Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2018 — No. 19: Chief Wahoo’s last hurrah

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We’re a few short days away from 2019 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2018. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were more akin to tabloid drama. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

After years of pressure from indigenous groups, fans and the media, it was announced in January  that the Cleveland Indians — at the behest of Major League Baseball — would cease wearing Chief Wahoo on their uniforms and displaying him in the ballpark beginning in 2019.  

It was a welcome move, but make no mistake, it was motivated by money, not by principle.

One bit of evidence for that was that the club was allowed to continue to wear the logo in 2018 rather than cease wearing it immediately. There was really no practical reason why the Indians couldn’t have made the change for 2018. Clubs roll out playoff and World Series merchandise on a moment’s notice. The 1970 Milwaukee Brewers weren’t even IN Milwaukee or CALLED the Brewers until seven days before Opening Day and they got their block-M caps and “Brewers” jerseys made in time. The Indians new uniform changes announced for 2019 show minimal difference from their Wahoo versions. The changes could’ve been made before the first spring training game if they had wanted to. They just didn’t want to, likely to goose final year sales of Wahoo merchandise.

Likewise, the club will continue to sell Wahoo merchandise to fans indefinitely. If getting rid of Wahoo was “the right thing to do,” as the league and the club said at the time the change was announced, he would be totally eliminated, not allowed a season’s farewell tour and continued financial viability. There are some who say that the Indians have to sell Wahoo merchandise to keep their intellectual property rights over him, but if the club and the league thought he was truly inappropriate — as opposed to just unpopular and a bad look — they’d have no problem with it. Why profit off of racism? The answer is that the Indians are agnostic enough about what Wahoo means in an ethical sense but are not gonna let anyone else make a buck off of him as long as they might be able to.

Oh, and then there’s this:

No one has ever confirmed that Wahoo was the price for the Indians getting the All-Star Game, bit it’s a pretty plausible story.

In the end, though, I suppose all that matters is that Wahoo is gone. It took long enough and it may have been a case of the right thing being done for the wrong reasons, but at least the right thing was done.

Yankees star Judge hits 62nd homer to break Maris’ AL record

New York Yankees v Texas Rangers - Game Two
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ARLINGTON, Texas – Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season Tuesday night, breaking Roger Maris’ American League record and setting what some fans consider baseball’s “clean” standard.

The 30-year-old Yankees slugger drove a 1-1 slider from Texas right-hander Jesus Tinoco into the first couple of rows of seats in left field when leading off the second game of New York’s day-night doubleheader.

Maris’ 61 for the Yankees in 1961 had been exceeded six times previously, but all were tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year. Barry Bonds hit an MLB-record 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001, and the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris as holder of the legitimate record.

A Ruthian figure with a smile as outsized as his body, the 6-foot-7 Judge has rocked the major leagues with a series of deep drives that hearken to the sepia tone movie reels of his legendary pinstriped predecessors.

“He should be revered for being the actual single-season home run champ,” Roger Maris Jr. said Wednesday night after his father’s mark was matched by Judge. “I think baseball needs to look at the records and I think baseball should do something.”

Judge had homered only once in the past 13 games, and that was when he hit No. 61 last Wednesday in Toronto. The doubleheader nightcap in Texas was his 55th game in row played since Aug. 5.

After a single in five at-bats in the first game Tuesday, Judge was 3 for 17 with five walks and a hit by pitch since moving past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league record for 34 years. Maris hit his 61st off Boston’s Tracy Stallard at old Yankee Stadium on Oct. 1, 1961.

Judge has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012. He leads the AL with 131 RBIs and began the day trailing Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315.

The home run in his first at-bat put him back to .311, where he had started the day before dropping a point in the opener.

Judge’s accomplishment will cause endless debate.

“To me, the holder of the record for home runs in a season is Roger Maris,” author George Will said earlier this month. “There’s no hint of suspicion that we’re seeing better baseball than better chemistry in the case of Judge. He’s clean. He’s not doing something that forces other players to jeopardize their health.”