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Baseball becomes raceball.

RACIST'S SCREAMING RACISM makes for an ugly feeding frenzy. Cincinnati Reds majority owner Marge Schott has uttered ethnic and religiously inflammatory remarks, as well as the ultimate killer word, "nigger." There has been a much-deserved uproar over her comments, which earned her a one-year suspension and a $25,000 fine. Trouble is, much of the reaction is wrongheaded and as ignorant as the woman who caused it all.

Marge Schott is a baseball owner, and a successful one. She took over a struggling franchise--the Reds were one of only two National League teams that failed to make the playoffs in the 1980s, and the club lost $4,000,000 the year before she assumed control--and turned it around. The Reds won the 1990 World Series and have produced a $40,000,000 profit over the last three seasons.

In other words, Marge Schott is a power broker--and a minority. Name another woman who runs a baseball franchise successfully. Powerful people like Schott, and the other 27 baseball owners, are intent on keeping their power. All threats, real and imagined, are treated as such. Businessmen, and women, are calculating cutthroats. So what? This doesn't abridge their right to free speech and free thought--no matter how appalling their outlook may be.

Nevertheless, the same old arguments are trotted out every time some high-profile person is pinpointed as a designated bigot. Then the usual black rabble-rousers--the Jesse Jacksons, the Al Sharptons, even the Charles Rangels--start screaming to the media. Remember, Rangel called independent presidential candidate Ross Perot a "white cracker." Sharpton's black power abuses are too numerous to list. Jackson, meanwhile--even considering his New York "Hymietown" crack--does make sense sometimes, but not this time. He invaded baseball's winter meeting with high-handed boycott threats, demanding that more minorities be given front-office positions on big league clubs. What Jackson, and all those who demand quotas, refuse to understand is that, with few exceptions, sports entities are dying to hire minorities. But don't equate qualified with intelligence. Blacks aren't stupid, but they are inexperienced.

"Jackson does a disservice to young blacks when he tells them that blacks are not being hired to work in sports' front offices because they're black," writes New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick. "For Jackson to demand that sports businesses pass on the opportunity to hire a marketing exec with marketing experience in favor of an experience-less person because of skin color is to demand that people hire to the detriment of their business. That not only benefits no one, it hurts everyone.

"Rev. Jackson is demanding change while preaching wishful, self-serving theory instead of studied pragmatics. Change should be demanded, beginning with his message. He should demand that all minorities who show up to be interviewed for big-time front-office positions in sports come armed with a resume that points to their hard-won qualifications, and not the color of their skin."

The first stop in such a corporate climb is an entry-level position, a poorly paid go-fer willing to be the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night, assuming every menial task imaginable along the way. These are the young and hungry who will not be denied, and there are practically no African-Americans working in these positions, not because they were refused employment, but because they haven't applied.

Baseball has its racists, but that hasn't stopped talented black from cashing their multi-million-dollar paychecks signed by their "racist" bosses. Admittedly, baseball has a good-old-boy buddy system, and most of the buddies are white males. So white managers are recycled, being fired by one team and eagerly hired by another. But it's the same for blacks and other minorities. Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who is black, has managed three teams, none a first-place finisher. He'll probably manage three mom Yet, Davey Johnson, a white manager fired by the New York Mets a few seasons back, hasn't been able to land another managerial job despite the most successful reign in that team's history. His 1984-90 tenure produced a World Series title, two N.L. East Division crowns, and a club that never was eliminated from any pennant race before the final week of the season. Gee, sounds like a case of reverse discrimination. And baseball owners surely are prejudiced against the South. What else can explain only two major league franchises below the Mason-Dixon line?

The double standard is more pervasive than racism. "It is ironic that Colorado is being applauded for hiring Don Baylor, [a black] who has no managerial experience, by the same people who lambasted the Brewers when they hired Phil Garner [who is white] over Baylor last year, saying Gamer had no managerial experience. [Garner took the Brewers to within a whisker of first place in his rookie campaign.] That no-experience whine also isn't being heard in Cincinnati over the hiring of [Hispanic] Tony Perez," writes baseball columnist Peter Pascarelli in The Sporting News.

No one is claiming that all is right on baseball's racial front. But neither should anyone be crying "foul on everyone" by maintaining there is a systematic plot afoot to keep minorities out of baseball. Salem witch hunts aren't the answer. Not to make too light of what indeed is a situation with grave overtones, recall that, during the McCarthy era of blacklisting and commie-bashing, the Cincinnati club actually was pressured by anti-soviets to change its name from Reds, a monicker the club has carried since forming baseball's first professional team in 1869. Replied one Cincinnati executive: "Let the Communists change their name. We had it first."
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Title Annotation:racism in baseball
Author:Barrett, Wayne M.
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Column
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Previous Article:It's time for a new management system.
Next Article:Lifestyle 2000: new enterprise and cultural diversity.

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