Craig Calcaterra

Al Campanis

Looking back at Al Campanis’ Racist Waterloo

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Los Angeles Dodgers executive Al Campanis was really, really good at what he did. Not just as a GM between 1969 and 1987, but as a Dodgers scout and scouting director for the 20 years before that. In those roles he was, perhaps, more responsible for the Dodgers’ excellence from the 1950s through the 1980s than anyone.

Last year Mark Armour and Dan Levitt wrote a book called In Pursuit of Pennants, which talked about how clubs were built and in which they ranked baseball general managers. Campanis came in at number 13, all-time. Heck, his 1968 draft alone probably would’ve put him high on the list. That year he got Ron Cey, Dave Lopes, Steve Garvey, Doyle Alexander, Joe Ferguson, Geoff Zahn, and Bill Buckner, all in the same draft. I mean, mercy.

But he was fired in 1987, just as the Dodgers were building another World Series winner. He was fired not because he ceased to be good at his job, but because of something he said that was unforgettable and unforgivable. It happened on April 6, 1987 when he went on Nightline with Ted Koppel to talk about the 40th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier.

Robinson and Campanis, by the way, had been friends, teammates and coworkers. Campanis was not thought of as a racist man by his contemporaries or, if he was, the public didn’t know about it. But when asked why there were no black managers or general managers in the game, Campanis said, “I truly believe that they may not have some of the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager or perhaps a general manager.” He went on to say “I don’t say that all of them, but they certainly are short. How many quarterbacks do you have? How many pitchers do you have that are black? . . . Why are black men or black people not good swimmers? Because they don’t have the buoyancy.”

His goose was cooked. This was 19th century-style faux intellectualism cum eugenics nonsense used to defend racism in 1987 and the Dodgers would not stand for it, as they should not have.

Today Steven Goldman of Vice has a great article about this whole affair. His primary purpose is to get inside the mind of someone like Al Campanis. A man who did not wave confederate flags or drop N-bombs that anyone knew of, yet who showed himself to be clearly racist in the most open and obvious sorts of ways, simply by being asked a question. He was literally a person in a position of power keeping people from positions of authority by virtue of the color of their skin. How could such a man rise to the top of his industry and stay there 40 years after the game integrated despite believing the things he believed?

Goldman’s answer is an interesting one which goes a long way toward explaining how racism manages to persist despite almost everyone knowing that there are certain things one can’t say and certain things one should not think about people of color. It persists because people who would not say such things nonetheless still harbor such attitudes, often without even knowing that they do.

How can this be? Go read Goldman’s article and find out.

Eric Hosmer was the most popular person at the Justin Bieber concert last night

eric hosmer getty
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I’m not entirely sure where Justin Bieber stands these days on the popularity matrix. I figure he was past his sell date but I learned a long time ago not to make such assumptions about elements of popular culture with which I am not really super familiar. I thought Timberlake was done after *NSYNC, so what the heck do I know? I know Bieber has been on a lot of TV shows and stuff. Comeback? Never left? I dunno, but he’s selling concert tickets so good for him.

And good for Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, who went to the Bieber show. Hosmer is 26, so that at least suggests Bieber is growing up with his audience or his audience is growing up with him. Then again, age isn’t a perfect barometer either. A friend of mine who is my age went to see Johnny Mathis in concert last night. Which raises two questions: (1) how does a Gen-Xer get into Johnny Mathis?; and (2) Huh, Johnny Mathis is still alive?

Anyway, via USA Today’s FTW and via the Kansas City Star, we learned that Hosmer was mobbed like Bieber last night. Or at least mobbed like Bieber would’ve been a couple of years ago. Or again now? God, I need to go talk to some kids and ask them what all the hep cats are listening to now. In any event, winning a World Series makes you a super popular dude:

Who’s your Daddy? Modern baseball may have new founder

Baseball
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LOS ANGELES (AP) Modern baseball may have found its birth certificate. And with it a new birth date, and new founding father.

Coinciding with the start of the major league season, a set of game-changing documents went up for sale this week. Their authenticity and significance are verified by experts including John Thorn, Major League Baseball’s official historian.

The 1857 documents titled “Rules of Base Ball” establish the essentials of the modern game: The distance of the base paths is 90 feet, the length of the game is nine innings and nine players are in the field.

And they do it three years earlier than the 1860 birth date now recognized.

The documents were authored by Daniel Lucius “Doc” Adams, making him the founding father of America’s pastime, not Alexander Cartwright, who now is credited.

“He’s the true father of baseball and you’ve never heard of him,” Thorn, a consultant on the sale of the papers, told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

Southern California-based SCP Auctions put the documents on sale Wednesday in an auction that lasts until April 23. There have been five bids so far and the current highest bid is $146,410, according to the auction house.

Adams was the president of the New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club, which hosted a convention of 14 New York-area clubs to codify the rules of “Base Ball.” (It was two words then and in ensuing decades evolved into “base-ball” and finally “baseball.”)

Credit for baseball’s basic tenets now lies with Cartwright, whose plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, calls him the father of the modern game. He was not involved in the 1857 meeting.

Hall of Fame spokesman Brad Horn said there are no plans to change or remove Cartwright’s plaque.

“Plaques are cast at the time of an individual’s election and rely on best information available at the time of an individual’s induction,” Horn said in an email Thursday. “The Hall of Fame Gallery features a plaque that calls the visitor’s attention to this point.”

The documents have not been lost or hidden in recent years but no one quite realized their significance.

The owner, whose name has not been released by the auction house, paid $12,000 for them at a 1999 auction of historic documents of all kinds, but they were sold with no known authorship and minimal description.

They were kept in a desk drawer until about six months ago, when the buyer approached SCP Auctions. Their significance slowly emerged after forensic, handwriting and historical analysis.

“It just got better and better and more and more compelling,” said Dan Imler, vice president of SCP Auctions. “It was just mind-blowing once we fully realized what we had.”

The documents capture the game at a crossroads, when rules for “base ball” were arbitrary. Thorn suggests the game could easily have evolved into having nine pitchers and one batter instead of the opposite, and it did come very close to having seven or 12 innings instead of nine.

Thorn said newspaper accounts and other documents have suggested 1857 as the founding year and that Adams was responsible. But they didn’t carry the weight of documents that stipulate specific rules.

“I call these improbable survivors,” Thorn said. “It’s finding what you could not have imagined might have existed.”