Scenes from Spring Training: My annual Chief Wahoo observation

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That block C is on the wall outside of the front door of the Indians’ complex here in Goodyear.  Note: it’s not a Chief Wahoo.

Indeed, you have to look pretty hard to find a Chief Wahoo around here. There’s a picture of the 1995 ALCS celebration in the lobby, and there are Wahoos on those caps.  Fans who show up here for games wear the Chief.  But there is a conspicuous absence of Chief Wahoo on team property, on team employees’ clothes and that sort of thing.

The best explanation I’ve heard for that is that here in the southwest there is a much larger Indian population than there is back in Ohio and that not putting up a big racist, comically-exaggerated red-faced logo of an Indian is simply a matter of common courtesy.

My own theory — which I liked better a couple of years ago than I do now — was that the team itself was making a conscious effort to downplay Chief Wahoo, and that they were starting a slow effort of phasing him out here at the spring training complex. I like it as a theory less now because it doesn’t seem to, you know, be happening.

I know I talk about this once a year whether I need to or not — and I know it’s going to lead to the same get-us-nowhere arguments in the comments — but even after all of these years I can’t get over the fact that a Major League team still uses a blatant racist caricature as an official logo. And that so many fans tolerate it.

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Sandy Koufax to be honored with statue at Dodger Stadium

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Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax will be honored with a statue at Dodger Stadium, expected to be unveiled in 2020. Dodger Stadium will be undergoing major renovations, expected to cost around $100 million, after the season. Koufax’s statue will go in a new entertainment plaza beyond center field. The current statue of Jackie Robinson will be moved into the same area.

Koufax, 83, had a relatively brief career, pitching parts of 12 seasons in the majors, but they were incredible. He was a seven-time All-Star who won the National League Cy Young Award three times (1963, ’65-66) and the NL Most Valuable Player Award once (’63). He contributed greatly to the ’63 and ’65 championship teams and authored four no-hitters, including a perfect game in ’65.

Koufax was also influential in other ways. As Shaikin notes, Koufax refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series to observe Yom Kippur. It was an act that would attract national attention and turn Koufax into an American Jewish icon.

Ahead of the 1966 season, Koufax and Don Drysdale banded together to negotiate against the Dodgers, who were trying to pit the pitchers against each other. They sat out spring training, deciding to use their newfound free time to sign  on to the movie Warning Shot. Several weeks later, the Dodgers relented, agreeing to pay Koufax $125,000 and Drysdale $110,000, which was then a lot of money for a baseball player. It would be just a few years later that Curt Flood would challenge the reserve clause. Koufax, Drysdale, and Flood helped the MLB Players Association, founded in 1966, gain traction under the leadership of Marvin Miller.