Major League Baseball continues to ignore Labor Day

Library of Congress
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Did you see the special jerseys and caps Major League Baseball has rolled out for Labor Day weekend? The ones you can buy at the team store, the proceeds of which will go to help displaced and disabled workers? Hahaha, of course you didn’t, because such uniforms don’t exist for Labor Day like they do for Earth Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

Indeed, Labor Day is the only in-season national holiday that gets no commemoration from Major League Baseball whatsoever. Not even a statement from the commissioner honoring labor, organized or otherwise, despite the fact that the past half century of baseball history is inexplicably tied up with organized labor. And despite the fact that the league itself employs thousands, either directly or via its concession and stadium contractors, all of whom have to work today. Some have to come in early, as nine of the day’s fifteen contests are day games, which is unusual for a Monday. Which shows that it’s not that Major League Baseball doesn’t know it’s Labor Day. They’re perfectly aware of how it lends itself to making more money at the gate. They just don’t think it’s worth commemorating much beyond that.

This, of course, is not just Major League Baseball’s failing. It’s a reflection of where we are as a society. While most of you reading this may view my words here as unwelcome political sentiment, the fact remains that the institution of Labor Day itself was a political act, taken by politicians and business owners in order to appease workers they had just murdered and brutalized. What’s more, the obliteration and demonization of the labor movement is one of the most successful political operations of the past 40 years. Organized labor makes up a smaller portion of the workforce than it ever has. Even a great many of the people who do the working in this country have bought in to the notion — propagated by those who profit from labor — that unions are tools of the communists and giving any lip service to the rights of workers is a suspect and even un-American pursuit. Good, secure jobs with good pay and benefits have come to be seen as rare luxuries for which it is rude to ask, let alone expect. What’s worse: many workers themselves have adopted the language of the rich and powerful in this regard, having been convinced that their need to hustle harder than they used to in order to make less in real dollars than they used to is somehow a good thing.

I’m not sure what to do about that, but even if the devaluation of labor is bound to continue, there is no reason why baseball cannot at least commemorate and acknowledge a national holiday devoted to laborers the way in which they acknowledge the environment, the sick and those who have died for our country.  And make no mistake: workers have died for our country too. People die on the job every day and you likely cross a bridge, enter a building or drive on a road that was paid for, in part, by workers’ lives every day. People have likewise died in the name of worker’s rights and in the name of keeping more people from dying on the job. Beyond all of that, labor built this country. The labor movement has saved lives that would have been lost and has elevated the standard of living of families. Odds are that, whether you accept it or not, labor and workers in your own family allowed you to get where you are now.

But baseball has no plans to mark the occasion apart from scheduling some extra day games. Maybe a special cap or jersey isn’t a big deal and maybe such symbolic gestures wouldn’t make a difference. But our values are revealed in both our substantive and our symbolic gestures. And it’s regrettable that the quintessentially American institution of baseball can’t find time to give even a nod to the men and women who form the figurative foundation of American society and built the literal foundation of America itself.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.