People feel the right to take our culture and have fun out of it.
They’re rednecks, and we’re not going to stand for it.
American Indian Movement
Brave Chants and Chops
From 1991-2005 Atlantic won 14 division titles in 15 years. But only one World Series, 1995 over the Cleveland Indians.
Actually, there were two Braves post-season teams:
Home Away Total
1991-1999 25-20 21-19 46-39
2000-2013 4-14 8-1 12-25
Since 2000 they’ve been blown away in the first round eight out of nine years.
I suggest that the reason was the Native American protests at the playoffs, demanding a change in the mascot, the fans’ tomahawk chop, and even the name.
Ironically, there is no historic connection between the name “Braves” and the city of Atlanta. In fact, it originated in New York’s infamous and corrupt Tammany Hall. The bosses were called “chiefs,” and the lower ranks “braves.” When one chief bought the Boston team, he named it the “Braves.”
In 67 years before coming to Atlanta, 1900-1966, the club won only two World Series in Boston and Milwaukee.
In 1991 flashy outfielder Deion “Neon” Sanders, who had played football for the Florida State Seminoles, brought their tomahawk chop and phony chant to the Braves. The team, which had finished last for three straight years, threatened to be the first ever to go from worst to first.
September 14. A local oil company gave away rubber tomahawks to fans attending a big Sunday game against the Dodgers. Tied 2-2 in the ninth, Atlanta put two men on with David Justice up. “Suddenly the entire crowd erupted” in a chant, recalls Alanta Journal writer Steve Hummer. “It could be heard a mile away. It was like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir – you couldn’t help but get chills.” (To me it sounds like “The Volga Boatman” – Yo-ho heave ho – repeated moronically over and over.)
Movie actress Jane Fonda, owner Ted Turner’s girlfriend and a leading voice for liberal causes, gave a half-hearted pat, palm down, instead of the warlike karate chop, suggesting that she knew she wasn’t being politically correct.)
The Braves won the game and the pennant.
Native Americans began protesting at post-season games, sitting and drumming around the Hank Aaron statue.
But every newspaper, every TV network, even the New York Times and NBC – Bob Costas, Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan – all refused to touch the story. The blackout was so complete that the order must have come from the highest source.
Year after year the protesters returned, and year after year Atlanta overwhelmed its division, then stumbled and crumbled before less successful teams in the post-season. Everything went wrong: errors, bad base-running, bad umpires, stars failing in the clutch. They won only one World Series – against the Indians, who were also the targets of protesters. Well, one of them had to win.
(Gabriel Schechter thinks the reason was not the protesters; he believes the Braves played in a weak division.)
The Braves had four Hall of Famers – Greg Maddux (left)), Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Bobby Cox; Chipper Jones will surely be the fifth. But they couldn’t win in October. “We fight all year for that home field advantage,” Glavine moaned, “then we lose all three games at home.”
If you had a black mascot with a bone in his nose, you’d have a problem; if you had a Jew dancing around in a yarmulke, you’d have a problem.
Wahoo and Warpaint
One mother complained, “Kids in school tell my son, ‘Your daddy looks like Chief Wahoo.”
In 1993 Three Cleveland pitchers were drinking and speed-boating, when they slammed into a pier. Bob Ojeda was severely injured. Tim Crews was instantly killed. Steve Olin was decapitated.
A leader of the Cleveland protests was Robert Roche, a descendant of Cochise and Geronimo. The following pictures were taken by a fan. You weren’t allowed see them on TV or in the press.
The Great Spirit sees everything, hears everything, and forgets nothing.
What Is the Solution?
A Ray of Sunshine
Only once have the pale faces and redskins sat down to smoke a pipe of peace over the issue. The Seminole nation agreed to let the school keep its mascot in return for a cut of the football revenue.
A simple change of names may have helped one major league loser become one of baseball’s better teams overnight.
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays spent nine of the first 10 years of their life in last place. The name had been chosen by vote of the fans, but owner Stuart Sternberg thought “Devil” was negative, so in 2008 he changed it to Rays. They immediately won their division and knocked off the White Sox and defending world champion Red Sox before they finally lost to Philadelphia in the World Series.
They’ve been one of the powers in the league ever since.
Atlanta should tap its own history and rename its team the Georgia Peaches. That was the nickname of its most famous baseball son, Ty Cobb, the greatest player of his generation and the first man into the Hall of Fame, with more votes than Babe Ruth.
I will go to Detroit and stamp my feet, and I will knock down every house in Alabama.
predicting the great quake of 1814.
Perhaps the greatest man ever to come out of Ohio, Tecumseh forged the largest Native American confederacy ever known. His nickname was “The Comet.” Instead of fighting Native American mojo, the Cleveland club should harness it. The team should change its name to the Cleveland Comets and see what happens?
A Snake in the Desert
Who named the Arizona team after perhaps the most reviled and detested creature in the land? Would you rather root for the warm fuzzy Cubs? Or a cold, slimy snake? In 17 years they’ve won only one pennant.
This is an easy fix. Change their name to the Diamonds, sew a picture on every players’ chest, and the guys will stride onto the field with a whole new self-respect.
Giants is a New Yawk name with no roots in the Golden West or the Golden Gate. Why not the Gold Sox?
And the Dodgers! There are no trolleys to dodge in Lala Land! Dat’s a Brooklyn name!
Who the heck named the Angels? “OK, Guys,” the grizzled skipper growls, giving each man a slap on the butt. “Go out there and play like Angels – kick some ass!” You almost expect them to go up to bat with a harp.
If I owned either Los Angeles club, I’d race to the trademark office and register the name Stars before the other team beat me to it.
Padres? Whoever heard of playing baseball in sandals and a long brown robe and hood, heads bowed piously in prayer? How about something with a Spanish ring (and I don’t mean Frito Banditos).
The A’s – another Eastern name, from Philadelphia. Any suggestions? Maybe something Jack London-ish, like Huskies?
Whoever named the St Louis team the Cardinals must have been lost. The Missouri state bird is the bluebird. The cardinal is the state bird of Virginia. (Still they’ve done pretty well, even as mis-placed Virginians.)
In Minnesota, how about the Lumberjacks, with Paul Bunyan and Babe, the Blue Ox, as mascots?
As for the Brewers, I throw up my hands.
(Yankees, incidentally, originally meant New Englanders!)
The Tourney Ends
Congratulations to the Royals for defeating the Mets, the National League’s fourth-best team (90 wins in the summer pre-season). We’ll never know if they could have beaten the Cards (100 wins) in a real World Series. For the 19th time in the last 22 years, fans were denied a chance to see the two league champs battle it out.
Bobby Thomson’s Shot
I just read your post on Bobby Thomson. Interesting take on the alleged sign-stealing. As a Dodgers fan, I’ll always say they were stealing the signs… I had the pleasure of meeting Ralph Branca at two Dodgers fantasy camps. A class act all the way. He carries his fate in baseball history remarkably well. And he’s a great story teller too!
Thanks, Rob. Following is some interesting biographical detail:
Ralph’s father was John Branca, a trolley conductor from Italy. Although Branca was raised Roman Catholic, Joshua Prager revealed that his mother was Jewish. She immigrated to the United States in 1901 from Hungary (now part of Slovakia). His uncle Jozsef Berger was killed at the Majdanek concentration camp, and his aunt Irma died at Auschwitz.
On Opening day ’47, Branca lined up next to rookie Jackie Robinson when other players shied away from him. In 1949 Ralph got Branch Rickey mad at him because he wanted a raise. As a result Branca sat on the bench for much of the year and was only 7-9. If he had pitched full-time, the Bums probably would have won the pennant, which they lost to the Phils on the final day.
As you may know, Branca and Thomson became very close friends.
Incidentally, we’ll have more on mental, or psychic, baseball in future issues.
What a wealth of extraordinary MLB info & opinion! Congrats on such sustained (& well written) excellence!
See a Good Movie
Kilo Two Bravo. A British army patrol stumbles into a minefield in Afghanistan. Five or six men are quickly blown legless, while their buddies try to pick their way through the treacherous rocks to give them first aid. Comradeship, even love – yes, and even laughter – bonds the helpless, those trying desperately to help, and the brave helicopter medics who finally rappel to their rescue.
A true story. We never see an enemy, but this may be the most intense war movie ever made.
Truth. In the 2004 presidential race, reports of John Kerry’s Viet Nam heroism came under attack. CBS News found details of how George W Bush escaped combat by joining the National Guard. After checking carefully, they went with it on “60 Minutes.” Then suddenly witnesses began waffling. Documents were challenged. Dan Rather and his boss, Mary Mapes, were fired.
Cate Blanchett gives a boffo performance as Mapes. It could win her a second Oscar. In the final scene she faces a stern and hostile board of inquiry, much like the Benghazi hearing, which ended one day before the movie opened.
Spotlight. This is the department of the Boston Globe that digs into special stories, in this case the scope of child molesting by priests. It’s an exciting tail that exposed the cover-up by the archbishop himself. It’s like the classic “All the President’s Men” about Watergate, but this is even more powerful. It could very well be this year’s Oscar.