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Chicago sweeps 2016 pennants;
Six-month Tournament opens
The 30-day 2016 regular season has ended after naming the ten top teams to qualify for the six-month tournament, which will climax with the Tournament in October.
I just watched a thrilling 13-inning battle between the Cubs and Nationals. The excitement was tempered by the fact that it really didn’t matter much which team won, since both will probably finish in the top five on September 30 anyway.
Since the regular season means almost nothing, and the Tournament (the October Crazy Crap Shoot) is the only season that really matters, the acting commissioner has decided to cut down the first one and expand the second.
The final Top Ten tournament teams are:
These go on to the six-month Tournament.
John B Holway
Rickey and Robinson IV
Gabriel Schechter went to the Cooperstown library to check out several books that deal with the historic events of 1945. He found a lot of new material that casts more light on that critical era.
Was Landis a Racist?
His father did fight for the Union (Battle of Kenesaw Mountain), and the son was born in Ohio. However, the North was also racist. Even as the guns were barking at Gettysburg, Irish in New York were rioting, lynching, and murdering Negroes and burning their homes and shops. In the 1980s whites in Boston staged ugly demonstrations over busing white kids to black schools and vice versa. In between, northern blacks couldn’t eat in white restaurants, stay in white hotels, live in white neighborhoods, or even use the rest room while buying gas.
As for Landis personally, he restricted the number of barnstorming games against blacks (Ruth got suspended for breaking it) and ordered them not to wear their team uniforms, so no one could say the Cardinals etc were beaten by a black team.
He declared, there is no rule, “subterranean or otherwise,” against hiring blacks, though there obviously was. Historian Jules Tygiel wrote drily that “this typified the hypocrisy of the baseball establishment,” and I agree. As soon as Landis’ successor was named, the subterranean rule came crashing down.
The black owners had asked for a meeting with Landis and the white owners and named Paul Robeson – actor, singer, athlete, and agitator – to speak for them. He finished with a plea to “have a heart.” Then they sat back and waited for questions and discussion.
Instead, Landis said: “What’s next on the agenda?”
So you decide if he was a racist.
I don’t know how an owner could be sure to field a team for a season without contracts, or how a player could be sure of a payday without one. It’s just elementary business sense.
I have seen contracts for Oscar Charleston with the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Schoolboy Johnny Taylor with the New York Cubans. Monte Irvin describes talking contract with Newark owner Effa Manley. If Irvin didn’t have a contract, why did Rickey back down so fast when Manley threatened to sue him? In 1942 Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard of the Homestead Grays staged a double hold-out, as Koufax and Drysdale later did with the Dodgers. Buck doubled his salary from $500 a month to $1,000, Josh probably did even better.
“We never missed a payday,” Manley said, “but we had to go to the bank [for a loan] a lot of times.”
Roy Campanella told Branch Rickey, “I’ve worked for the same man, Tom Wilson, a very fair man, for nine years.” In 1945 Campy made $3,000 a year. “I’m doing all right.” Tom died just before Rickey contacted Campy.
Campy, Newark’s Don Newcombe, and Jackie Robinson assured Rickey that they played without contracts. If entering baseball paradise – their life-long dreams – depended on a little fib, heck, I would probably have fibbed. Wouldn’t you?
The Reserve Clause
One reader argued that, if the black teams had a reserve clause, they had no moral right to protect their players.
Another reader argued that if they didn’t have one, they had no legal right to protect them.
You can’t have it both ways.
As for the other white owners, they’d rather not open that can of worms at all. Horace Stoneham of the Giants: “I’m not looking for any costly law suits.” A suit could threaten their own reserve clauses.
Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith, (right) urged Rickey to pay the black owners and encouraged them to file a formal protest. “We can’t act like outlaws in taking their stars.”
But for Rickey, the issue was moot. The black teams didn’t have reserve clauses – or any contracts at all, as far as he was concerned. Rickey said they didn’t have a “uniform” contract. Exactly what is that? Wouldn’t any judge in America have said, “What’s your point”?
The black owners also asked for a meeting with the new commissioner, Happy Chandler. His reply: Get rid of gambler-owners first. He knew that was impossible. Gambling was one of the few ways a black man could create enough wealth to buy and support a black club.
But Rube Foster, Cum Posey of the Grays, and J.L. Wilkinson of the Monarchs were definitely not gamblers. Their entire incomes came from baseball.
He was a considerate man; he understood, he knew people; your face could be as black as tar, he treated everyone alike. He traveled right along with us.
Newt Allen, Monarchs second baseman
While waiting for his Army discharge, Robinson got an offer from the Monarchs of $400 a month, about double the pay of a second lieutenant. It was “a financial bonanza for me”, but “a pretty miserable way to make a buck.”
It was the way hundreds of other blacks – many of them far superior to him as players – had been making a buck for decades. They could have bitched like Jackie did; he had a hell of a temper, teammate Chico Renfro remembered – “the man could cuss!”
The great Immortals of black baseball – Josh, Satch, Cool Papa, Oscar Charleston, Pop Lloyd, Bullet Joe Rogan, and Smoky Joe Williams – slept in buses their entire careers. They laughed, they sang, they bonded. None of them had been stars at UCLA, where you traveled by trains or planes and slept in comfortable beds in first-class hotels.
And, miserable though it may have seemed to Robinson, sleeping on buses was better than sleeping in trenches, and for twice the pay.
Frankly, he comes across to me as spoiled.
Monarch’s co-owner Tom Baird declared of the Dodgers signing: “We won’t take this lying down. Robinson signed a contract with us last year, and I feel he’s our property.” Baird threatened to sue.
However, Jack wrote, “The threatened suit came to an end rather suddenly when one of the Monarch owners, who, incidentally was white, sent a telegram to Mr Rickey, saying he had been misquoted; he wouldn’t dream of doing anything to keep any black player out of the major leagues.”
Robinson doesn’t say so, but the name of that owner was J.L. Wilkinson. Jackie, who never even mentioned his name, never thanked him either. In fact, he said it was “miserable” working for him.
Wilkie was later elected to the Hall of Fame, but his plaque doesn’t mention his absolutely essential role in thinking of the welfare of others before his own. His letter to Rickey was one of the most pivotal events in baseball – and American – history. And the Hall of Fame doesn’t mention it.
Rickey wore his Methodist religion on his sleeve, so my question is:
What would Jesus have done?
Ask Questions. Question Answers
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Rickey and Jackie
John, I enjoyed this column very much, and it really did make me question my knowledge about Jackie. Yes, it’s hard to break myths, so I feel very conflicted about what you’ve written. Still, I enjoy the stories. I loved the one about Ted Williams and Larry Doby. Thanks! (Deb Dagavarian-Bonar)
Very provocative. (Ed Walsh)
Whatever our disagreements, you showed class by posting my comment. (David Kaiser)
My colleague, Gabriel Schechter, disagrees with me:
Would you want to work for a company that arrested you and put you on trial because of your race and tried to take away your liberty? Would you want to put your life on the line for people who would do that? I think you’re out of line in trying to assign any taint to Robinson’s dealings with the Army.
(Robinson got a fair trial and was completely exonerated. The Army justice system worked. I don’t see that that is a reason why he wouldn’t even serve in a safe rear-area job while his former buddies were risking their lives and losing them. If Jack didn’t want to serve in combat, the court martial was his godsend.)