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Scenes from Spring Training: No, Marty Brennaman is not Bob Uecker

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This morning’s fears of severe cloudiness notwithstanding, it ended up being a very nice day at the ballpark. A bit cool, but not too bad. And a ton of sun, so take that weatherman.

The game: OK. Not great, but OK, which is as good as we can hope this time of the year.  Early on there was some nice defense, particularly by the Indians, but then things got out of control. The early crispness was helped by the fact that both teams ran out what — apart from the absence of Shin-Soo Choo and the Reds’ use of the DH — could be Opening Day lineups.  Things turned into a hot mess by the seventh, but I was occupied with more important matters by then.  Random notes:

Before the game started there were no less than three scouts hanging out near me in the press box: one — Jim Fregosi’s son, Jim Jr. — is a Phillies scout. There were also scouts from the Rays and the Braves. Fregosi and the Braves guy seemed like old friends and talked about hotels and the way the game has changed and the kind of stuff that old friends might discuss.  As a human being I was quite happy to hear all of this niceness. As a Braves fan I was utterly disgusted at the fraternization.  When they left for lunch I stole Fregosi’s notebook and put it in the Braves scout’s bag. (Note: may have only happened in my mind).

Speaking of lunch, the media spread at Goodyear Ballpark was easily the best I’ve had covering this beat. Hot dogs, hamburgers and barbecue chicken. I think they realize here that, if the writers are gonna bail on the media spread, it will be in order to go get a hot dog down on the concourse. By serving hot dogs, they cut off the competition.  Also: when you’re trying to feed a lot of people, keep it simple, OK? None of this flaming scrambled eggs on a skewer crap.

I noticed a distinct deemphasis on Chief Wahoo around here.  The Indians have the block C on the scoreboard and the script I is used a lot as well.  I don’t think this is an accident. In fact, I suspect it’s part of the Indians’ long, long-term phasing out of Wahoo. Do it slowly and subtly like this and you never have to announce anything and you thereby cut off an ugly fight. Smart play, Cleveland.

In honor of the deemphasis of Wahoo, I purchased a navy block C Indians cap in the team store. Well, partially in honor of that. Partially because I really like that cap and have wanted one for a while.

There’s a microphone hung on the screen behind home plate and the sound of the game is piped in through the speakers here in the press box.  The crack of the bat and the crowd noise makes working in this box approximately 400% better than other press boxes that sometimes serve as sensory deprivation chambers.

When Austin Kearns came to bat a lone man in the stand booed him, and did so lustily.  How can anyone work up enough hate to boo Austin freakin’ Kearns? Oh, and Darryl Thompson got the win today, so I consider that to officially close the book on the highly controversial Kearns-Felipe Lopez trade. Well, highly-controversial, like four years ago, and only by weirdos like me who defended it from the Reds’ perspective.

In the middle of the game I took a stroll around the concourse. When I stopped for a minute a middle-aged man in a Dodgers cap started talking to me. After a while he noticed my press pass, after which the following conversation ensued:

Guy: [gesturing to the press box] You been up there?

Me: Yep.

Guy: See the guy in the 1 … 2 … 3… third window over?

Me: Yep.

Guy: Isn’t that the guy from the movie “Major League?”  The “Juuuust a bit outside” guy?

Me: No. That’s Marty Brennaman.

Guy: Huh. When did they change announcers?

Me: What? Brennaman has been the Reds’ announcer for over 30 years. He’s an institution.

Guy: So they used a Reds announcer to be the Indians announcer in that movie?

Me: … Hey, nice talkin’ to ya. Gotta go upstairs.

As I type this there are two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the Reds and Indians have decided to do the “everyone gets to play” game.  What is happening on the field right now is damn nigh a crime against humanity.

As I hit “post” and await for the game to end before I beat my retreat, I cast a glance over to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer and Jordan Bastain of MLB.com who have to actually write up a story out of all of this nonsense.  Poor sods.

Talk to you from HoHoKam Stadium tomorrow!

Jackie Robinson: “I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag”

FILE - In this April 11, 1947 file photo, Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers poses at Ebbets Field in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Robinson's widow said Major League Baseball has yet to fully honor her husband's legacy. "There is a lot more that needs to be done and that can be done in terms of the hiring, the promotion" of minorities in the sport, Rachel Robinson said Monday, Jan. 18, 2016 during a Q&A session with TV critics about "Jackie Robinson," a two-part PBS documentary airing in April.  (AP Photo/John Rooney, File)
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One more bit of baseball via which we may reflect on the Colin Kaepernick controversy.

In 1972 Jackie Robinson wrote his autobiography. In it he reflected on how he felt about his historical legacy as a baseball player, a businessman and as a political activist. A political activism, it should be noted, which favored both sides of the aisle at various times. He supported Nixon in 1960, supported the war in Vietnam and worked for Nelson Rockefeller. He did not support Goldwater and did support the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He supported Humphrey against Nixon in 1968. He was no blind partisan or ideologue. When you find someone like that you can usually rest assured it’s because they’re thinking hard and thinking critically in a world where things aren’t always cut-and-dried.

As such, this statement from his autobiography, describing his memory of the first game of the 1947 World Series, is worth thinking about. Because it came from someone who spent a lot of time thinking:

There I was, the black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion, a symbolic hero to my people. The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind. It should have been a glorious moment for me as the stirring words of the national anthem poured from the stands. Perhaps, it was, but then again, perhaps, the anthem could be called the theme song for a drama called The Noble Experiment. Today, as I look back on that opening game of my first world series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Rickey’s drama and that I was only a principal actor. As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made.

Colin Kaepernick is not Jackie Robinson and America in 2016 is not the same as America in 1919, 1947 or 1972. But it does not take one of Jackie Robinson’s stature or experience to see and take issue with injustice and inequality which manifestly still exists.

As I said in the earlier post, the First Amendment gives us just as much right to criticize Kaepernick as it gives him a right to protest in the manner in which he chooses. But if and when we do, we should not consider his case in a vacuum or criticize him as some singular or radical actor. Because some other people — people who have been elevated to a level which has largely immunized them from criticism — felt and feel the same way he does. It’s worth asking yourself, if you take issue, whether you take issue with the message or the messenger and why. Such inquiries might complicate one’s feelings on the matter, but they’re quite illuminative as well.

(thanks to Kokujin for the heads up)

Former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is a sports owner once again

File photo of Frank McCourt leaving Stanley Mosk Courthouse after testifying during his divorce trial in Los Angeles
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There aren’t many major league ownership reigns which ended more ignominiously than Frank McCourt’s reign as Dodgers owner. He was granted access to one of business’ most exclusive clubs — one which being a convicted criminal or even a Nazi sympathizer cannot get you kicked out of — and somehow got kicked out. The clear lesson from his saga was that saddling your team with debt, using it as your own private piggy bank and exercising bad judgment at every possible turn will not get you drummed out of baseball but, by gum, having it all go public in a divorce case sure as heck will.

McCourt landed pretty safely, though. By sheer luck, his being kicked out of ownership coincided with the vast appreciation of major league franchise values and the expiration of the Dodgers cable television deal. He may have left in disgrace, but he also left with a couple of billion dollars thanks to the genius of capitalism. At the time it was assumed he’d ride off into the sunset, continuing to make a mint off of parking at Dodgers games (he retained a big piece of that pie) and not get his hands messy with sports ownership again.

Such assumptions were inoperative:

The soccer club has suffered from poor financial decisions in recent years. So I guess it was a match made in heaven.