Tag Archives: Major League Baseball

The Contract That Broke The Color Line

3 Jun

Jackie Robinson’s history making contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers is on display at the National Constitution Center until June 5.

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Jackie Robinson’s Contract on display at the National Constitution Center. Photo by Chris Murray

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

When the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, they did so without taking the rights and freedoms of African-Americans into consideration.

The tumultuous journey of African-Americans from slavery to the Civil Rights Movement to the current cries of Black Lives Matter has been about making America live up to the lofty ideals of freedom and equality those documents imply.

When Jackie Robinson signed a contract to play Major League Baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers, that contract became an influential document not only for sports fans, but also for the nation as a whole.

Even the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King took notice. In a conversation he had with Hall of Famer Don Newcomb, King expressed his appreciation for Robinson’s willingness to lead the charge.

“You’ll never know how easy you and Jackie and (Larry) Doby and Campy (Roy Campanella) made it for me to do my job by what you did on the baseball field,” King said.

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Robinson’s signature on this contract changed the face of sports and American back in 1947. Photo by Chris Murray.

From now until June 5, you can see the original contract that Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers at the National Constitution Center.

While there are a lot of important documents on display at the Constitution Center, the Robinson contract is equally as compelling as all the others. Robinson’s contract symbolized the first major confrontation with a segregated America and was part of the ongoing battle to make the country live up to it’s ideas of equality and justice.

Robinson’s entry into major league baseball was met with violent hostility both on and off the field. He was spiked by his opponents and jeered by hostile white fans who were offended by the mere presence of African-Americans in what was supposed to be the American game.

In his first two years with the Dodgers, Robinson had to take affronts to his personal dignity for a cause that went beyond the box score. Eight years later, ordinary African-Americans from students to janitors were peacefully sitting in at lunch counters, boycotting segregated public transportation and education facilities.

When you think about it, Robinson striking down baseball’s color barrier preceded President Harry S. Truman’s executive order to integrate the military, Brown versus Board of Education, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Rides, lunch counter sit-ins, Birmingham movement, the March from Selma to Montgomery and the March on Washington. Dr. King described what Robinson went through:

“A pilgrim that walked in the lonesome byways toward the high road of Freedom. He was a sit-inner before sit-ins, a freedom rider before freedom rides.”

It’s actually kind of fitting that Robinson’s contract is hanging out here in the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia didn’t live up to that name when it came to him. Robinson had to deal with racism and hatred, he couldn’t stay in the same hotels as his teammates, and that’s on top of having to deal with a hostile Phillies squad led by manager Ben Chapman.

Black folks didn’t forget that hostility. An entire generation of African-American baseball fans refused to root for the Phillies even when they started signing Black players to the team and Black players, including free agency pioneer Curt Flood, didn’t want to play here either.

Recently, the Philadelphia City Council issued a resolution apologizing to Robinson and his family for the harsh treatment he received here as a baseball player.

So like the Constitution, Robinson’s contract is a piece of paper that symbolizes how far we’ve come and how far we’ve got to go in race relations in America.

The National Constitution Center is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $14.50 for adults, $13 for seniors, students and youngsters 13-18, and $8 for children aged 4-12.

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Pete Rose Should Be in the Hall of Fame, But Needs to Admit Gambling Addiction

15 Dec

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Pete Rose was recently denied reinstatement to baseball by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. Photo by FoxSports.com.

Pete Rose was recently denied reinstatement to baseball by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. Photo by FoxSports.com.

Pete Rose’s bid to get reinstated by Major League Baseball and restore his eligibility for Baseball’s Hall of Fame has come to a bitter end.

Baseball’s all-time hits leader was denied reinstatement back into MLB after being banned for life in 1989 for betting on baseball.

In a three-page statement, Manfred concluded that Rose “has not presented credible evidence of a reconfigured life either by an honest acceptance by him of his wrongdoing, so clearly established by the Dowd Report, or by a rigorous, self-aware and sustained program of avoidance by him of all the circumstances that led to his permanent ineligibility in 1989.”

There are a couple of disturbing, tragic things here in which there are no real winners here and it’s just sad for baseball no matter how you slice it.

Rose’ Hall of Fame career which includes a record-breaking 4,256 hits, a lifetime .303 batting average, three World Series rings, and 17 All-Star appearances is now and perhaps forever persona non-grata in baseball. Rose’s ongoing refusal to admit that he bet on baseball, which is typical of someone with an addiction, has always been the deal breaker.

While Rose has been rightfully banned from working with a team as a manager or in any other capacity in baseball, it’s just wrong to keep him out of Cooperstown. To me that’s the compromise that should have been made in this situation.

I think we all get the message that gambling in baseball is wrong. Rose’s non-participation in baseball for the last 26 years makes it very clear that if you compromise the integrity of the game you will not be in the game in any capacity.
Rose has paid the price for committing baseball’s ultimate sin and he needs to admit to himself that he has a serious mental health problem.

For all of Rose’s flaws and transgressions, he was one of baseball’s greatest players and that’s something you can never take away from him. Rose earned all those hits for what he did on the field. The man gave his all on the field and didn’t shortchange fans by not running out routine ground balls. Rose played the game with the same passion and fury as a Roberto Clemente and a Ty Cobb.

As far as I am concerned sports Halls of Fame whether it’s baseball, football, hockey or basketball, should be monuments to what that athlete did on the field or in the arena. It’s all about the contribution to the sport and nothing else should matter.

Given that the Baseball Hall of Fame has its share of disreputable characters, jerks, and knuckleheads who just happened to be great players, great broadcasters and great sportswriters, Rose would be in great company. This isn’t the Vatican and we are not canonizing saints.

American sports fans need to wake up to the notion that one’s ability to excel in sports doesn’t mean that they’re going to be people of high or low character. They are human beings who reflect the best and the worst of us.

All that said, it’s been long overdue for Rose to come clean and admit that he has a gambling problem. It’s an issue of Rose’s mental health and well-being. That’s something far more important than his reinstatement in baseball and the Hall of Fame.

One of the things that came out of Rose’s meeting with the commissioner was that he was still betting on baseball. Manfred’s report also said that Rose tried to deny it, but then admitted he was still doing it. That spoke volumes and it showed the commissioner that Rose is still denial of his problem.

People recovering from drug or alcohol abuse don’t show up in places where drugs and alcohol are present. A Las Vegas casino is the last place you should ever see an addicted gambler.

For his exploits as a player, Rose should be in the Hall of Fame, but for his own good he needs to acknowledge that he has a problem.

One Last Hurrah for Jeter: The Captain Walks Away Unscathed

28 Sep

By Barry Federovitch

For the Chris Murray Report 

When it was over Thursday night at Yankee Stadium, it felt scripted.

Derek Jeter's next stop is the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Derek Jeter’s next stop is the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Derek Sanderson Jeter, the elegant shortstop with the rough-house hockey player’s name, lined the game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth of his final home game in the Bronx to put an exclamation point on the most extraordinary Yankee career since Mickey Mantle called it quits over 45 years ago.

That Jeter’s euphoric swan song came on the 41st anniversary of Willie Mays saying goodbye to America was somehow apropos in degree of love. There are some sports figures, regardless of statistics, that are bigger than life, so easily identifiable that they become ingrained in the culture, breeding reactions one way or the other.

Jeter has always been such a figure.

While pundits and lover-haters argues where the Captain belongs in the pantheon of New York sports legends, there was no debating two points.

* The last 20 years should be known as the Jeter Era in New York sports and….
* No Yankee everyday player ever went off into the sunset so gloriously and yet unscathed as the Pequannock, N.J. product.

Some were better. A handful won more often. But in the ultimate irony, for two decades one of the ultimate Yankees was the quintessential Artful Dodger, staying out of trouble, maintaining his poise and earning enough respect to be appreciated by a large portion of non Yankee fans.

Think about some other great Yankee everyday players.

There was no tragic ending like Munson or Gehrig. No aloofness or injury like Joe D. No prima donna theatrics like A-Rod or Reggie. And no unhealthy lifestyle underlined by a degree of sadness like Mantle or Ruth.

It wasn’t perfect, but like DiMaggio’s swing and stride it was the epitome of grace.

Oh, there could have been an even better ending with his team missing the postseason for a second straight year. After so much early glory, the Yankees won only one world title in Jeter’s final 14 seasons and missed the postseason in three of his final seven.

Some have picked on his defensive deficiencies (including a negative career defensive WAR) and noted that he might not have been the best or most important Yankee when they won four world titles from 1996-2000. With this ammunition, any analysis would leave him off the list of top five players in franchise history and any top 20 list of all players.

But other numbers tell another story and in Jeter’s case, the whole always seemed to exceed the sum of its parts; he was the guy you didn’t want to face with the game on the line in the late innings. Unlike his talented es-teammate Robinson Cano, October was his time with some 200 career postseason hits, many of them memorable and important.

Many have criticized the over-the-top nature of his farewell tour (remember that Mays retired only five days before his night, while Mantle called it quits in Match). But is there ever any good way to say goodbye to our heroes?

The light of their glory, while bright, always shines too briefly. With this sentiment for a moment Thursday night it felt like the 2001 World Series again with Jeter’s game-winning homer earning the unique moniker of Mr, November.

And yes, since it was his first walk off hit in seven years, one couldn’t help but wonder if he was served up a meatball like Denny McLain delivered to Mantle in the closing days of 1968.

But such is so often the legacy of great ones; so many things go right that we often wonder if their path is scripted. They see things we can never see and hold the keys to kingdoms of which most of us can only imagine.

So it has been for the Yankees’ unscathed captain, who Thursday night added one last special chapter before stepping away into our collective memories.

Papelbon’s Blown Save and Fallout from Obscene Gesture Typifies Phillies Miserable Season

15 Sep

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun.

Jonathan Papelbon said he was adjusting his equipment and this was not an obscene gesture.

Jonathan Papelbon said he was adjusting his equipment and this was not an obscene gesture.

PHILADELPHIA—If you’re looking for signs that the Phillies miserable 2014 season can’t end soon enough, the bizarre ending to Sunday’s game certainly provided evidence of that.

For the eight innings, it looked like the Phillies were on their way to a three-game sweep of the Florida Marlins. They came into the ninth inning with a 4-1 lead and closer Jonathan Papelbon on the mound to put the game on ice. He had converted 14 straight save opportunities since July 24.

But the disaster struck Papelbon and the Phillies in the ninth inning as the Marlins scored four runs to steal away a 5-4 win over the Phils, who head on their final road trip of the season by losing a game they should have won.

It was typical of a year where the Phillies can’t seem to get things right on a regular basis and the way this game is just another example of why the Phils are at the bottom of the National League East standings.

Papelbon’s exit from the game after the Phillies surrendered the lead in the ninth inning became the theatre of the absurd.

Umpire Joe West and Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon engage in a heated argument after the Phils pitcher is ejected from the game.

Umpire Joe West and Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon engage in a heated argument after the Phils pitcher is ejected from the game.

As he was coming off the field, Papelbon was being booed loudly by the 30, 201 fans gathered at Citizen’s Bank Park. Before leaving the field, Papelbon grabbed his crouch, making what could be interpreted as an obscene gesture to the fans.

That prompted second-base umpire Joe West to eject Papelbon from the game.

“That’s what I saw and so did the plate umpire,” West said. “You can’t do things like that. The whole thing started because the fans booed him and he made an obscene gesture. He had no business doing that. He’s got be more professional than that.”

Papelbon said told reporters after the game he was adjusting his equipment and was not making an obscene gesture to the crowd.

“By no means was I directing anything at any fans,” Papelbon said. “I have a four-year and a five-year-old son and a daughter. I am not out here doing inappropriate things. Come on this is baseball. I think Joe (West) just took something to a whole new level that didn’t need to go there. It is unfortunate that he took it there because by no means did it mean to be like that.”

Having played baseball myself, I can see it where he might have been adjusting his protective cup. However, I think he should have waited until he got in the dugout. Quite frankly, I think he did it on purpose out of the emotion of blowing a save and getting booed by the crowd.

Things became even more intense when Papelbon and West got into heated argument after Papelbon was ejected. West grabbed Papelbon’s jersey and tossed him out of the way before first base umpire Marty Foster broke the two up.

“Joe had no right to grab me by any means so I will file a complaint for that for sure,” Papelbon said.
West said the altercation between he and Papelbon started when he came to the Phillies dugout to toss him out of the game.

“I told him ‘you’ve got to go,’ “ West said. “And then he charged out of the dugout and his bumped into my hat and I grabbed him and I said, ‘Get off of me.’”

Throughout this season, the Phillies have had games where one aspect of their game was going strong while others have broken down to cause them to lose.

On Sunday, the Phillies scored enough runs to win the game. They took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on an RBI single by third baseman Maikel Franco. Miami tied the game in the fourth on a solo homer by second baseman Kiki Hernandez.

The Phils took the lead in the fourth inning when left fielder Domonic Brown hit into a double play with the bases loaded to drive in one run. Catcher Carlos Ruiz had an RBI single in the same inning to give his team a 3-1 lead.

The Phillies got an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth when centerfielder Ben Revere scored on a fielder’s choice by second baseman Chase Utley.

Meanwhile, Phillies starting pitcher David Buchanan had a solid outing, allowing just one run on five hits in six and a third innings. He had strike outs and one walk. He threw 89 pitches.

The Phillies set up men in the bullpen—Antonio Bastardo and Justin De Fratus did their part in stopping the Marlins offense and held them no runs and no hits.

But just when it looked like the Phillies were clicking on all cylinders in this game, they shot themselves in the foot again with a bad outing by a closer who had problems leaving the ball across the middle of the plate.

It’s been that kind of a year.

Phillies Are Not Even Close to Being Contenders

3 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Roberto Hernandez had a rough night in an 11-2 loss to the Mets.

Roberto Hernandez had a rough night in an 11-2 loss to the Mets.

PHILADELPHIA—You would like to think that because it’s only June that there is plenty of time for the last-place Phillies, who are now six and one-half games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves, to right their ship and back into contention.

Considering that the Phillies (24-31) lost four out of five games to a New York Mets squad that is quite frankly just as bad as they are, you gotta have a lot of faith to think the Phils can turn it around. I mean a whole lot of faith to believe this team can get it together.

“We have to get better at everything. That’s the whole goal,” said Phillies second baseman Chase Utley in a rare post-game interview with reporters. “I don’t think there’s any one thing missing. We have to hit better and we have to play better defense.”

Looking at the way they are playing at this point in the season, it might be an accomplishment if they can just get to .500. The playoffs, even in the era of two wildcard teams, are way out of the question. The July 31st trade deadline is looking more and more like a fire sale.

Monday’s 11-2 loss to the Mets was a combination of bad pitching, a lack of offense, poor defense and a horrific night by the bullpen. It was a microcosm of a bad season by a lackluster team.

“I would say that we’ve showed signs of fundamental baseball,” said manager Ryne Sandberg. “We’ve played better defense than we did in this series. It’s just putting together the pitching, the defense, executing throughout the game and having some timely hits and getting some better run support. Putting it all together or more parts of the game together.”

The starting pitching, which has had some good moments this season, fell completely apart in the series finale against the Mets. Starter pitcher Roberto Hernandez, who has pitched well in his starts throughout the season, had a bad night or more accurately one bad inning.

For the game, Hernandez (2-2) gave up five runs, four came in the sixth inning when the Mets sent 10 men to the plate a pair of RBI doubles by David Wright and Willmer Flores put the Phillies in a 5-0 hole from which they never recovered.

The Phillies had a chance to minimize the damage in that inning when Mets first baseman Lucas Duda hit a routine ground ball to Utley who mishandled a ball that should have led to an inning-ending double-play. Instead, it loaded the bases and Flores got the double to break the game open.

On offense, the Phillies scored their runs on an RBI groundout by Ryan Howard that scored Cesar Hernandez in the sixth and a wild pitch by Mets pitcher Jeurys Familia that scored centerfielder Ben Revere from third in the eighth.

In both of those innings, the Phillies had the first two men reach with nobody out and got just two runs out of it. They were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. If there is anything that’s been consistent about this team is its futility with runners in scoring position.

The bullpen, which came into the game with a 1.60 earned run average since May 22, gave up six runs in the ninth inning, including a grand-slam home run to Flores, who had not hit a home run all year for the Mets. That sent the fans, some of whom were doing Eagles and Flyers chants, rushing to the exits.

The Phllies finished the homestand with just four wins in 11 games. They are 12-19 at home for the season. Teams that contend don’t struggle at home. The 2014 Phillies should never be confused with a team that is contending for anything.

When you look at their starting lineup, you have guys who are capable of hitting and yet they don’t do it on a consistent basis. Ryan Howard is either feast or famine. He was 8-for-45 during the homestand, but also had four home runs and 15 runs batted in.

You also have guys like Marlon Byrd, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins, who are not having bad years individually. But they haven’t come through in clutch situations with any kind of consistency. Domonic Brown, who was an All-Star last season, is only hitting .206 with just four home runs and 27 runs batted in.

Yet, Sandberg believes his squad is still capable of being a good team that can put together some wins to get back in the pennant race.

“We showed better baseball than what we’ve played overall and I believe the core group is there,” Sandberg said.

 

Phillies Bats Smash Reds Again in Support of Cliff Lee

18 May

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Cody Asche ha been swinging a hot bat for the Phillies.

Cody Asche has been swinging a hot bat for the Phillies.

PHILADELPHIA—Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg has been saying all season that he wanted to see his team to score early in the game, the middle and late.

In Sunday’s 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Citizen’s Bank, the Phillies did just that and they did it with the long-ball while getting a solid pitching performance from starter Cliff Lee (4-4, 3.18). The game was a showcase of the team’s offensive potential if they can do it on a consistent basis.

“I think you just saw in the last two days what can happen when we all put together all three phases of the game— pitching, defense and our offense,” said third baseman Cody Asche, whose three-run homer in the seventh sealed the Phillies win. “We’ve been missing a piece or two here or there in a couple games and dropped a couple of tough ones. I think you saw the potential of the team not just our offense.”

Lee wasn’t his usual dominating self, but he was tough enough to keep the Reds off the board after they scored two in the first inning. For the game, he allowed just two runs on nine hits with three strikeouts with just one walk.

“Cliff Lee, with his 116 pitches, got off to a bit of a slow start in the first inning with his velocity, but picked it up and it was solved,” Sandberg said. “He competed out there and he mixed his pitches well.”

Just as important as his effort on the mound, Lee got some run support from the Phillies offense, especially in the Phillies half of the first inning when they got back-to-back home runs from lead-off hitter Jimmy Rollins and catcher Wil Nieves.

“It was definitely good for our team because it put us back in the game,” Lee said. “For us to answer back that quick was definitely nice. It was nice for us to answer back right there. It’s definitely easier to pitch with the lead and it’s easier to attack the strike zone.”

Nieves said answering the Reds in their half of the first inning with home runs was a huge boost in momentum for a team that has struggle to hit at times throughout the year.

“We got the talent. It’s happy to see all of the guys getting hot at the same time,” Nieves said. “Hitting is contagious. … I know we’re a team capable of doing this day in and day. Us coming back from two runs down was just huge and Cliff Lee kept them there until we busted it open late in the game. It was huge.”

The Phillies took the lead for good in the fifth inning on an RBI ground out to first by second baseman Chase Utley that scored Lee, who singled to lead off the inning. The Phillies got a solo homer from right fielder Marlon Byrd in the sixth.

In the seventh inning, the Phillies put the game away for good on an RBI single by Byrd and Asche’s three-run homer. It was his fourth of the season. During the month of May, Asche is batting .333 with a .418 on-base percentage and has a .625 slugging percentage.

“I’m swinging at more strikes I would say,” Asche said. “The more strikes you swing at, the more chances you’re going to have to put the ball in play hard. You have to be more precise in what you’re looking and go from there.”

Notes-With his 46th career lead-off home run, Rollins has the fourth most leadoff home runs in Major League history behind Ricky Henderson (81), Alfonso Soriano (54) and Craig Biggio (53).