Comment of the Day

It didn’t come here, but I’m off the clock at NBC and it’s the kind of thing that sparks good discussions on ShysterBall. In response to my post criticizing baseball for making all players wear number 42 on Jackie Robinson day, reader Web-Gem had this to say:

This is not a “tribute”, this is MLB’s way of making more money. Now the MLB can sell #42 jerseys of every player in the MLB. The kid who has the Pujols #5 jersey now has got to have the Pujols #42 jersey!

Discuss.

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Comments

  1. Mark Armour said...

    The principal motivation is to have MLB be able to treat the integration of the game as a honorable “triumph” for MLB.  In fact, it was something MLB did while kicking and screaming.  This was triumph for Robinson, Rickey and a few others, but the rest of the game has nothing to get all snooty about.

  2. Pete Toms said...

    Cynicism! I’m in!!

    Bang on Mark A.  MLB integrated because the Negro Leagues were drawing big crowds in some markets and MLB needed the black players.  MLB, including Mr. Rickey, didn’t do it because it was the “right thing”.

    Spike Lee is a jock sniffer.  He should give back his Deacon Award.

    And JR Day, wearing 42, the rotunda at Citi…all about appealing to middle aged, middle class, caucasian guys (aka. baseball geeks) who get all warm and fuzzy over it.

    Gag me.

  3. Bill said...

    Cynical, sure, but could it be THAT far from Czar Bud’s mind? There are obviously commercial motives at play here (and I’d say they’re likely the primary ones). Probably more general than “let’s sell some Pujols #42 jerseys”—more like “let’s sell some more of everything by making this very interesting and complex character into a kind of saint and playing him up loud enough to drown out all the bad stuff”—but I’m sure you’ll be seeing some of those #42 jerseys, too.

  4. rick said...

    Yep, that’s it exactly. I’m surprised no one has caught on to this as it happens quite often. It’s also why, in the end, ball clubs like the Mets very nearly have a new jersey for every game. And why the Rangers have new red uni’s this year. And why the Twins are wearing throw backs their last year in the dome. And why the Red Sox have the new navy blue lettering on gray uni’s. And why the Padres insist on wearing camo uni’s on Easter (wtf? who does that?). There is no reason to do all that crap unless there is some money in it.

    It’s sad that baseball is so obviously capitalizing and profiting on such a great baseball legend like this. All those other ball clubs are doing it so blatantly its obvious why they do it – to sell more jerseys. But to pull Jackie Robinson into it is disgraceful. Bud can give you a bunch of BS about marking the occasion, but you know it’s baseball trying to make up for its decades of unquestioned racism, and to wrap it around commercialization makes it even worse. Once again, you know they wouldn’t be doing it unless they could make a buck off it.

    I’m a huge baseball fan, so it’s saddens me to see the nation’s pastime turn to business models and quick profit schemes to trick fans into thinking they can be a part of the tradition and history. As Craig said earlier, I’d rather the players focus on reading signs and avoid fighting with umps, and have teams focus on community outreach and educating the fans than sell some jerseys.

    Hell, Bud can come right out and say the proceeds of all the players’ #42 jerseys are going to some charitable donation, but its still a publicity stunt and I don’t like it. Not in baseball. Not my sport. And not like this.

  5. Laurence Davison said...

    I have no problem accepting cynical marketing in all its forms is going on, but I must admit I’ve never been entirely happy to accept the “the kids have to have the new shirt” argument. When I was a kid and I wanted something my parents either couldn’t afford or didn’t want me to have, I didn’t get it. If I whinged that the other kids at school all had said item, it made no difference. What kind of kids are we supposed to have bred that can’t be told “you already have a perfectly good Pujols jersey and that’s it till Christmas”?

    Of course my suspicion is that most of the third alternate road jerseys and duplicate jerseys with number 42 on the back actually get sold in XXL sizes anyway, if you get my drift. But the fat, drunk and stupid can spend their money however they want without anyone feeling guilty about poor little Timmy getting bullied at school because he’s only got last year’s jersey so it’s not as good a story.

  6. kendynamo said...

    um, duh. 

    i dont think we should blame this on bud tho, im sure some lowly coperate hack thot of the idea and it had such commemorative, historical, and profitably synergy that it went straight to the top.

    i personally like the aspect of baseball celebrating the end of one of it’s most inneficient business practices by exploiting it commercially.  there’s also the poetic justice of the notion that maybe if the lords of baseball’s past were quicker to embrace athletes and fans of african american hertiage, so many of them now wouldn’t totally ignore baseball in favor basketball and football.

  7. kendynamo said...

    @rick – dude, baseball has been using business models and quick profit schemes since they first started paying players.  thats because MLB is, in fact, itself, a business model and not much else.  there are plenty of amatuers still playing in things like american legion leagues, out there, and i think you’ll find them plesantly devoid of quick profit schemes.

  8. Aarcraft said...

    I think I will hold my outrage until I actually, you know, see an official Pujols jersey with 42 on the back for sale.

  9. TC said...

    I think this idea was Neyer’s, but whoever had it, I love it:

    Instead of having a leaguewide ban on 42 (except for the leaguewide mandatory wearing of 42), turn the chance to wear 42 into an honor.  Baseball gives out sportsmanship awards, well, give out 42 as a similar award.  One player max, per team, gets MLB’s permission to wear 42, because that player most exemplifies Jackie’s spirit, or whatever. 

    That way, 42 is everpresent (good for baseball, I suppose), and yet, it’s always an honorific (good for JR’s legacy).

  10. Jeff Mathews said...

    Ditmars,

    Fat, drunk white guys were never systematically banned from the league*.  Nor were the Irish**, Jews, or Asians; though one could argue that there was significant discrimination against two of those groups.

    Regardless of MLB and Selig’s motives for this promotion, Jackie Robinson is worthy of being honored.

    * Quite the opposite, in fact. 

    ** Hibernians were so prevalent in early baseball that some believed the Irish were just “naturally,” better at it.  Just check out some of the names from this squad.

  11. dtro said...

    Ditmars,

    I agree with your point about the Mets co-opting the Dodgers history and trying to make it their own. Fred Wilpon seems to think that his childhood in Brooklyn trumps 47 years of Mets history. It is ridiculous.

    However, if you can’t recognize the significance of Jackie Robinson outside of “he was a great second baseman,” then I don’t know what to tell you. Perhaps in the narrow lens of on-field accomplishments Babe Ruth is a more significant historical figure, but Jackie Robinson’s cultural and social significance make him the most important American athlete probably ever. Was it luck or coincidence that it was Jackie who was the first black player in the majors? Maybe, but it was still him and that’s goddamn important.

    And it’s a damn shame that MLB would exploit his legacy, which is what I think is happening today.

  12. ditmars1929 said...

    Dtro,

    I do recognize the significance of Robinson being the first black to play.  I understand the oppressive history of blacks in America, I understand what he went through to break a color barrier, and he’s an icon, I get that.

    My point was that where do you stop?  It’s not as if the blacks had the market cornered on an oppressed people making good.  I’d say the blacks were on a picnic compared to what the US did to Native Americans.  Therefore, shouldn’t Jim Thorpe have his number retired?

    Either way, my main point was that retired numbers should be a team honor, not a league one.

    I also agree with you on the shamelessness of MLB exploiting Robinson.  First they say nobody can wear #42, then suddenly everyone can wear it for a day.  Is the number retired or isn’t it???All about the money.  Thanks, Bud Selig, you assh*le.

  13. Chipmaker said...

    It doesn’t stop. The Hall unveiled a new Robinson plaque last year, one that makes mention of his social impact. His original plaque, which served just fine for decades, had no such mention—the text was about how good a ballplayer he was.

    I liked the old one better.

  14. Matt Aux said...

    It is easy to bag on Bud for this, mostly because he usually deserves it.  I’d be hard pressed to think of a situation in which he did this with pure intentions.

    To me, this devalues the day a bit, like a bunch of the federal holidays that keep a lot of people home from work.  Veteran’s Day is one of the few days when I get to sleep in and spend the day wearing sweatpants while sitting in the recliner, but that’s clearly not the intent.  I’m not suggesting that they’ll be wearing #42 sweatpants anytime soon (except for Manny; that may actually happen), but it sure starts things down that slippery slope that leads to devaluation of the meaning in favor of the pomp and ritual that doesn’t even celebrate the meaning at all.

    But, yay Bud!

  15. Wade said...

    A somewhat correlative variable in the out-of-control world of baseball finance:
    Fidrych’s 1976 Rookie of the Year season he pitched 24 complete games and went 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA*.  He made around $17,000 that year**.

    I realize that with his short-lived career that he’s a bit of an outlier with that one magnificent year, but it still baffles.  That was barely 33 years ago.

    That said, I’ll buy into the money-making conspiracy.  It’s a shame.  But if the players are making so much money, then the revenue needs to come from wherever they can scratch it.  So…take an iconic figure, and make his personal triumphs into a merch festival.  Me no likey.  In the immortal words of Skip, “So long everybody”.

    *  ESPN.com
    ** NPR broadcast this afternoon

  16. Alex Poterack said...

    To play devil’s advocate…I’m plenty cynical about things like this, and I don’t doubt for a second that MLB’s motives aren’t the purest, most honorable ones as they try to make it sound (and I honestly don’t think that’s the worst thing in the world, either; they are, ultimately, a business, and I try not to look to businesses for purity).  However, and I could be wrong, but I was under the impression that the #42 jerseys don’t have names on back (at least, they didn’t last year), so there would be no “Pujols #42” jersey to buy, just a regular Cardinals jersey with a 42 and no name on back. 

    So of course MLB loves selling more jerseys (and again, I don’t blame them), but I honestly don’t think that’s what’s going on here.  That’s not to say it isn’t in many ways a shrewd marketing move first, heartfelt tribute second, but not in the way proposed.

  17. Bill said...

    I’m caucasian (and I’m sure there are many others that agree with the main point of this paragraph I’m about to type) and I have always felt that if I state what has very mildly annoyed me on a public board it would obviously make me white and of course make me look like a racist.  So I have kept it quiet.  However since Craig runs a very classy blog I think any threatening response to my thoughts will be deleted so here goes:  I think honoring Jackie Robinson is great however I don’t believe it’s right to politely require all players to wear #42.  I feel that pretty much forcing this on players makes it seem like such a shallow tradition.  Telling players that you may wear #42 to honor Mr. Robinson is great.  Having a day in honor of what he did is greater.  But all but strictly requiring players to do this…I’m sorry it’s just silly and very shallow.  Garrett Anderson of your Braves (then with the Halos) actually had to backtrack a quote he had made the day before why he didn’t wear 42 because he was so criticized for the original quote and pretty much said what I just typed…and he’s black.  For what little this seems to mean coming from me, Thank You Jackie for having the guts to be a pioneer.  And keep up the great work Craig on both blogs.

  18. Jack Marshall said...

    Too many heroes of the civil rights movement get forgotten. Ten years ago, I talked to four, well educated 20 somethings, one of them black, and none had ever heard of Jackie Robinson. If the 42 stunt helps some kids remember him, his courage and what he did for baseball and America, good. I don’t care about what other crasser motives may be behind it.

    Next up for some over-due respect: Canada Lee.

  19. ditmars1929 said...

    OK, perhaps you’ll call me a cynic too, so here goes, and keep in mind that honesty goes with cynicism:

    I think this whole Robinson thing is a bunch of horsesh*t starting with the league-wide retiring of his number.

    I strongly feel that the retirement of a number is strictly a team honor, not a league honor.  Retired numbers are intended to represent the best players that a team ever fielded in it’s own unique history.  I don’t seem to recall Robinson playing for the Toronto Blue Jays, or a couple of dozen other teams, so why does Toronto have to retire #42?  Makes absolutely no sense.

    Robinson was the first black player.  I suppose that’s all fine and well, but also, so what?  When I see film of Robinson, I see a great second baseman, period.  I do not parse the issue to see a great black second baseman.  Gee, call me enlightened?  So why does it start there and where does it end?  By this logic, the league should retire the numbers of the first Irish player, the first Jewish player, the first Asian player, etc.

    Further, if there is going to be a league-wide number retirement, then with all due respect, screw Jackie Robinson.  That honor should go to #3, some guy named George Ruth.

    As to the currently active players being allowed to wear #42 for a game, that’s just a cheap marketing ploy, plain and simple.  And a pretty tacky one, too.

    Lastly, how do the NY Mets get away with co-opting Robinson’s legacy?  In New York, we even had the NY Post’s op-ed page campaigning to have the new Shea Stadium called “The Jack”, in honor of Robinson (as if the contributions of Shea to Met’s history no longer mean anything).  I don’t believe Robinson ever played for the Mets.  The rationale I always hear is that “the Mets are the heir apparent to the Dodgers after they left for Los Angeles”.  Really?  How many games have the Mets played in Brooklyn?

    OK, I’m done now.  Sorry if I offended anyone.

  20. alskor said...

    I don’t want to sit here and claim money wasn’t a factor at all… but they do pretty much immediately auction off the stuff they do like this on mlb.com

    http://auction.mlb.com/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/ExecMacro/feature.d2w/report?wl=33072944&sort=justopened

    Im going to say it was a very small part of the reason for doing this, though.

    Im a big admirer of Mr. Robinson, but Ive never liked that they retired #42, frankly. Its kind of silly to retire a number across baseball, IMHO. For instance, the poor Giants have to have Jackie’s number next to their retired numbers… and the man retired rather than play for them. I would rather there be a bronze statue of Jackie in front of each stadium, even. Retired numbers are just so… hokey. In the end, though, Im glad we’ve erred somewhat in the direction of too much recognition rather than the alternative…

    Its also funny how he no longer gets the recognition he deserves. I think if he had been the 3rd black player rather than the first we might be more aware of how great a player he was. Phenomenal hitter, superb baserunner and a extremely versatile fielder with a great glove. He is, perversely, underrated…

  21. Nevin said...

    bdub: that’s funny.

    I don’t think they actually had the player names on the back, so its not so much the “Pujols #42 jersey” as the “Cardinals #42 jersey”.

    But I think its a mom-and-apple-pie move (really a Selig chasing a legacy other than PEDs), more than a sell jerseys move.

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