August 5, 2021

In Celebration of the Plantation Owners

December 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Back in the good ol’ days, when the working scum knew their places, the great barons of industry were legend. Carnegie, Ford – they made America, not the bohunks, Micks, Sheenys and coloreds who toiled in the factory. Right? That’s how it was written in all the textbooks.

Baseball was like that too. The great helmsmen in the dugout – McGraw and Mack – it was they who made the game great. Umpires like Klem WERE the game on the field, their martial manner giving the game its character. Where would the game have been without the steely leadership of Kenesaw Mountain Landis? (Integrated, for sure, since he was a racist bastard). Sure, a Ruth or a Cobb broke out of the fold, but the baseball history books were mostly about the cattlemen, not the cattle. Spalding, now there was a man!

That was before Marvin Miller. Before Miller, the authoritarian figures were more important than the players. What Miller made all of us realize is that the players own the game. The team names, the uniforms, the stadiums are the property of the moguls; the ballplayers ARE the game. Steinbrenner was a great owner? Gabe Paul was a genius team builder? Sure. Just check the Yankees between 1973-5. Add Reggie Jackson in 1977 and, voila, the Yanks are champs again. Now, who gets credit for that? Only a moron would give the kudos to King George instead of Jackson.

The Hall of Fame has voted in numerous executives, managers, umpires and owners over the years, but those men were mostly enshrined in bygone days. Yet, in recent elections, there has been a return to the glorification of the men upstairs, a bowing down to the business interests only exceeded in the halls of Congress. Bowie Kuhn? Are you kidding? Kuhn’s son made a heartfelt Induction speech on behalf of his dead father, citing all the progress baseball made during the Kuhn era. Never before had baseball experienced such a growth in popularity, things like that. What was forgotten was that Kuhn FOUGHT that progress with every breath of his being. Miller paved that way.

Does Marvin Miller belong the Hall? I don’t know. I really don’t care. What Miller did is beyond plaque-worthy. He is the Abe Lincoln of the diamond. Honest Abe didn’t need a sign on the wall patting him on the back for freeing the slaves. Every one knew what he’d done, and some hated him for it.

But Pat Gillick? Give me a break. Who’s next Walt Jocketty? And this resurgence in enshrining money men and wheeler-dealers would make Larry Summers proud.

“Many years ago those who control the Hall decided to rewrite history instead of recording it,” the 93-year-old Miller said today upon receiving his latest rejection from Cooperstown. “The aim was to eradicate the history of the tremendous impact of the players’ union on the progress and development of the game as a competitive sport, as entertainment, and as an industry.”

That is the true crime perpetrated by the voters today, the reemergence of the corporate over the men who created the memories we all love.

Get out your shackles and buggy whips folks, they’re back in style.

Born in Brooklyn, Jeff Katz now writes about music, baseball and whatever else he’s obsessing on from his new home base in Cooperstown, New York. His story about Sandy Koufax was included in the anthology Play It Again, and his latest book, The Kansas City A’s & The Wrong Half of the Yankees was published in 2007. Jeff’s “what if” history of rock and roll, Maybe Baby (or, You Know That It Would Be Untrue), has garnered worldwide readership, with a new story posted on backbeat Fridays (the 2nd and 4th of every month).

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