Baseball Cards or Race Cards?

Al Sharpton Weighs in on the issues… - February 27, 2008


I’ve been waiting to write this particular Injected piece for a long time. Actually, ever since Barry Bonds got indicted, I was waiting for someone to bring this up…preferably not Bonds himself, because he’s been crying about it ever since he got his first 7-figure paycheck.

First, some background on the Bonds family is appropriate. Barry is the son of Bobby Bonds, who had what I’ll politely call a journeyman’s career in Major League Baseball. He played for 8 teams, 6 of which he only played on for a year, one for two years, and the rest of that time was spent with the San Francisco Giants.
 
The NFL drafted Bobby’s brother and their sister went to the Olympics; to say he had a natural genetic gift for athletics would be an understatement. And to say that he was simply a good player would also be an understatement – I believe he is one of the all-time greats, by any standard. If you are unfamiliar with his achievements:

 

  • 461 career stolen bases (12th on the all time list when he retired)
  • He was the first player in major league history to hit 300 home runs and steal 400 bases
  • Five 30-30 seasons (home runs and stolen bases)
  • Was in his league's top 10 in stolen bases for eleven different seasons (eight of those season in the top six)
  • He was in the top ten seasonal home run hitters in 7 different seasons (9x he was among the top ten in runs scored, 8x in the top ten in total bases - leading the NL in 1973)
  • 3 Gold Gloves
  • 3x All Star

 

What people typically don’t know is that Bobby played baseball in the same outfield as Willy Mays, who took most of the spotlight..and he was a black ball player who played in the wave of ball players to follow Jackie Robinson’s debut.

So he wasn’t the best player on his team, and wasn’t the first black player in the league…and as a result, didn’t get much credit from the media. And although he didn’t receive the accolades that Robinson did for being the first black ball player in the Major League, he DID receive all of the same racism. And he passed on stories about the racism he experienced to his son, Barry…so although Barry grew up in a very different age, he was always finding racism to be an issue – especially when it wasn’t.

Rev. Al Sharpton said Saturday that he believes that the U.S. government has consistently been pursuing black athletes more aggressively than white athletes when steroids are involved. I don’t know about that…certainly McGwire was raked over the coals in Congress – and we’re seeing more attention on Clemens every day. And remember, none of those other athletes have been anywhere near as abrasive or confrontational towards the media (or in general) as Barry Bonds has been.

Bonds (and other) seem to think that Baseball (and “white America” – whatever that is) doesn’t want white ballplayers’ records broken. This season, in fact, Bonds broke Ted Williams’ record for all-time home runs and he had previously broken Mark McGwire’s single season record.

But, Bonds says, he gets tons of hate mail when he has been on the cusp of breaking records. This proves that the reason that he is disliked is due to racism, right? I doubt it. Roger Maris got similar hate mail when he was about to break Babe Ruth’s single season home run record.

Roger Maris, for the record, is white.

"You've got to understand that the fight has always been about the criminalization of black men," Sharpton said.

Unfortunately, non-prescription steroid use is a crime in this day and age (well, in the United States, anyway). If Bonds did this, he made himself a criminal – he wasn’t subject to criminalization for his color any more than Roger Clemens was or Mark McGwire was. And if he got hate mail, it was probably because he’s a prick. If people didn’t want a record broken, it wasn’t because it was a white guy’s record and he’s a black guy…it’s because they like the player who had the record and dislike Bonds.

Surely there are people who dislike Barry for being black (in fact, we even have a name for them, and they’re called “racists” – and generally this is akin to being called “ignorant”). But Rev. Sharpton’s comments are just untrue…this fight against steroids being waged by Congress is definitely ignorance at its best… but not of the racist variety.

Not even if Reverend Al and Barry think it is.

 

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