Let’s talk about Baseball heroes: Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente are two that quickly come to mind; both stars, one broke the color line, the other, a Puerto Rican, died trying to help earthquake victims in Nicaragua. We’ve noted here often another true hero: Curt Flood, who sacrificed his livelihood to free players from a system that made them, in the words of his biography, “Well-Paid Slave(s)”. Robinson and Clemente are in the sport’s Hall of Fame, but Baseball, abetted by press box people, has given Flood little applause for challenging its legally sanctioned control over players.
We have been remiss for disregarding another player-hero, ignored by the establishment, who never got his due. Danny Gardella, a wartime outfielder with the NY Giants in the 1940s, anticipated Flood’s audacious act. He hit 18 HRS with 71 RBIs and .272 BA, in his second season with the Giants in 1945. In 1946, the team offered him a salary of $4,500, take it or leave it. When the Mexican League said it would pay $10,000, Gardella “jumped.” Other, bigger names followed – Sal Magle, Max Lanier, Vern Stephens, Mickey Owen, Alex Carrasquel, to name a few.
Commissioner Happy Chandler imposed a five-year ban on those who didn’t return promptly for violating the reserve clause that gave the clubs control. In 1947, Gardella went to court to challenge the ban – as Flood would do more than 20 years later. He had to drop his lawsuit when proceedings dragged out into 1949, draining his resources. But he had raised a valid issue that wouldn’t go away. “I let the whole world know,” he told the LA Times with pride in 1990, “that the reserve clause was unfair.”
Skipper Obama awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom this week to 16 American “heroes,”, including Ben Bradlee, the Washington Post editor who published the Pentagon Papers, which exposed the futility of the Vietnam War. We consider Edward Snowden and Chelsea (Bradley) Manning similarly deserving for their exposure of Team USA wrongdoing on different battlefields. Australian Julian Assange also merits a tribute for his WikiLeaks operation. We’ve neglected to acknowledge all such heroes – it’s hard to keep up before Team Obama has them disappear into jail. We did, earlier this week, make reference to the work of another hero without mentioning his name. Jeremy Hammond, a 28-year-old Chicagoan, was convicted of a series of hacking offenses and sentenced to 10 years in prison last week. Among his illegal disclosures was this chilling information (passed to WikiLeaks and Rolling Stone): that government and corporate contractor Stratfor teamed to try to connect non-violent dissenters to terrorism, thus making them targets for prosecution. For some reason, the corporate media waved the story away.
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The Washington-Texas Match: Skipper Ron Washington seems to be something of a hero to the Rangers front office. No sooner was his team eliminated from the post-season, than Texas GM Jon Daniels said it was “not a question” that Washington would return as manager. Couple of days later, Daniels said he “preferred” to think in terms of extending Washington’s contract beyond 2014. The extension hasn’t happened yet; it won’t be surprising if the move is put off until Daniels sees how much his skipper gets out of the Prince Fielder-enhanced version of the team next season.
Blockbuster Hay: How desperate were pastime pundits for a blockbuster hot stove deal – i.e. Ian Kinsler for Fielder? Well, Bill Chuck, on Gammons Daily, ticked off ways the deal could impact on no fewer than 19 players connected to 10 teams, including Texas and Detroit – from Elvis Andrus (alphabetically) to Max Scherzer. The list includes top free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Sin-Shoo Choo, Carlos Beltran and Joe Nathan. That opens a lot of speculation fodder between now and the next big deal.
Hopeful Upgrades: The non-explosive deal yesterday in which the Cardinals traded third baseman David Freese to the Angels for center fielder Peter Bourjos is worthy of modest notice because both sides upgraded in positions where they felt they needed improvement. Incumbents Chris Nelson in LA and Jon Jay in St.Louis now have the challenge of proving the feeling was wrong.
Listing in Arizona: Fourteen of the 30 teams taking part in the Arizona Fall League had players make Baseball America’s top 20 list. Three Cubs prospects made the list, and two each from the Twins, Blue Jays, Marlins and Red Sox. Twins farmhand outfielder Byron Buxton was picked number one. The Cubs’ highly rated third baseman Kris Bryant was second, Athletic shortstop Addison Russell third. Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez and Minnesota’s Alex Meyer, both pitchers, finished fourth and fifth on the list.
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