Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Rock Disrespects The Babe

Late last night, I caught the repeat of a special edition of "Costas NOW," which is on HBO and features Bob Costas talking about sports. I've always like Costas and his take on sports and especially baseball, as I guess we are both considered "traditionalists" when it comes to the game.

He dedicated most of last night's show to Barry Bonds' pursuit of Hank Aaron's home run record, and of course, steroids. It was an interesting show, as it also featured an interview with Curt Schilling. But what got me to writing about it was a panel discussion that was midway through the show that featured Costas with Baseball Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith and Gary Carter, and for some inexplicable reason, comedian Chris Rock.

I guess Rock is a big baseball fan, and was there for some comedic purpose. They touched on a number of subjects about baseball, but inevitably, it turned to race in regard to Bonds' chase of the home run record. And in the middle of that, Rock came out with a real beauty, in his attempt to be outrageous.

He said that the records held by Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb were "bullshit," because neither of them played against black players. (He also called all of Ruth's dingers "714 affirmative action home runs," whatever the hell that means.)

Nice of Rock to disrespect the memories of all white players who played before Jackie Robinson, and demean every one of them who played before 1947 and what they accomplished as being illegitimate.

Frankly, what Rock said was "bullshit."

Rock should take a history lesson. Babe Ruth may very well have saved Major League Baseball back in the early 1920s. Back then, because of the fallout of the Black Sox scandal of 1919, baseball's popularity was sagging to record low levels, and was in danger of fading away as the national sport. Make no mistake, it was in real trouble. But along comes Ruth, who captured the nation's imagination with his prolific home run totals in putting the New York Yankees on the map as a baseball dynasty. He simply became the most popular athlete in the country, and to this day is still the biggest star baseball has ever known, or probably will ever know. Many great superstars have followed The Babe, but he is still in a class by himself in MLB history. Players today owe The Babe a great debt, for what he meant to the sport, and for taking it to another level in the pantheon of American sports.

To call what Ruth did "bullshit" sounded simply like the rantings of a simple-minded fool who just doesn't get it. (It reminded me of those Yankee fans who yell "Boston Sucks" at Red Sox fans even when the Sox are in first place.) If Rock had made an intelligent point like, "I think the era Babe Ruth played in was inferior to the following ones because there were no black players, and his accomplishments should be judged in that light," I would have respected his point and not written this column. But instead he chose to jump in the mud and say something outrageous. (I would guess the HBO producers expected that.) Rock could have made his point (which does have validity) without defaming Ruth.

The fact that blacks didn't get the chance to play on the same MLB teams as whites before 1947 was indeed unfortunate, unfair and racist. The integration of baseball in 1947 was long overdue, and was a major turning point in 20th Century baseball (as well as history). But the accomplishments of players like Ruth, Cy Young, Lou Gehrig, Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner and other early 1900s greats shouldn't be besmerched because bigoted owners wouldn't allow blacks to play alongside whites (although people like Connie Mack, John McGraw and Bill Veeck wanted to bring blacks on their teams before 1947, but they were considered too radical, and more powerful owners shot them down). It certainly wasn't the players call not to have blacks play with them, and in Ken Burns' "Baseball" documentary from 1994, he pointed out that in 1939, a poll of MLB players found that 69% of them had no problem with blacks playing in the majors.

And Chris Rock better watch with his talk disrespecting Babe Ruth. He might want to have a chat with Pedro Martinez about that.

You may remember that back in 2001, Pedro was so sick and tired of all that "Curse of the Bambino" BS from sportswriters after a win over the Yankees that year he said, "Wake the Bambino. I might just drill him in the ass." Shortly after saying that, Pedro went down with a shoulder injury that more or less killed the remainder of the 2001 season for him.

Granted, Rock is not a ballplayer, but he better be careful with putting down The Babe and his legacy. I don't wish Rock any ill, but The Bambino has his ways of getting even.


Suldog said...

I'd like to hear what Rock would say if someone discredited Josh Gibson or Satchel Paige or Buck O'Neil or any other negro league player because the stats they compiled were not done with any white players as opponents.

In point of fact, those records are much more easily discredited. Whereas an influx of black players into MLB accounted for a drawing from an extra 15% or so of the available talent pool - blacks comprising that percentage or less of the national population - if the nego-leaguers had to face white competition, they would have possibly found their tasks 4 to 5 times harder, considering the amount of white players to draw from.


The Omnipotent Q said...

And I'm really disappointed that no one on that show took on Rock's ignorant observation, and just cackled at him. And other bloggers seem to be agreeing with his take as well. I'm surprised it hasn't gotten more play in the media.

Obviously, MLB was better once black players came on board. How many homers would the Babe have hit against black pitchers? We'll never know. But it's no reason to besmerch his legacy because bigoted owners wouldn't let that happen.

The Omnipotent Q said...

And if there had been black pitchers in the 1920s in MLB, would Babe Ruth have just been an average player? Come on. I'm sure he would have had his share of homers off the black pitchers as well. He was simply the greatest player baseball will ever know.

sean said...

Hey buddy, your comments regarding Chris Rock are ignorant and stupid. I found your blog a few months ago and sort-of enjoyed it, checking in every couple week- - but - I don't know- hints of attitude here and there I didn't like.

Your comments about Chris Rock are so dumb -every ball player that holds or are inlcluded in MAJOR LEAGUE records and histories before segregation should have an asteric next to there bogus achievments - it's a big fact that they didn't play against black or hispanic players- much more of an advantage than steroid provides Maguire and Bonds et all.

You don't see this? How?

Rock is right to dissrespect Ruth or Gherig or that racist prick Cobb - they came by there achievments under a racist system, they came by there achievments playing against at half the talent.....

You write of Rock:

"A simple minded fool who doesn't get it"

"And Chris Rock better watch with his talk disrespecting Babe Ruth"

Nice comments coming a thoughtful man like you. Don't you wish you could have been 'round when old Babe Ruth was hitten' em out of Yankee Stadium- you would have existed when saying an opiniated black man was "a simple minded fool" was the norm.

Dtto your readers comments -like your buddy Suldog - pretty smart....

Baseball, a great game no doubt, but always the game for that traditional white man like yourself who can't handle hearing black people speak out in ways white people don't appreciate.

Ohh, and you're a Boston fan too- the Red Sox, the historically racist team from the racist east coast city---

Maybe we can have a conversation sometime at Professor Thoms -and that's not a threat, I'm truly just talking conversation---

afterall, I'm not you telling "that simple minded fool" Chris Rock "watch with his talk."

Good days, Mighty Quinn

Dan Sullivan said...

Wow. John to think when I saw you at Thoms last night that we needed to catch up regarding your commentary on Chris Rock. I disagreed with your assertions and looked under the comments this evening and found some critical commentary, critical and aggressive. My feelings are more in line with the need for the outer fringes of opinion needing to be represented in dialogue like this and I think Rock did just that. The forum required something provocative and he filled the void. Rock doesn’t believe all of that in totality but the position needs to be presented. Maybe if there is any interest in this topic we could all get together to discuss. It certainly is an interesting topic.

The Omnipotent Q said...

The comments regarding "Chris Rock better watch that talk regarding disrespecting Babe Ruth. He has his ways of getting even" was more tongue-in-cheek as opposed to anything else. I always found it silly when people thought Pedro Martinez was getting paid back for his rather silly comments about The Babe. That's why ended the column the way I did.

And of course, I don't honestly believe that the ghost of Babe Ruth is going to "get" Chris Rock for his comments.

I'm not happy that Rock said what he said, but he's entitled to his opinion. I found it being disrespectful of great players who played pre-1947, especially the ones who weren't raving bigots. It certainly wasn't their fault that blacks were not permitted to play on the same field as them. It's the bigoted owners who should bear the brunt of the criticism in history. And there absolutely should NOT be anything like asterisks when it comes to their accomplishments. I don't believe in asterisks for any reason, and that includes Roger Maris, and players in the Steroid Era like Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds. History will judge all of them in the final end.

As far as the Red Sox go, their history of intolerance is well known, but the current owners, led by John Henry, have made some truly great strides in reaching out to the minority communities of Boston and New England. It makes me prouder to call myself a Red Sox fan.

I'm willing to chat with either of you Dans, any time about this. Thanks to both of you for your truly interesting feedback.