By Tom Semioli
History, as history has taught us, repeats itself.
In July 1978 during the Yankees’ tumultuous “Bronx Zoo” era, Billy Martin was, in essence “fired” (the official reason was given as “resignation”) for his infamous, yet accurate quote to baseball scribe Murray Chass in which he referred to the Bombers’ owner’s guilty plea on two charges of illegal contributions to President Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign, and slugger Reggie Jackson’s narcissistic tendencies with the great libretto:
“One’s a born liar and the other one’s convicted.” To paraphrase a bard of the times, Paul Simon, that proclamation is still crazy, and still brilliant, after all these years.
Billy the Kid was correct. Even Mets fans back in the day applauded Martin’s witty words. Yet Martin was whacked by the worst sports owner in the history of New York – if not all of sports: George Michael Steinbrenner III.
Young fans are woefully unaware of George’s cruel threats to move the beloved Yanks from the Bronx to New Jersey lest the taxpayers finance a new stadium, or his incessant boasts of instilling fear in his employees, or his despicable $40,000 bribe to a gambler with ties to organized crime to smear star outfielder Dave Winfield, and his shameful, unsportsmanlike treatment of Yankee legend and all around nice-guys Yogi Berra and Dick Howser, to name a few. I do not believe in hell, but if there is one, George Steinbrenner is rotting in it. I feel sorry for the other inhabitants of Hades.
Now it is Mr. October who has incurred the wrath of the Mighty Lords of Baseball in New York. The Yankee organization has not changed much since those hazy days when the Bronx actually burned. Jackson’s comments in Sports Illustrated (July 9-16, 2012 “Still Swinging Away”) are not inflammatory, nor are they damaging to the brand of baseball. Jose Canseco’s confessional tome “Juiced,” along with Jim Bouton’s iconic “Ball Four” are the stuff of legend (and should be on display in the Baseball Hall of Fame). But Jackson’s rant: no big deal.
Jackson simply states sentiments that many fans, and retired players such as his former teammate Goose Gossage readily agree with: i.e. players with steroid enhanced stats should not be in the Hall, including Alex Rodriquez. Of A-Rod, Jackson opines “..there are real questions about his numbers…I like him, what he admitted about his usage does cloud some of his records.” Reggie also chimes in on the age old debate over which players should be in the Hall of Fame, and which should not. I disagree with Reggie on the latter: I maintain that Gary Carter, Kirby Puckett, and Bert Blyleven belong. But I respect Jackson’s opinion. What fun would sports be if everyone agreed?
I find it most ironic that Jackson gets banned by the Yankees – he serves as a special instructor and advisor, certainly not a high profile position. It is even more ironic that he gets banned for comments in a magazine issue that lauds outspoken athlete activists such as Wonman Joseph Williams, Tommy Smith, John Carlos, Bill Walton, Billie Jean King, and Muhammad Ali, among others.
I am also surprised by the lack of support from Reggie’s peer group. For one, where is ex-Yankee skipper, former player’s union rep (in the time of Curt Flood) and current MLB Vice President Joe Torre? The silence of MLB toadie commissioner Bud Selig does not surprise me, nor does the silence of the current crop of baseball performers who have been programmed to “shut up and play.” Banning Reggie is un-American. Reggie may not have many friends in baseball, and some fans still revile him despite his stellar performances on the diamond – but he still has a First Amendment right of all Americans which reads: “the people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments.”
As the Yankees have also come to symbolize the oppressive mentality and criminal behavior of the 1% in these economically unbalanced, unfair, and grossly un-democratic United States, I guess they believe that the laws of this land, as written in the Constitution, do not apply to them. They have certainly proved it once again by banning the great Reginald Martinez Jackson.
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