Whether you agree with protesters overthrowing a statue of Thomas Jefferson in Portland, Oregon or destroying a statue of Christopher Columbus in Richmond, Virginia, what is happening in the world of baseball in terms of statues and monuments is hard to debate and in another way that highly questionable numbers have been honored in our national pastime.
The University of Cincinnati is removing the name of former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott from its ballpark and library.
Schott, who died in 2004, was known for her disgusting views of various ethnic groups, including African Americans, Jewish Americans, and Asian Americans. She suspended Major League Baseball from 1996-1998 after making statements in support of Adolf Hitler.
Jordan Ramey, a former University of Cincinnati baseball player, led the action by petitioning for Schott’s name to be removed from the school. He told the university that “black children should not be made to play and represent a name like theirs, and white children should not unconsciously celebrate their heritage.”
Kevin Youkilis, who played at university prior to his 10-year MLB career, backed the petition. The school had offered to name the field in the stadium after him if he made a donation. However, the Jewish Jew Youkilis declined because of Schott’s anti-Semitic past.
The Minnesota Twins recently removed the statue from former owner Calvin Griffith’s Target Field. Griffith moved the Senators from Washington to Minnesota in 1961 and remained the owner until 1984. He died in 1999 at the age of 87.
He was an important figure in the history of the franchise, but the racist remarks he made on an engagement in 1978 tarnished his legacy.
Target Field is located in Minneapolis, the same city where George Floyd was murdered.
Speaking in 1978 in Waseca, Minnesota, Griffith lowered his voice and asked if black people were around when asked why he had moved the team to Minnesota. After making sure his audience was white, he said this, “I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Blacks don’t go to ball games, but they do fill a rattle ring and put on such a chant that it scares you to the death. It’s incredible. We came here because you have good, hardworking, white people here. ”
After Griffith’s statements were made public, several Black Twins players asked for trades. Future Hall of Famer Rod Carew told Jet Magazine, “I won’t be another nigger on his plantation.”
Tom Yawkey owned the Boston Red Sox from 1933 to 1976. He struggled against integration into his team until he finally gave in in 1959, 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.
Two years ago, the Boston City Public Improvement Committee voted to change the address of the street next to Fenway Park from Yawkey Way back to its original name, Jersey Street. The team asked the city to drop the Yawkey name.
Current Red Sox owner John Henry said he was “haunted” by the team’s racist past.
Yawkey allegedly once racially accused black players, including the legendary Robinson. In trying to defend himself against charges of racism, he put his foot in his mouth when he told Sports Illustrated in 1965 that “people of color” were “clan” and accused them of being racist.
Last week, Barry Larkin, the Black shortstop who was voted National League MVP in 1995 with the Cincinnati Reds, asked why the Kenesaw Mountain Landis name is engraved on the MVP trophy. Landis was hired as the first baseball commissioner in 1920 to help clean up the gambling. His legacy, MLB official historian John Thorn told the New York Daily News, is “a complicated story” that involves “documented racism.”
No blacks played in major leagues during Landis’ 25-year tenure. Robinson broke the color barrier about 2 1/2 years after Landis’ death. Landis broke exhibition games between black and white all-star teams.
“I was always aware of his name and what it meant to slow down the color line in Major League Baseball,” said Larkin, “the racial injustice and inequality black players had to go through.”
Landis’ name has featured prominently on every American League and National League MVP plaque since 1944. The inscription in shiny gold letters twice the size of the winner reads: “Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award”. There is also a sizable imprint of Landis’ face.
“If you want to expose people in baseball history who promoted racism by continuing to shut the doors of baseball to men of color, Kenesaw Landis would be a candidate,” three-time white NL MVP Mike Schmidt for the Philadelphia Phillies told Philadelphia Phillies the Daily News. “I would like to replace the engraving on my trophies.”
1991 NL MVP Terry Pendleton of the Atlanta Braves who is Black added, “This is 2020 now and things have changed all over the world. It can change for the better. ”