Philadelphia

Yes, “they booed Santa Claus.” Here’s why.

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There’s been so much lately on the nature of Philly fandom — hey look! It’s another “they booed Santa” screed! — but I feel at least one more thing needs to be said.  Not by me, though. By reader and Philadelphian TC Shillingford, who sent me a note yesterday explaining the Santa incident and so much more about Philly fans than most people usually consider.  And yes, fans of every city have their own creation story and their own quirks that arise from it.  Philly’s just seems more in need of telling at the moment, so I yield the floor to TC.

Philadelphia used to be the capital of the US, of course, the hub of government and business, and one of the city’s earliest and wealthiest fellows was Stephen Girard (he owned the First Bank of the US). Yellow fever broke out in the 1790s in Philly, and the upper class largely moved away from the city. Girard moved the financial institutions that eventually became Wall St to New York, and a number of government agencies to DC. When the outbreak ended, he prevented them from returning to Philly, saying that New York would be the financial city, DC the government city, and Philly would be the village in between. Of course, the way it worked out, people wanted to live a little closer to where they worked, and despite Girard giving most of his fortune to the considerable poor in the city, since the 1830s (when Girard died), Philadelphia has been a low-income city with ongoing identity issues, living in the twin shadows of NYC and DC. It’s a great city, and I love it here, but one of the most troubling things about Philly is how deeply self-loathing it can be. Philly is a pretty girl with low self-esteem who keeps going out with some lousy guy because every once in a while he says she’s pretty.

Anyway, Santa Claus. In 1968, the Phillies finished 7th in the NL that year. The 76ers had just traded Wilt Chamberlain to the Lakers. And worse than any of them, were the Eagles. (My father used to have the ability to express the moment in which any Philadelphia sports year became a disappointment, and so I’m doing all this based off his recollections).

Going into the game, the Eagles were something like 2-10, and played so poorly the two wins seemed like miracles. The weather was awful–cold rain and wet, heavy snow. Fans showed up to protest the team with signs about firing the head coach, getting rid of the owner, everything. The original jolly St Nick hadn’t made it to Franklin Field due to the inclement weather, and so the Eagles found some kid off the street to fill in. He looked terrible, ramshackle. For the fans in the stands, blue collar, lower middle class people who were paying money to see one of the NFL’s worst teams, seeing that Santa was a slap in the face. They had no way of knowing that this Santa was not the intended Santa. From the stands, it looked like these incompetent owners were rubbing the fans noses in it. If they wanted to watch football, they were stuck with the Eagles, and lousy fans get a lousy team, and on Christmas, they get a lousy Santa. That’s what it felt like. Like a “fuck you”, from the team to the fans. And so they booed, they threw snowballs.

And somehow, that story has been repeated over and over again as the hallmark of Philadelphia FANS: that they’re so brutal they boo Santa Claus. In Philly, when we’re not tearing our hairs out after hearing it every time a team does something stupid and worthy of national attention, it’s a story about how Philly fans have constantly had to take it up the ass from the teams they root for. The Eagles and Phillies, especially, but the Sixers, too (the Flyers play hockey, but they’ve had the decency to be competitive virtually every year they’ve been in the league).

So, I don’t know if Philly fans are really worse than other places. I’ve never personally seen anything so bad in Philly as the time I saw a man punch a pregnant lady in Shea Stadium. In Philly, famously, batteries were thrown at JD Drew, responding to another (perceived) slight. In San Diego, less famously, at least one fan threw a real syringe at Barry Bonds. Maybe it’s because almost every year someone in Philly has to get tased, has to vomit on a child, that only in Philly was there a court in the stadium. I don’t know.

I don’t personally feel this Philadelphia insecurity. New York can be amazing and so can Philadelphia, and just because someone thinks the Giants will win the NLCS doesn’t mean Philly is lame. But I think the insecurity, the subconscious belief that all of this is soon to fall apart (at least, with regards to the Phillies’ success) or that history will look upon it as a fluke, is common in the city, and, sadly, in so many ways, all too easy to explain. The Phillies went 100 years before they won their first World Series, and 28 more before they won their second. And each year we won’t win, all we seem to be left with is a reputation that this is not a safe place for children or for Santa.

Murray Chass rightfully nails Major League Baseball on minority hiring

Rob Manfred
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When Murray Chass lays off his vendettas against the people he feels have wronged him, he’s still capable of making some sharp points. Particularly when he’s working in his old bailiwick of the business of baseball.

On Sunday he wrote a blog post about minority hiring in baseball. As in, the nearly complete lack of it, at least in front offices:

Manfred has talked a better job on minority hiring than he has performed. He has created a pipeline program through which members of minorities are supposed to be able to advance into major league front office positions. However, no role models seem to exist as inspiration for younger employees.

In Manfred’s 20 months as commissioner, clubs have hired or promoted 19 high-ranking executives. Eighteen of the 19 are white males. The lone minority is Al Avila, the Tigers’ general manager.

Chass reports that Rob Manfred and, in the past, Bud Selig have leaned on clubs to hire friends or trusted lieutenants but claim they have no power to tell clubs who to hire when it comes to minorities. It’s pretty dang good point.

Moving beyond Chass’ points, it’s worth observing that one way baseball could better populate the executive ranks would be to hire more minorities in entry-level positions. What a better way to become a friend and crony than to have, you know, been there a long time? The game has had a horrible track record in doing this, however, for one simple reason: it pays crap wages for all but the highest of executive positions, pushing away candidates for whom money is, in fact, an object to pursuing a dream in baseball which, by demographic necessity, favors the rich and thus favors whites. Earlier this year MLB launched a pipeline program aimed at getting more minority candidates into entry level MLB jobs. That’s a good start to addressing the problem, but it’s going to take years for that to bear fruit, assuming it ever does.

Back in June Kate Morrison and Russell A. Carleton of Baseball Prospectus wrote a four-part series regarding this very issue, and it’s well worth your time. Among the points made is one that, given his vendettas, Chass surprisingly didn’t make himself: sabermetrics is partially to blame! Go read Kate and Russell’s work on that, but the short version: front offices want MBA/STEM types now, not people with athletic backgrounds. People with those degrees have expensive educations and, in turn, cannot afford to take pennies to work in baseball when they can make far more in other industries, thereby continuing to favor the rich and the white.

I don’t think Rob Manfred or Bud Selig before him or the people who run major league baseball teams are bigots. I don’t think that baseball, as a whole, wants to keep minorities out of top jobs. Chass doesn’t make such a claim either and he, like I, noted the pipeline program.

But baseball is a business rife with cronyism and nepotism which leads those in power to hire friends and relatives, thereby keeping the executive class overwhelmingly male and white. Baseball has shown that, when it wants to, it can lean on teams to make certain hiring choices. Will it do the same to push for greater minority representation in management ranks? Or will it continue to throw up its hands up and say “hey, that’s on the clubs?”

Tim Tebow hits a homer in his first instructional league at bat

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - SEPTEMBER 20: Tim Tebow #15 of the New York Mets hits a home run at an instructional league day at Tradition Field on September 20, 2016 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Because of course he did.

It wasn’t just his first at bat, but it was his first pitch. It came off of John Kilichowski, an 11th round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals out of Vanderbilt.  The ball went out to left center, off the bat of the lefty Tebow.

Next time, meat, throw him a breaking ball.