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MLB is encouraging teams to put accent marks on players’ names on their uniforms

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Yesterday a little story was circulating about how Adrian Gonzalez‘ name on the back of his jersey finally, after many years, has accent mark over the “a”. On social media he challenged teammate Enrique Hernandez to do the same, and Hernandez followed suit.

Some Latin players around the league have had accents and tildes on their uniforms before, some haven’t. There’s certainly no uniformity to it and, in keeping with most clerical and media practices, you see accent-free last names in the U.S. more often than you see the accents. Places like this website included (more on that below).

But Major League Baseball is urging teams to change this practice. Or, at the very least, to accommodate players who request a change. Paul Lukas of ESPN has the relevant text of a memo that was sent out to teams before the season regarding all of this:

It’s a nice initiative in response to a situation which, while not exactly the most serious of problems facing the Hispanic community in the U.S., is a fairly obvious one. And an occasionally ambiguous one. It’s a matter of spelling — accent marks and tildes are just as much a part of a properly-spelled Spanish word or name as an “a” or an “r” is — but it’s also a matter of preference. Some people who have accents in their names prefer the accent to carry over when their name is written in English language media or on signs or shirts or whatever. Some don’t or don’t care.

As far as the media goes, it’s also a matter of historical practice and house style. The Associated Press Stylebook, for example, tells writers not use accent marks on Hispanic names in English-language stories, though it does use them in Spanish-language stories. Historically there were technological reasons for this — English typewriters, printing presses and earlier generation word processing programs didn’t uniformly support accents and tildes — but that’s largely not the case anymore, suggesting it’s a matter of inertia.

It’s also simply a matter of work. Official sources of names — company rosters, mastheads, organizational charts, etc. — may not have the accents themselves, and reporters often rely on those sources for a spelling of a person’s name. Is it reasonable for them to track down a person to see if that’s correct or if their preference is different? Maybe. Maybe not. Depends on the story, I suppose. As far as this site goes, we have the option of looking at a handful of primary or quasi-primary sources for player names if we ever feel like looking them up. They’re not uniform either. MLB.com’s 25-man roster listing for the Dodgers shows Gonzalez with no accent. Baseball-Reference.com includes the accents on Gonzalez’s name, but it didn’t back when most of us starting using it (that site also has phonetic spellings of most player names). ESPN’s Player Card page for Gonzalez does not nor, amusingly, does this ESPN story talking about Gonzalez getting the accent on his jersey). Fangraphs: no accent. Rotoworld: no accent.

Even if you have the sourcing down, there’s also the issue of simple typing speed. To make “Adrian Gonzalez” into Adrián González, I just had to type “Option-E” and then the letter A, which sort of stops the flow. I think the only player I ever make a habit of doing this for is Enrique Hernandez, when using the short version of his first name, which is Kiké. And that’s just so it doesn’t type out like an anti-semitic slur (other baseball writers and I have admitted to one another that we use “Enrique” more often simply to avoid the hassle of the accent). Either way, it doesn’t come up enough to where I can readily remember the keys I need to type to make the accent (I always have to look it up) let alone make it part of my normal typing routine. I’m guessing a lot of writers are in this same situation, even before factoring in the sourcing issue.

All of which is a lot of words about accent marks in names, but it’s a pretty interesting topic so that’s OK. I’m not sure media practice will change very quickly in this regard nor do I think it can change quickly even if everyone wanted it to. But the jerseys can change quickly. And it’s a good thing that the league is encouraging clubs to change them if the player so desires.

Red Sox owner John Henry “haunted” by Tom Yawkey’s racist past, wants to rename Yawkey Way

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The Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman reports that Red Sox owner John Henry is “haunted” by the racist past of previous owner Tom Yawkey and wants to rename Yawkey Way, the tw0-block street that runs from Brookline Avenue to Boylston Street.

Earlier this year, the Red Sox renamed an extension of Yawkey Way after David Ortiz.

Yawkey refused to promote black players from the minor leagues during the 1950’s despite exceptional performance. The Red Sox became the last major league team to integrate in 1959 when Pumpsie Green was added to the roster. Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in 1947, called Yawkey “one of the most bigoted guys in baseball.”

This comes days after racial tensions in Charlottesville, VA where protesters and counter-protesters clashed over removing the statue of Robert E. Lee. A member of a white supremacist group drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring 19. While President Trump has done little in the way of disavowing these hate groups, various city leaders have taken the initiative to remove Confederate monuments and the various other ways in which those people have been glorified. Baltimore, for example, removed four Confederate monuments early Wednesday morning.

Renaming Yawkey Way has been a long time coming and with the current political climate, Henry has finally been motivated enough to take action. He said, “I discussed this a number of times with the previous mayoral administration and they did not want to open what they saw as a can of worms. There are a number of buildings and institutions that bear the same name. The sale of the Red Sox by John Harrington helped to fund a number of very good works in the city done by the Yawkey Foundation (we had no control over where any monies were spent). The Yawkey Foundation has done a lot of great things over the years that have nothing to do with our history.”

Henry added, “The Red Sox don’t control the naming or renaming of streets. But for me, personally, the street name has always been a consistent reminder that it is our job to ensure the Red Sox are not just multi-cultural, but stand for as many of the right things in our community as we can – particularly in our African-American community and in the Dominican community that has embraced us so fully. The Red Sox Foundation and other organizations the Sox created such as Home Base have accomplished a lot over the last 15 years, but I am still haunted by what went on here a long time before we arrived.”

Henry says if the decision were entirely up to him, he would dedicate the street to David Ortiz, calling it “David Ortiz Way” or “Big Papi Way.”

Though racism is a problem throughout the U.S., racism has been a particular problem in Boston at least when it comes to baseball. Earlier this year, Orioles outfielder Adam Jones had peanuts thrown at him and was called racist slurs by fans at Fenway Park. Red Sox starter David Price said he has been on the receiving end of racist taunts from Boston fans as well. After the Jones incident, other players — including CC Sabathia, Barry Bonds, Mark McLemore, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. — spoke up and said that they had been treated similarly at Fenway Park.

Henry’s sensitivity to the issue is quite understandable. And he deserves kudos for doing the right thing in pushing to rename Yawkey Way, but one has to wonder why this hadn’t been done much, much sooner.

The Cardinals believe they are going to get Rally Cat back soon

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The saga of Rally Cat continues to unfold.

To remind you, Last Wednesday the St. Louis Cardinals were propelled to victory via the magic of the Rally Catn. We were calling it “Rally Kitten” then, but now it’s Rally Cat, as we’ll explain in a moment.

Then, as soon as he appeared, he was gone, lost by the groundskeeper who captured him when he went to go tend to his numerous claw and bite injuries. Then he was found again and given to the St. Louis Feral Cat Outreach center! Yay! Now the Cardinals say they’re going to get him back. The Post-Dispatch reports:

The St. Louis Feral Cat Outreach organization has assured us they will be returning our cat to us after a mandatory 10-day quarantine period,” said Ron Watermon, the team’s vice president of communications, who added later that Rally Cat would be “cared for by our team, making the Cardinals Clubhouse his home.”

The Feral Cat Outreach center actually named him Rally Cat. Which, well, fine. But if good, smart people with better taste than them want to start calling him Yadier Meowlina, none of us will stop them.