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PUT A SOCK IN IT, OZZIE.

Byline: KEVIN MODESTI

What Ozzie Guillen did is unacceptable in this politically correct, image-obsessed, everything's-on-the-record baseball era.

No, that's not nearly strong enough.

What Ozzie Guillen did would have been unacceptable in any baseball era.

Now, that's saying something.

Time was, a generation ago, that a baseball manager would have had to do something really offensive to land in the hot water that has been bubbling around the White Sox skipper's stubbly chin since he called a Chicago sports columnist a three-letter name beginning with F.

In the old days, before Al Campanis and countless changes in sports culture, a manager would have had to be quoted saying something unmistakably racist to get in trouble. Or utter something sexually vulgar into a radio microphone. Or call the hometown fans a mob of jobless losers. Or call the boss a crook. Or unwittingly become the star of a series of expletive-laced audiotapes that explode his avuncular image.

And even then, he might not have had to answer for it. Those exact verbal offenses were committed by (in order) Alvin Dark, Earl Weaver, Lee Elia, Billy Martin and Tommy Lasorda. They proved to be something other than career suicide.

Only Martin lost his job immediately, this after his comment that Yankees star Reggie Jackson and owner George Steinbrenner "deserve each other" because "one's a born liar and the other one's convicted," referring to Steinbrenner's illegal contribution to a Richard Nixon campaign. Martin went on to hold five more managing jobs, four of them with Steinbrenner.

Elia wasn't fired for a few months after turned on the Cubs fans who had booed the team one April afternoon, his diatribe including the immortal line about how ``85 percent of the bleeping world is working; the other 15 percent come out here.'' Elia got another managing job, in Philadelphia, for the GM, Dallas Green, who had canned him in Chicago.

Dark denied the report that he questioned the ``mental alertness'' of the San Francisco Giants' black and Hispanic players, and when he was fired after the season, it was for unrelated reasons. Dark went on to four more managing jobs, one with the A's across the bay in Oakland.

As for Lasorda and Weaver, they kept managing long and well enough to end up in the Hall of Fame. Additionally, the underground tapes of their most famous speeches ensure the immortality of, respectively, Dave Kingman and Alice Sweet.

Beyond these best-known cases, the examples of the vile things managers used to say are, as Elia would put it, multifold.

I'm not generalizing too badly if I say that in previous generations the manager tended to be rougher around the edges than today, that he was happy that few reporters carried tape recorders then, that he could expect his club's circle of writers to keep the racy stuff out of print, that the Campanis-inspired premium on sensitivity had yet to exist, and that front office's were less concerned about whether the skipper served as a family-friendly face for the franchise.

Mind you, the things they said weren't right. Just muted.

Clint Hurdle, the Colorado Rockies' manager, played for Whitey Herzog, Davey Johnson, John McNamara and Jim Frey -- among others -- in the major leagues. They didn't have to worry that anything they said might end up on ESPN.

``I think they had a little more room to wiggle, there was a little more freedom of speech,'' Hurdle said Monday before his team played the Angels in Anaheim. ``I know I'm a little more cognizant of what I say. I think through things before the words come out of my mouth. And for all the right reasons, really. I don't feel like I'm challenged by it, or like I'm held hostage.

``You had the opportunity to be a little more liberal with the press in the old days because everything was a little more liberal -- society was more liberal. There weren't as many issues about who's stepping on whose toes and what somebody meant when they said that.''

Across the diamond Monday, Angels manager Mike Scioscia was a great example of the present-day manager, an affable company man with a knack for always saying the right thing.

``I'm just trying to be myself,'' Scioscia said. ``I'm sure Ozzie's just trying to be himself.''

If Ozzie doesn't watch it, being himself is going to get himself unemployed. These days, commissioners and GMs expect a little more self- control.

When Guillen responded to Jay Mariotti's criticism last week by insulting the Chicago Sun-Times columnist and ESPN ``Around the Horn'' panelist to a group of reporters, he committed a sin that, 20 or 40 or 60 years ago, might never have become public. And that he might have gotten away with.

Again, that doesn't mean that what Guillen did ever would have been right. Just ignored.

Commissioner Bud Selig was correct a few days ago to hand down a fine and a sentence to sensitivity training. And White Sox GM Ken Williams did a responsible thing when he threatened to fire the leader of the World Series champions if he can't mind his manners.

We're getting used to belligerent discourse from our leaders in other walks of society these days. We no longer expect it from our baseball managers.

(818) 713-3616

hey.modesti(AT_SIGN)aol.com

CAPTION(S):

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Photo:

(color) White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen found himself in hot water last week after calling a Chicago columnist a derogatory name.

Jeff Robertson/Associated Press
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 27, 2006
Words:915
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