Fake History Ethics, Baseball Division.

Yesterday was the anniversary of a famous day in baseball and American race relations history. From Nationalpastime.com:

May 13, 1947: During the pregame infield practice, a barrage of racial slurs is directed at Jackie Robinson by the Cincinnati fans during the Dodgers’ first visit to Crosley Field this season. Brooklyn shortstop Pee Wee Reese, a Southerner from Kentucky with friends attending the game and captain of the team, engages the black infielder in conversation, and then put his arm around his teammate’s shoulder, a gesture that stuns and silences the crowd.

This  episode in the well-known saga of Jackie Robinson breaking the color line in baseball has taken on the status of legend. It is in the (excellent) biopic about Robinson, “42.” It was re-told in Ken Burns’ documentary “Baseball.” Most enduring of all, the moment is memorialized forever in the statue outside Dodger Stadium—well, forever until Robinson or Reese is cancelled because something unforgivable is unearthed in their past, whereupon UCLA students will pull the thing down as progressives cheer.

I’m preparing a program for the Smithsonian Associates on how baseball has influenced American values, culture, politics, language and society, so it is of special interest to me that there is considerable controversy over whether Reese’s mid-game gesture ever happened. Writes much-lauded baseball essayist Joe Posnanski,

“There is no mention at all of the embrace in the newspapers. Quite the opposite, in fact. The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote that very day that Robinson “was applauded every time he stepped to the plate.” Meanwhile, there is no mention of it in the black press either; Burns insists that the embrace had happened, the black papers “would have done 15 related articles.” There is no photo of it. Robinson’s 1948 book about his first season called “Jackie Robinson: My Own Story” does not mention any such incident….There isn’t a single contemporary account of the embrace in any of the newspapers or magazines.”

Theories abound. The episode happened on a different date. It happened, but not in view of the fans. It is a story that accurately describes what Reese’s support of Robinson—Reese was a white southerner and a team leader, and he and Robinson did become close friends—meant to the black rookie as he battled abuse and racism in that first season of 1947, but there was no literal arm around the shoulder.  Craig Calcaterra, recycling  the controversy yesterday on his NBC blog, theorized, Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/14/2020: Only One Pandemic Note Out Of Five!

Good morning!

I am disgusted with this brain-dead talking point: perhaps my most Trump Deranged Facebook friend posted a rant–at least he wrote his own this time rather than searching the web for the latest from established “resistance” pundits (Dana Milbank, Paul Krugman, Joe Scarborough, about a hundred others)—making the “point” that President Trump wasn’t “elected to do heart surgery,” so the argument that Dr. Fauci’s opinions on the Wuhan virus shouldn’t dictate policy because “he wasn’t elected” were foolish. How did people like my friend get this way? He is obviously amazingly receptive to Democrat-crafted narratives, and probably hypnosis as well, so I guess I should be glad he doesn’t think he’s a chicken.

We elect leaders to consider and weigh many opinions of advisers, experts and specialists in narrow fields to balance those among other considerations in deciding what is in the best long and short term interests of the nation. That’s why, among other reasons, the we have a civilian in charge of the armed services. This increasingly popular (and tiresome) claim from the Left that if the recommendations of scientist aren’t followed, it is proof of ignorance and recklessness is logically, historically and politically unsupportable. If it’s sincere rather than a partisan tactic, it is ignorant  as well.

Scientists aren’t accountable to the public for their opinions; if they are wrong, they just come up with new theories and conclusions.  Scientists and health care specialists also, as we have said here many times, operate within the tunnel vision and priorities of their own specialties. All Dr. Fauci focuses on is the likely (as they appear at any given point) health consequences of national policy. Economic, security, political consequences are not his concern, nor should they be. Arguing that his position on the best national policy must be accepted by the President is irresponsible as well as incompetent, and this is true without even considering the fact that Fauci and the “experts” have been repeatedly wrong about the pandemic already, as Senator Paul pointed out this week.

1.How sports teaches character. I am going to have to take two hours out of my day because the MLB channel, improvising like crazy to come up with programming without any baseball games to cover, is replaying the 1975 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds, best known for Game 6, when Carlton Fisk hit a walk-off home run in the 12th inning of arguably the most exciting World Series game ever played. I was at Game Six and two more in that seven game series (thanks to the generosity of my late law school friends and classmates Mitch and Myron Dale, whose father was then president of the Reds), but it was one I didn’t see in person, Game 4, that was the Ethics Game.

Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant, with his team facing a daunting three games-to-one deficit if it lost, pitched a nerve-wracking, complete game 5-4 victory, protecting a one-run lead for most of it despite lacking his best stuff against the toughest line-up in baseball. Nearly every inning, the Reds had men on base and threatened to take the lead; over and over again Sox manager Darrell Johnson trudged out to the mound to replace Tiant, only to have his ace shake his head, insist that he would get the job done, and demand that his boss return to the dugout. TV closeups of the Cuban’s grim and sweat-covered face showed pure determination as he took the fate of the team on his own back fearlessly and without hesitation. Tiant, an old man in baseball years, threw over 180 pitches that night in the era before they counted pitches; today, starters are seldom allowed to throw more than 100. Even more than the famous Curt Schilling “bloody sock” game in 2004, that athletic performance epitomizes for me the ethical virtues of professionalism, honor, perseverance, accountability, fortitude, courage and sacrifice. I have pictured Luis Tiant’s face  many times since when I have been under pressure to succeed, or facing a challenge while not feeling at my best. Continue reading

Now THIS Is Moral Luck And Chaos Theory! How An Unethical Practical Joke Got Its Target a Plum Job, And Pete Rose Banned From Baseball

Yes, this one is about baseball. Trust me, I can find baseball ethics stories even when there’s no baseball. It is also about moral luck, how unethical conduct can have good results and vice-versa, and Chaos Theory, which posits that in complex systems, even insignificant changes can  set into motion unpredictable chain reactions, and where they stop, nobody knows.

On Oct. 2, 1983, the Boston Red Sox said goodbye to Carl Yastrzemski at Fenway Park. I was there, along with my wife, thanks to the kindness of a good friend  (who eventually real-life de-friended me over a political disagreement in an episode I will never understand. I don’t like to think about it,) Yaz got a great send-off for his final game, with an hour-long pregame ceremony, the retirement of his No. 8 jersey and a letter, read aloud to the crowd, from President Reagan. Yaz, memorably, rounded the park, touching the hands of the fans, and dramatically ripped off his jersey as he went down the steps of the dugout for the last time as a player. I’ll never forget it.

Since the retirement of a Red Sox legend after 22 years was the biggest story in the city as well as in baseball,  the Boston sports talk radio show “The Sports Huddle” on WHDH decided to play a little joke. Let me interject here that “The Sports Huddle” was always a vile feature of the sports scene in Boston, uncivil, unfair, with loutish hosts and the kinds of callers who epitomized the worst stereotypes of Boston fans.  It’s gone now, and good riddance. But I digress….

The show decided it would be funny to ignore Carl Yastrzemski, who the show and its callers had been generally vicious about for a decade, and to devote its four-hours on Yaz’s day to a joke tribute to as unremarkable a baseball figure as they could find. The producers settled on the first-base coach of  the Montreal Expos,  55-year-old Vern Rapp, who had once managed the St. Louis Cardinals without distinction, and who had announced that he would end his baseball career at the end of the the 1983 season. Of course, only the most hard- core baseball fans in Boston would have any idea who Vern Rapp was.

The Sports Huddle jerks decided to play it all straight, presenting a solemn ,extended tribute to the mediocre, obsure,Expos coach. They tracked down former minor league teammates of Rapp’s,  friends  from his time in St. Louis, and  Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon, interviewing them all about Rapp’s fine qualities as a baseball man and human being, and how much baseball would miss him. Then they interviewed Rapp himself. Nobody suspected that it was all a put-on.

At least nobody dumped a bucket of blood on his head, like they did to Carrie White. Continue reading

Baseball May Be Missing, But Baseball Ethics Marches On; The MLB Verdict On The Boston Red Sox Sign Stealing Allegations

If you are just joining us, the Houston Astros (if you don’t know that’s a baseball team, then none of this will make sense to you, and neither does the United States in all likelihood) were slammed by Major League Baseball after it was determined that the team, primarily through the efforts of then-coach Alex Cora and veteran player Carlos Beltran, systematically utilized cameras at home games to steal catchers’ signs to opposing pitchers and relay them to Astros batters during their at-bats. This, the investigation found, continued through the 2017 season, post-season and World Series, which the Astros won. (Ethics Alarms covered the cheating scandal from many aspects, here.) The punishment meted out to the Astros was substantial, though not as severe as some, including me, would have liked. I think the team should have been stripped of their 2017 World Championship.

Shortly after the Astros scandal was first revealed by the baseball news media, the next year’s World Champions, the Boston Red Sox, were accused of another sign stealing scheme during 2018, one that involved using the team’s video replay equipment, which is near the dugout during games, to study the opposing team’s signs and relay them to batters. This seemed especially ominous since the bench coach  who had been identified as the mastermind behind the Astros scheme in 2017 was the manager of the Red Sox in 2018, and had led them to a record-setting World Series run.

MLB interviewed Red Sox players and management in a mysteriously long investigation, and only yesterday revealed the results and the sanctions. Boston’s video replay system operator J.T. Watkins was suspended without pay for one year, and banned from holding that same position with any team. Boston was stripped of the  its second-round draft pick in the2020  amateur.  Alex Cora, who was fired by the Red Sox in January after the revelations from the Astros investigation,  was suspended for this year, but only for his Astros conduct in 2017. The investigation exonerated him of any role in the Sox matter, which MLB found to be confined to Watkins acting on his own intermittently, and a few players. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/7/2020: Is It Just Me, Or Does Anyone Else Feel Like They Are In A “Twilight Zone” Episode?

A really boring one.

Zombies would be an improvement…

1. More on my mask photo ethics conflict...I wrote about this in a comment on the post last night about Rep. Lee, but I’m still obsessing about it because I still don’t know what the ethical course is. When I saw that photo of Rep. Lee wearing her mask with her nose exposed (this makes her a nose-breathing idiot rather than a mouth-breathing idiot; it was also upside down), I was going to post it with two other photos showing elected officials doing the same thing. At literally the last second, an ethics alarm sounded. The other two officials, a city mayor and a member of Congress known to be, shall we say, an unlikely “Jeopardy!” contestant, were both black. In the case of Lee, who is the chair of a task force on the national response to the epidemic,the validity of pointing out the visual evidence that she’s an epic boob (we knew that, but still) is unassailable, perhaps even by the race-baiting standards of the Congresswoman herself, who  repeatedly attributed any criticism of Barack Obama to racism.

Objectively, however, when accompanied by two other photos of African-American political figures making fools of themselves, would not the array appear to be a racist “dog whistle”? I don’t need to be tarred as a racist—I already have lost considerable income because I dare to oppose the anti-Trump mobs—and this would invite that result. Moreover, as I also commented last night, conservative sites were stinking with racist comments about the Lee photo. (“If you let blacks vote, you get blacks in power over you. This applies to every other non-American race and culture too,” wrote one commenter on Instapundit.) Thus the Second Niggardly Principle seemed to be triggered:

“When an individual or group can accomplish its legitimate objectives without engaging in speech or conduct that will offend individuals whose basis for the supposed offense is emotional, mistaken or ignorant, but is not malicious and is based on well-established impulses of human nature, it is unethical to intentionally engage in such speech or conduct.”

In the narrow context of my post, I’m confident that this is the right call. In a larger context, however, the Third Niggardly Principle seems to apply:

When, however, suppressing speech and conduct based on an individual’s or a group’s sincere claim that such speech or conduct is offensive, however understandable and reasonable this claim may be, creates or threatens to create a powerful precedent that will undermine freedom of speech, expression or political opinion elsewhere, calls to suppress the speech or conduct must be opposed and rejected.”

Indeed Ethics Alarms has made a recent Third Niggardly Principle stand, refusing to accept the widespread ban on any designation of the virus that references its origins and the Chinese government’s role in turning it into a pandemic. I have done this even though the Chinese connection has led some thugs to attack Asian-Americans. I believe the principle that facts and words must not be suppressed because some may misconstrue them or react irrationally is a crucial one, and a principle that the totalitarian Left is working hard to deconstruct.

So in light of all the factors, what was, or is, the ethical way to handle this conflict?

2. Speaking of polls, here’s where the last one sits. Polling is still open, and you can vote as many times as you want, for different candidates. The poll asks you to choose which Democratic Presidential candidates would endorse withholding online classes from all public school students because poor students didn’t have WiFi access:

3. And speaking of masks, here’s what NBC Washington tweeted along with a photo of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam demonstrating the right way to wear a mask: Continue reading

Baseball Movie Ethics:The New York Times Comes Up With A Perfect List

There are three reasons for this post:

#1 is that I criticize New York Times reporters and writers so often for bias and incompetence that it is only fair that I give credit when one of them does something not only right, but exactly as I would have done it.

#2 is that the “something” is a list of the best baseball movies to watch while trying to endure both the anxieties of the Wuhan virus disruption and the delay of the baseball season.

#3 is that I am trying to scale down Part 2 of the Ethics Alarms inspirational films list (Part I is here), and this helps: I can remove the baseball movies now.

Times film critic Bruce Fretts picked what he called the ten best baseball films of the last 50 years. I would call them the best baseball films of all time. The one borderline pick he left out would be “The Lou Gehrig Story,” which is more a biography than a true baseball movie, and it’s also sad. Only two films on Fretts’ list are sad. Baseball movies shouldn’t be sad, though I agree with him on the exceptions.

I would add two more baseball movies if it was a Top 12: “The Sandlot” (1993), which brings back memories of my own pick-up baseball gang (and my late English Mastiff, Patience) and “Fever Pitch” (2005), which perhaps is more of a Red Sox movie than a baseball movie. (It had me from the moment Jimmy Fallon kissed his hand and deposited the love on a picture of Tony Conigliaro.) These, however really are the ten best.  Fretts listed them alphabetically, and I wouldn’t try to rank them. Continue reading

The Pandemic, Medical Ethics, And Baseball: What Exactly ARE “Essential Surgery And Medical Procedures”?

One of the policy and medical ethics issues that is looming larger as the pandemic continues is the requirement that hospitals not be burdened by  “non-essential surgery and medical procedures.”

I agree: it would have been better if  Ethics Alarms has more precisely defined “essential surgery and medical procedures”  in the previous post on the issue, when I examined the question of whether abortion can be ethically put in that category as Texas and Ohio have decreed. Abortion, as that post noted, is a particularly poor  choice for such analysis, given that our society cannot agree on what it is, other than the Supreme Court’s ruling that whatever it is, a woman has a Constitutionally right to do it.

Incidentally: can we agree that there is also a constitutional right to have any surgery or medical procedure? It hasn’t been specifically stated by the Court, but I assume that the abortion precedent applies to everything else as well, from having a kidney transplant to getting a wart removed to acquiring breast implants. These would all fall under the right of privacy and inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Forbidding any surgery, non-essential or otherwise, is a big deal, and my guess is that a judicial challenge to the whole concept would stand a substantial chance of success. What is essential surgery to me might not be such to you, but frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn, and unlike an abortion, my procedure isn’t killing anyone. Continue reading