Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Mixing politics with baseball is un-American

By William Haupt III | The Center Square contributor

 Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred – Photo by LM Otero | AP file photo

  “There is no place in baseball for politics and no place in politics for baseball.”

– Branch Rickey

Considered America's National Pastime, baseball has helped to reshape this nation. From the Civil War to civil rights and beyond, the game of baseball has always reflected the positive aspects of American life. It has set national trends, influenced our culture and improved our economies. It has inspired movements, instilled pride and united us during wars. It has healed our social wounds and built American cities. Most importantly, it broke the color barrier for integrating professional sports.

In 1942, former baseball player Branch Rickey became president of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey was only an average player, but he was the greatest asset to the game he loved. He devoted his life to protecting and improving America’s pastime. He did more than anyone to preserve the ethics and principles of an institution that made America a unique and insightful nation. In the baseball world, he set the bar for all future executives for promoting good will within the baseball community.

Rickey was a man of character with deeply religious convictions. He sowed the seeds of baseball much the same as Johnny Appleseed introduced apple trees to large parts of America.

He was all American and often attacked communism and socialism. He was fearlessly intelligent, well read, and thoughtful. His favorite book was the Bible, which he often quoted chapter and verse.

“Baseball is slow to change and accept new ideas. Sometimes it takes years.”

– Branch Rickey

Rickey, who had fought in the trenches during World War I with Black Americans, was eager to get them into Major League Baseball. In 1945, he founded a league for Black players to scout ballplayers. He was determined to find the best Black ballplayer to convince owners to desegregate baseball. He said, ''I may not be able to end racism in every sport, but I can do it here in baseball.''

In October 1945, he signed Jackie Robinson, a fellow GI and graduate of UCLA. After a stint with the Dodgers' minor league team in Montreal, Robinson made his debut in Major League Baseball in 1947. This bold move broke the league's color barrier. Robinson and Rickey formed a lasting bond. They worked the rest of their careers on improving the lives of all Black Americans. 

Photo: Wesley Branch Rickey (R) (December 20, 1881 – December 9, 1965),  an American baseball player and sports executive. Rickey was instrumental in breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier by signing Black player Jackie Robinson (L). Getty Images

Rickey's determination to desegregate Major League Baseball was born out of a combination of his religious beliefs and patriotism. He felt segregation violated the Christian faith and the GIs that had fought for America and world freedom should never be treated like second class citizens. Branch Rickey not only ended segregation in baseball, but he opened the door to end it in all major sports.

“I needed to win, so I promoted Jackie Robinson for his skills, just not his race.”

– Branch Rickey

Rickey was Mr. Baseball, but he did more for professional sports than just open the door for Black Americans in the major leagues. Shortly after Jackie Robinson stole his first base, fellow UCLA grad Kenny Washington became the first Black player to sign with an NFL franchise in 1947.

Baseball ended segregation in professional sports, yet Commissioner Rob Manfred moved the All-Star game this year from Atlanta to Colorado because of Georgia’s new voting laws. This was a slap in the face of all those who worked to desegregate professional sports. Politics and baseball don’t mix! Manfred had no right to bow to progressives and let leftist politics influence an American tradition.

President Joe Biden claims Georgia’s election reform bill is “Jim Crow in a suit and tie.” He falsely claims it prohibits family members from dropping off absentee ballots, restricts early voting, and limits voting hours. And the media and corporate America are helping to perpetrate this hoax. Yet every change in Georgia’s election law was made simply to prevent more problems like there were last election.

“This election bill is nothing more than a dog whistle to disenfranchise minority voters.”

– Joe Biden

Matthew Weil, of the Bipartisan Policy Center, claims this helps voters. It allows voters to obtain ballots without an excuse. Voters can also vote on Sunday. Counties must have drop boxes. It extended early voting three additional days. Voters can request a ballot 11 weeks in advance. The only change, which most Americans support, is you must show “any form of ID”, even a utility bill, to vote.

Richard Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, said that many of the things this bill does is in line with what other states already do. It is confusing why the reworking of voting rights laws for the right reason is illegal, particularly when it is not as strict as many other states. He added, “There is little data that shows increasing ID requirements affects participation at all.”

Manfred claims he made the decision to move the All-Star game from Atlanta to Colorado under pressure from the Black Players Alliance, an organization of black players formed after the death of George Floyd. They also pressured Coke, Delta Airlines and American Express to support them.

The All-Star Game would have been a huge opportunity for Georgia’s large minority-owned small business community. They’re now left paying the price for leftist politics. These identity groups hurt the people this would have helped by perpetrating a false narrative with the help of the media.

“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.”

– Thomas Sowell

Plato told us in 400 BC, “Don’t confuse me with facts.” Apparently, facts are not a strong suit for progressive politicians, baseball identity groups, and corporate America. If the left does not like a policy, they rally everyone in their camp to go into attack mode and cancel out any group, policy or individual they disagree with. This is dangerous and antithetical to the values of our great republic.

Not so long ago, American baseball was a great equalizer. It provided a place for political activists of all stripes and colors, professionals, blue color workers, the wealthy and the poor to forget their differences, and enjoy a game together. They’d “catch” a bag of peanuts from a wandering vendor and share them. They only fought each other over who could catch and retrieve a prized foul ball.

You can’t escape woke politics today, especially in America’s once great pastime, baseball. The baseball stadium was once our “national neutral zone.” Now it’s been violated by woke partisan politics. It is shameful that America’s Pastime is not only being influenced by identity groups and progressives but it is perpetrating false political narratives supported by American companies.

Rickey was recognized by the NAACP and numerous Civil Rights groups as the man who desegregated professional sports. Rickey and Jackie Robinson worked together for years to end segregation in major leagues and amateur sports. It is a shame that the very sport and the very two men that spent their lives fighting segregation are disgraced by progressive politicians and identity groups at an event honoring them and America's Pastime.

“Some day I'm going to have to stand before God, and if He asks me why, I didn't let that [Jackie] Robinson fellow play ball, I don't think saying 'because of the color of his skin' would be a good enough answer.”

– Branch Rickey