Author: Craig Calcaterra

Larry MacPhail

Yankees executive’s 1945 pro-segregation letter is up for auction


The New York Daily News reports that a 1945 letter from Yankees executive Larry MacPhail to New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia justifying baseball’s color line is up for auction. LaGuardia had formed a committee, the purpose of which was to study segregation in baseball and, ultimately, pressure the New York teams to sign black players. Here, in part, was MacPhail’s response:

“There are few, if any, negro players who could qualify for play in the major leagues at this time. A major league player must have something besides natural ability . . . In conclusion: I have no hesitancy in saying that the Yankees have no intention of signing negro players under contract or reservation to negro clubs.”

MacPhail was not a lone wolf in this regard, of course. In saying what he said here he was echoing what many if not most executives in major league baseball were saying about black players: that they weren’t talented enough or lacked that special something — never precisely defined — that would allow them to succeed. It was, at the time, probably considered a “hey, it’s not us, it’s them!” kind of defense that kept them from having to admit that they simply did not want to have black people around.

Of course, such attitudes didn’t die two years later when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. It would be years before the Yankees — by then no longer run by MacPhail — put a black player on their roster. The Red Sox, who were the last baseball team to sign a black player, didn’t put one on the field until 1959.

And the attitude continued for managers — no team had a black manager until the 1970s — and front office personnel. Remember Dodgers executive Al Campanis saying that blacks “may not have some of the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager, or, perhaps, a general manager” in 1987? 1987! Campanis, of course, played in the Dodgers organization when MacPhail ran that team. Many of the men who ran baseball as late as the 1980s had their roots in baseball’s segregated past and came of age in the game with mentors and bosses like MacPhail.

But that’s how institutionalized racism works. It’s rarely someone frothing at the mouth, voicing epithets. It’s usually people in power asserting things as if they are immutable truths of the universe and that the speaker is powerless to change it. And then a lot of people believe it, defend the status quo against charges of personal bias or animus, either as a cover or because, due to their socialization into the system, they never much thought to question it. And onward life goes.

And then the personal agency of the people who perpetuated that status quo is scrubbed from history. To wit, in 1978 Larry MacPhail was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. And no one once thought that the character clause should keep him out because, hey, he didn’t do anything wrong . . .

The sabr law firm made another appearance on “Parks and Recreation” last night

Ron Swanson

Michael Schur, the creator of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” is known by certain baseball fans as “Ken Tremendous,” one of the geniuses behind the late, great “Fire Joe Morgan” blog. FJM was famous for skewering faulty, dense and otherwise clueless baseball analysis and commentary. If someone was being dumb about baseball stats, extolling grit over actual performance or otherwise had their head up their butt, FJM would eviscerate them.

Last season on “Parks and Rec” there appeared, briefly, the sign for a law firm which gave a wink to all of that stuff. Last night, on its final season premiere, Schur and/or a like-minded writer and/or set-designer struck again, this time with an expanded version of the same joke:


That may be the first time someone has gave even a passing thought to Win Shares in years.

The Dodgers will have a Spanish-speaking coach on every minor league team

dodgers logo

From the “wait, teams didn’t do this already?” files, comes news from the Dodgers. Dylan Hernandez reports:

The Dodgers have a Spanish speaker on the coaching staffs of each of their six minor league affiliates, which makes sense considering how many of their players are from Latin America.

But what seems like a common-sense practice is, in fact, a groundbreaking measure implemented by the organization’s new farm director, Gabe Kapler.

As Hernandez notes, Kapler was inspired to do this by his experiences playing in Japan.

But man, I am really surprised teams don’t already have, as a matter of policy, Spanish-speaking coaches on every team and at every team facility.