When Derek Jeter made his last trip to Fenway Park before retiring, Red Sox fans gave him an ovation. A few if I remember correctly. It wasn’t anything extreme, but there was a tip of the cap, as it were.
Kevin Kernan of the New York Post spoke to the Red Sox legend who is retiring after this season — David Ortiz — and he says he would like the same sort of treatment that The Captain received:
“You know what I want most of all?’’ Big Papi told The Post on Tuesday at JetBlue Park. “I would love it if the fans at Yankee Stadium gave me a standing ovation.’’
I guess I can understand that. And one sort of hopes that, rivalry baloney aside, all fans can appreciate that Ortiz was a huge figure in the game over the past decade and a half or so, particularly when it comes to Yankees-Red Sox stuff. I’d clap for him if I were a Yankees fan. This is baseball, not war.
But man, we are gonna be inundated with stories come September about this. Columns in which people earnestly argue one way or the other about whether Yankees fans should do this or that. It’ll be like those “were ___ fans right to boo ___” pieces but worse. And arguably even more inconsequential.
Bring it on. I love dumb stuff like that. I hope it paralyzes the sporting discourse for a month.
Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times has a profile on Chase Utley. Utley is in the twilight of his career, but his intensity is still something to behold. He’s an early riser, a hard worker and, even if his elite skills have atrophied, he still maintains the drive and mindset that made him a superstar.
The dirty secret of a lot of superstars, though? They’re, um, kind of unpleasant people. Go read some stories about Michael Jordan and Bob Gibson and stuff if you doubt that. A lot of superstars can be friendly and outgoing and gregarious people while beating you senseless, but some can’t. Some are just wired differently and need to have their game faces on, constantly. Utley is one of those people:
Utley forgoes fraternization with opponents. He exhibits aggression without shame or apology. He operates with more than a hint of menace.
“He plays emotionless,” catcher A.J. Ellis said. “Cold and calculating. I think he knows he has that persona. He embraces that. That’s why he’s respected, but not liked, by a lot of teams.”
Those qualities led to a combustion last October, when Utley fractured the leg of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in the National League division series. He appealed a two-game suspension, and a decision is still up in the air.
We call it a game, but it’s a business. And just like in real life, some players go about their business differently than others. Ultimately the only thing that matters is the bottom line. If nothing else, it’s fascinating to see the different approaches different players take to deliver to that bottom line.
The Miami Marlins recently made headlines by banning facial hair for its on-field personnel. That led Jack Moore to write a column over at Vocativ about the history of facial hair bans in sports. It’s a pretty revealing history.
Revealing in that such bans are almost always reactionary. They began in earnest as a response to counterculture values and, in no small part, were first conceived of in a response to black athletes with mustaches, beards and muttonchops and tended to be enforced against them first as well. Moore’s detailing of a college wrestler and the Oregon State football team’s experience in the late 1960s is particularly revealing in this regard.
In baseball, Moore notes that no players wore facial hair between 1917 and 1971. But not because of some official ban for the most part. It was only when the culture at large began to be more free with its follicles that baseball considered such a ban, clearly as a means of keeping the real world at bay. A world in which, as with a lot of things, blacks like Dick Allen and his big sideburns set fashion trends. That ban never went into effect and Reggie Jackson, Charlie Finley and the Oakland A’s helped open the floodgates to facial hair in baseball. Hirsute ballplayers were everywhere in the 70s, confined themselves to mostly cop mustaches in the 80s, were almost non-existent in the 90s but have since come back to the extreme in the form of big, crazy and, truth be told, often ugly beards today.
But there have been holdouts. Marge Schott maintained a ban on facial hair for years. The Yankees did too. Now the Marlins. With Schott you can point to racism in her history and assume that that, as well as disdain for perceived counterculture values, drove things. With the Yankees and now the Marlins it’s more of a generalized image thing, I suspect. The desire to communicate clean-cut conservative values to their fanbase which, even if it isn’t racist, is certainly sending some sort of cultural message. And really, what other purpose could there be for such bans? It’s not like mustaches and beards get in the way of a swing. It’s all about communicating a conservative image.
It’s interesting reading. It should force a person to ask themselves what the Marlins are up to here and why.