I attended the Shirley Povich symposium of top sportswriters at Washington’s Newseum, and I’m afraid I caused a ruckus. here’s my report on the stormy 2-3 minutes. I’m sure others present have different recollections.
The guests were Tom Boswell and George Solomon of the Washington Post, Terence Smith and Claire Smith of the New York Times, Christine Brennan of USA Today, and screenwriter Robert Lipsyte.
In the Q&A I asked why the Post, Times, and every other news organization, including TV and Sports Illustrated, etc, had blacked out all news coverage of Native American protests for 30 years. No interviews, no photos.
I said it was the most disgraceful indictment of American journalism in history.
There was an uproar. except for the men on the panel. they were silent. Most of them scowled.
Only Brennan said her paper had run “about 15 stories” on it.
Afterward Boswell, the best baseball writer in America, told me he had covered it once many years ago, but he didn’t remember when or where.
I have asked both to check with their archives and get details.
I admire Boswell. he is the best baseball writer of this generation – yes, of any generation. But so far neither he nor Brennan has replied.
Claire Smith of the Times went into a long discussion on sports nicknames. I tried to say that that wasn’t the point – my question was only about reporting details of the protests. but the moderator, Gene Polinski of Newseum, ordered me to let her finish.
When she was done, I still wanted to ask the key questions:
Did every writer make an individual decision not to report the news?
Or was he/she under orders to hush the story up?
Was it a blanket ukase from above, applying to all newspapers and writers?
If so, from whom?
But before I could ask, Polinski shut off my mike, and some man with an official-looking badge came up and said he would escort me out. I wish now I had offered my elbow and marched out while the cameras were rolling.
It would have been like a Trump election rally!
Have you ever heard of such a thing: the museum to honor American newsmen gagging an American newsman trying to get an American news story?
And not one of the great news writers and editors on the panel protested.
What would Povich have said? “throw the bum out”? or “let the guy speak; it’s a free country”?
Writers have feelings and are hurt by criticism as much as the people they criticize. but they are grown men and women and could have defended themselves. instead, they let the moderator protect them
I’ve always admired Tom. He has always been forthcoming in answering my questions. Until this one. I had emailed him in September that his best answer would be in the pages of the Post in October.
I hope next October’s answer will be different.
There were eight panelists and about 200 people in the audience. If a vote were taken to lynch me, I’d have lost by 207-1
Later one man was so positive I was wrong, he offered to google it to prove how often the Post had reported it. I said, “wonderful!” the only thing worse than being wrong is continuing to be wrong.
When he replied, he had only two citations – one from the Post and one from the Times, both in 2016. but they dealt with the general subject of the Chief Wahoo logo, not with specifics of what the protesters were saying.
It’s like covering a Trump news conference with a single sentence: “The President held a news conference today.” period. No details on what he said. ..
That includes the Atlanta Journal and the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
In 30 years of searching, I found only one one-inch graph. the Cleveland Plain-Dealer in 1999 quoted one native American mother that the kids in school taunted her son: “Your daddy looks like Chief Wahoo.”
Why didn’t any other news sleuths look for more? Did they think there weren’t any? Or were they ordered not to look? Or did they find some that got red-penciled back on the sports desk? If so, on whose orders?
Google does a pretty good job, at least on visuals (check out “Chief Wahoo protest pictures.”)
Otherwise, for a quarter century the greatest names in the history of American baseball writing walked right past the protesters to get to the press entrance and never stopped to ask what they were saying, or get a picture of them. it would have made a great 90-second TV spot – color, drama, controversy. it screams out for TV coverage.
Instead, nada. the entire U.S. press pretended the story didn’t exist.
Last May the Post did do a page-length feature story, devoted to interviewing one of the white counter-protesters, (on the left). But no Indians.
I wrote a letter to the editor, praising them for breaking the blackout but pointing out that they had participated in it for decades. the letter ran, but only in the first edition.
Some senior editor must have seen it and blown his stack: “This guy says we censor the news. throw that letter out!”
There’s at least one other major story that you won’t find in the Times, the Post, or the networks: psychic news in general and UFO’s in particular. Yet I have found enough to fill a 300-plus page book – and that’s only about baseball! it’s called “Amazing Baseball.”
If you want to add some other “non-news” stories to the list, baseball or otherwise, please write to me.
Why do Atlanta and Cleveland play spectacularly through September, then the balls suddenly take so many “funny bounces” in October?
There’s only one writer who regularly reports this “non-normal reality,” though he hasn’t recognized a pattern yet. His prose is witty, graceful, and perceptive, and I quote him frequently in the book. His name is……
Stand up and take a well-deserved bow, Tom. I salute you and admire you.
Outside the stadium
The Next Sex Bombshell?
It’s only a matter of time before the next sex bombshell hits Congress: A complaint against a gay member of Congress. I want to offer some thoughts in preparation.
When I was a kid, I had a baby face and looked younger than I was
After World War II, I entered college at 16 and was sitting in a movie with a friend, who limped from a wound when his fighter plane had been shot down. Suddenly his hand was where it shouldn’t have been. I stumbled across a row of knees and escaped. Did I report it? heck, no. I was too embarrassed and confused and hurt and scared. And I had no idea who to report it to.
If I had, it might have led to the therapy he needed – and saved the next kid from repeating my experience.
Then Korea hit, and I reported to the Infantry School at Ft Benning. Very quickly a captain sporting the combat infantry badge, jump wings, and rows of combat ribbons, was inviting me up to his BOQ room. Again, I escaped with my virginity intact. But I was a brand-new shave tail. How did I know what to do? He soon disappeared, so I guess someone else turned him in.
(That brings me to gays in the military today. intellectually, I know it’s the correct thing to do. But emotionally, I can’t look at the question objectively. I don’t know how today’s Army is dealing with the problem.)
Anyway, we should begin thinking about it, because sooner or later it could hit the headlines with a famous political or entertainment name at the center.
Or this week we should call it “Readers Don’t Write.”
It was with forebodings that I hit the Send button last week – voodoo baseball plus iconoclastic thoughts on the sex scandals likely to upset strong biases on both sides. (I’m not deliberately trying to be sensational, but why should I tell you something you already know or already think?) However, apparently all I got were yawns.
Maybe I should have included Ben Franklin, the original dirty old man, who, at 77, pursued – and caught (without much effort) – many a fan-fluttering Parisian demoiselle 60 years his junior.
Out of 15,000 readers, only one was moved enough to make a comment. Whew! that was really dodging the bullet. that brave letter is posted below:
There was nothing mystical about the Dodgers’ losing to the Astros. It was all about repeatedly replacing their #1-5 pitchers with their #6-12 pitchers. (Bill Deane)
Bill: you’re one of the top baseball researchers in the country.
Absolem guaranteed an Astro victory.
The Dodgers did miss-use their bullpen.
The Astros did win.
All three statements are true.
Any reader can check out the ceremony himself by googling “Astros baseball voodoo.”
Do you think SABR should appoint a psychic baseball committee? I have hundreds of pages of research they can start by analyzing – where are my mistakes? What are the correct facts? are there any other reports we should look into scrupulously and with scientific methods, to uncover unsound or slipshod research etc? the committee should be headed by a top-notch researcher with impeccable credibility and hard-nosed skepticism. I have the perfect candidate in mind:
(Bill modestly declined, but he sent the following from his research notes for the future committee to scrutinize. Major League Baseball historian John Thorn and Cooperstown librarian Jim Gates confirmed it.)
New York Daily Journal & Courier, October 6, 1890:
A Wonderful Piece of Work by a Mind Reader – an Exhibition on the Diamond by Doctor Johnstone – Willing to Undergo Any Series of Tests
Chicago – Paul Alexander Johnstone, the mind reader, whom a professor at the State University of Michigan claimed to have exposed, was to have played baseball blindfolded at the National league Grounds Saturday afternoon, but rain interfered, and the game was called in consequence.
Johnstone gave a private exhibition before several members of the press and a large number of spectators, and seemed to fully demonstrate that he could, without seeing, play the points of the game as willed by another person.
Elmer Foster, the center-fielder for the Chicago League club, said, “I was present and saw Johnstone while blindfolded, bat, catch, and run bases controlled by the will of Captain [Adrian] Anson (left) and [left fielder Walt] Wilmot. His hood was carefully examined, both before and after the exhibition, while on the field, and there was no possible chance of any deception. It was the most wonderful performance I ever witnessed.”
Johnstone says, in reference to the Michigan university doctor’s offer of $500 if Johnstone will read the doctor’s mind, that he (Johnstone) is willing to undergo any series of tests, providing some responsible paper will appoint a committee of ten persons whom he can work through.
Attn agents, film and print. I know how you can make thousands of dollars.