WHO SAVED BASEBALL?
...due consideration as baseball's savior?
Does Sotomayor deserve a place in baseball history?
By MAURY ALLEN
One of the delightful summer arguments, especially when a bunch of guys are sitting around a picnic table with a hot dog in one hand and a beer can in the other, is who invented baseball.
Was it those guys around Pittsfield, Massachusetts, as some now claim because of recently discovered letters and newspaper clippings with the term base ball in the text, in the early 1830s?
Could it really have been General Abner Doubleday who encouraged his Civil War troops in the 1860s to take two and hit to right when they werent hunting rebels.
How about those 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings who moved around the country with flashy uniforms and the bragging rights to the lasting refrain, We play for pay.
A hundred years later, in the summer of 1969, I attended a White House event celebrating baseballs 100th birthday. We sportswriters and baseball executives named Joe DiMaggio the games greatest living player at the event. The Yankee Clipper incorporated the title and piled up millions as a result of it while Ted Williams and Stan Musial were shut out.
Hoboken, New Jersey has a huge downtown plaque suggesting the game really began there in the 1870s when New Yorkers took a ferry across the Hudson to engage in the game.
As the beer cans are crushed and the hot dogs are downed, the arguments go on. No matter. It is all fun in the summer sun.
Now a new argument has emerged in the springtime of 2009.
Who saved baseball?
Was it Babe Ruth for hitting so many home runs in the 1920s and bragging that he should be paid more than President Herbert Hoover because he had a better year than the president?
Was it Lou Gehrig in the 1930s for adding to his consecutive game playing streak each day or Bob Feller for starting out as the hardest thrower in the game at the age of 17 or Ted Williams for hitting .406 in 1941 as DiMaggio batted in 56 consecutive games?
Maybe it was Jackie Robinson for integrating the Great American Pastime in 1947 or Bobby Thomson for The Shot Heard Round the World in 1951 or Americas team of the time, the Brooklyn Dodgers, for finally beating the Yankees in the 1955 World Series and reminding us all that anything is possible in sports or life.
It could have been Curt Flood, as he battled free agency with the help of legendary Marvin Miller, who saved the game with a new business code.
Pete Rose challenged DiMaggio with hits in 44 straight games and the country paid rapt attention.
Maybe it was the big boppers of the 1990s, saddled with chemicals, energizing the game with record breaking home run titles and distant blows.
Now it is clear, as new reports indicate, that it was a female 54-year-old Supreme Court nominee with the melodic name of Sonia Sotomayor who did the deed.
President Barack Obama, in nominating Sotomayor, daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants, pointed out that as a federal district court judge in 1995, she ruled that the National Labor Relations Board had a legitimate gripe against the baseball owners. The owners, as the players struck for better conditions, attempted to change the bargaining rules.
Sotomayor issued an injunction before the 1995 opening day preventing the games fat cats from changing the bargaining rules in midstream.
Yankee president Randy Levine, then the chief negotiator for the owners, said the judges move led to good faith bargaining that produced revenue sharing, the luxury tax and inter-league play.
It still didnt end the designated hitter rule. Maybe Sotomayor is saving that one for her time on the highest courts bench.
Baseball has survived for a century or 125 years or maybe more than 150 if you connect it with English cricket through all sorts of challenges.
President Franklin Roosevelt told Judge Kenesaw Landis to keep the game going during World War II for morale purposes.
Strikes and lockouts slowed it down but never severely damaged it. There were always home run hitters and strikeout pitchers to pick up the slack as soon as play was resumed.
Sotomayor got the owners and players on the same course again in her 1995 ruling. With or without her ruling, the guess here is that the two sides would have found a way. They always did.
Obama seems good on spin control. This one will help Sotomayor earn her confirmation. How could anyone vote against the lady who saved the Great American Pastime?
Gee, wonder how she will vote when gay marriage comes before the Supreme Court?
©2009 by Maury Allen. The Maury Allen caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. This column first posted June 1, 2009.
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