We’ve all heard about the treatment that Jackie Robinson was given by ignorant fans when he first took the field in 1947. Many of us have heard of the treatment Hank Aaron received in southern Minor League towns when he was fresh out of the Negro Leagues and in the Milwaukee Braves farm system. Willie Mays received it too, as did Reggie Jackson. I thought those days were long behind us.
Following the death of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner on Tuesday, the American airwaves centered on this story. Good or bad everyone had an opinion. When ultra-conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh got on the air, he had his say. What he said was downright appalling. His comments set our society back to the days before Jackie Robinson donned Dodger blue.
"That cracker made a lot of African-American millionaires," the radio commentator said Tuesday on his show. "He fired a bunch of white guys as managers left and right." What is that??? First off Mr. Limbaugh, how about getting your facts straight? Yes Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield were major signings by Steinbrenner, but explain these names to me-Catfish Hunter. Ken Holtzman, Graig Nettles, Rich Gossage, Carl Pavano, Roger Clemens among many others. Mr. Steinbrenner ran a baseball club. He ran it controversially and he ran it successfully. Racism was NEVER an issue.
As for the managerial comment George brought in guys that he thought could do the job, nothing more, nothing less. You don’t have your facts straight there either. Elston Howard was involved in George’s organization from before he bought the team practically till his death in 1980. Bill White was one of the voices of the Yankees from 1971 till 1989 when he left to become president of the National League. Need I go on?
The mere fact that this was even said on syndicated radio on the day this man passed away is astonishing. Tuesday was a day of mourning in the baseball-and the entertainment industry for that matter. These kinds of comments are bad enough to stomach on a normal day, let alone a day we hear of someone’s passing.
Thank God most of us live in a tolerant world. A world that is over racism. A world where Aaron could break a record and Barry Bonds could break it again. A world where LeBron James could pick and choose his employer. A world that’s closer to equality than it was seventy years ago.