Oklahoma City before then on Friday, which will be without newly-acquired Tyson Chandler. Permanently. That’s because the Thunder rescinded their trade with New Orleans from Tuesday and sent Chandler back to the Hornets after he failed a physical with their team doctor.

Tyson Chandler

As TRUEHOOP notes, it’s probably going to be pretty awkward in New Orleans as Chandler has to return to the team that just unloaded him for Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox. (By the way, is Joe Smith involved with every strange trade or free agent signing in the NBA?) What makes things even more odd is that Chandler didn’t fail the physical because of his sprained left ankle - it was because of a big toe injury he suffered in 2007. And the Thunder’s doctor was the one who performed the surgery.

And speaking of injuries…Ken Griffey Jr. is back with the Mariners! All joking aside, I think most people of my generation will think it’s pretty neat to see Junior back in a Mariners uniform (presumably) for the rest of his career. And the story of his signing with the Mariners is unique; the SEATTLE TIMES says that apparently the No. 1 salesman for Seattle was Harold Reynolds, a close friend of Griffey’s. He had been working on Griffey to sell him on the move to Seattle when he played his trump card: hugging Willie Mays.

Ken Griffey Jr.

Reynolds set up a phone call between Griffey and the Say Hey Kid, who was Griffey’s idol and the reason he wears No. 24. And sure enough, soon after having the phone conversation with Mays, Griffey told the Mariners that he would sign with them. A great story, although I’m not sure I’d take advice from Willie Mays on how to end your career gracefully.

More sports stories to learn about as you ponder if anyone’s life could be stranger than Tracy Morgan’s

Which star athlete’s end of career death spiral was most painful to watch?

View Results

How Much Does Baseball Miss the Black Player?

Excuse us for drifting back approximately 4000 years in Internet time, but we were absolutely struck by an offhand comment by Nate Silver on BASEBALL PROSPECTUS last Thursday that we haven’t seen anyone else bring to the fore yet.

Willie Mays, Duke Snider, Mickey Mantle

While testing out a new statistical tool that compares the offensive contributions of all players at each position since 1954, Silver points out that center fielders have offered less with their bats with each passing decade (subscription required):

“The most dramatic shift has come at center field, which has gone from being an above-average offensive position to one that’s distinctly below average. Granted, we are starting our graph right in the era of Willie, Mickey, and Duke, but the decline of center field offense has been steady over the past 50 years. My pet theory is that this might have to do with the decreasing participation of black players in the game; among the top 50 seasons for VORP at the center field position since 1957, 27 were accomplished by African-Americans.”

According to this intriguing theory (or at least our interpretation), African-Americans make better center fielders than white and Latinos on the whole. Therefore, their slow disappearance from the game has lowered the skill level on the field and weakened Major League Baseball’s product.

Again, we hope you’ll forgive us, but that seemed worthy of further discussion.

Read more…

Blog-O-Rama: Bidding On Pic Of Willie Mays’ Willie

• Move over, Gisele - DEADSPIN places their bid on a real valuable nude photo - of Willie Mays.

Willie Mays nude

• Listen up, lardbutts - the WASHINGTON POST muscles up news that Eli Manning wants all of you to get in shape.

• Spencer Hall of THE SPORTING BLOG shoots over his March Madness picks - with a gun.

Read more…