When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring: Lounge Toppling In Chicago


Loretta Micele had begun working concessions for the Chicago White Sox in 1945, at the old Comiskey Park. She was still working in 2005, 60 years later, long after the White Sox had a new stadium. The Chisox were in the World Series that year, and before the first game, a shocked Loretta, then 85, was brought onto the field as the team saluted her long service to the team. She was told that a section of tables and seats next to the stand down the third base line where she sold and handed out hot dogs and Cokes would be named “Loretta’s Lounge” in her honor. Loretta was cheered by the full stadium ,a blew kisses to the crowd. It was a glorious day.

The grandmother of 25 and loyal White Sox fan and employee is gone now, but “Loretta’s Lounge” gives a little bit of immortality to her and, by extension, to the many anonymous workers who make baseball teams and every other organization thrive, if it is to thrive at all.

Did I say “gives”? No, the right term is “gave.” When the White Sox brought Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa out of retirement last year to manage the team, it renamed the area “LaRussa’s Lounge.”

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Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/27/18: On Bullies, Dogs, Signs, Cheats, And The Worst WWII Movie Ever

Good morning.

1. BOY, is that a lazy and inaccurate movie! As usual, they are playing every war movie they can dig up on Memorial Day weekend. I just watched the tail end of  “The Battle of the Bulge,” the 1965 Cinerama Hollywood portrayal of the decisive 1944 WWII battle in the Ardennes that reminds me of my dad, buried in Arlington National Cemetery, more than any other war film, and not because it was in that battle that my father earned his Silver Star. No, the film reminds me of Dad because he hated it so much. He regarded it as an insult to the veterans who fought the battle, and  a cretinous distortion of history in every way. His name for the movie was “How Henry Fonda Won the Second World War.”

The most striking of the endless misrepresentations in the movie is the absence of snow. The battle’s major feature was that it was fought in freezing, winter conditions, on snow covered terrain sometimes up to two feet deep. Some battle scenes are shown being fought on flat and bare plain, about as distinct from the mountainous, thickly forested territory where the actual battle took place as one could imagine. My father also started complaining during the film, loudly, about the use of modern American tanks to portray the German Tiger tanks.

Former President (and, of course, former Allied Commander) Eisenhower came out of retirement to hold a press conference to denouncing “The Battle of the Bulge” for  its gross  inaccuracies. THAT made my father happy.

2. Funny! But…no, it’s just funny. Scott Campbell, the owner of the Pell City Fitness gym in Pell City, Alabama,  put up a sign that says “tired of being fat and ugly? Just be ugly!” City officials told him to take down the sign or be fined, saying it is too big and needs a permit, but other business owners told the local news media that they have never heard of the ordinance the city is citing being enforced. The suspicion is that Campbell is being singled out because some have complained that the sign is “insensitive.” No, it’s just funny…

This is the ethical problem with excessively restrictive laws, rules and regulations that are not consistently enforced. Prosecution can be used for ideological and partisan discrimination. Not only is the sign benign, it is not even original: that same language is on fitness company ads all over the country. So far, it looks like the community is supporting Pell and that the city will back down, but this is Alabama. Call me pessimistic, but I doubt the sign would be allowed to stand for long in Washington State or California if an ordinance could be found to justify pulling it down.

The First Amendment dies in increments. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: The Chicago White Sox

In 1994, Nevest Coleman, 25 and the father of two small  children, had a job he loved as  a groundskeeper at Comiskey Park, where the White Sox play.

That same year,  Coleman was wrongly convicted of rape and murder, and sent to prison. At the end of last year,  following  23 years behind bars,  DNA evidence proved that he had not he had not committed the crime. He was released.

And the White Sox gave him his old job back. As Major League Baseball’s Opening Day looms, Coleman once again is caring for the green field.

How often does that happen, I wonder? Continue reading

Why Shouldn’t Baseball Star Jose Abreu Be Deported?

No,no,no! Not “passport to eating,” EATING A PASSPORT!

There was a trial, still ongoing,  in a Federal court in Miami last week, where sports agent Bartolo Hernandez and baseball trainer Julio Estrada were tried before a jury for alien smuggling and conspiracy. Prosecutors say they operated a ring that took Cuban players from the Castros’ island to other countries where they could established residency and sign lucrative Major League Baseball contracts.  The big surprise in the trial came when star Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu told a Miami federal jury Wednesday how he ate his fake passport while flying to the U.S. to cover up the fact that he was arriving illegally as a prime participant in the smuggling operation.

Abreu said he ordered a beer on an Air France flight from Haiti to Miami and used it to wash down the section of his passport showing a false name with  his photo. The reason the unique meal was urgent? Money. Abreu was about to  miss an October 2013 deadline that would forfeit the $68 million agreement he had in place withe White Sox.

“If I had not been there on that particular day, the deadline, then the contract would not be executed and would no longer be valid,” Abreu told jurors. “We had to be in Chicago to sign the contract.”

Ah. Then that’s all right, then!

Abreu the was American League Rookie of the Year in 2014. He  testified under a grant of limited immunity, meaning he wouldn’t be prosecuted if he told the truth on the witness stand.  Jurors learned that the slugger got the fake passport in Haiti, where he and his family had escaped to from Cuba by speedboat in August 2013. One of the associates of Hernandez and Estrada—naturally, the smugglers got a cut of Abreu’s contract—obtained the fake passport and booked the Air France flight, telling the ballplayer to destroy the document on the plane. .

He did not tell him to eat it. Continue reading

Perhaps The Best Baseball Ethics Story Ever: The Chris Sale Uniform Freak-Out

White Sox uniforms

Last night, incomplete fragments of news came through the baseball media that Chicago White Sox pitching ace Chris Sale had been pulled from his scheduled start against the Tigers. Was he about to be traded? No, we learned that there had been a “non-physical” altercation with someone in the White Sox front office. Huh? What did that mean?

It turned out that the truth was stranger than any speculation. Sale, we learned, had refused to wear a retro White Sox uniform during a “Turn Back The Clock” promotion that nigh, and to ensure that he wouldn’t have to, he cut up all the vintage uniforms, using a scissors and a knife, while the rest of the team was taking batting practice.

As soon as I heard this, I told my wife,”I bet I know exactly which uniforms the team was supposed to wear.” I was right: the White Sox promotion involved giving out free facsimile 1976 uniform jerseys to the first 15,000 game attendees, with the team wearing the infamous fashion abortion perpetrated on baseball by puckish former White Sox owner Bill Veeck, the same iconoclast who sent a midget up to bat in a real game.

Here are those uniforms, almost unanimously agreed-upon by all critics as the silliest baseball garb ever to appear on a Major League player (that’s Veeck in the middle; the ones on the left are the uniforms in question):


It is recorded that the players and the fans hated the 1976 uniforms, which were quickly discarded, especially the version with the shorts, which only appeared in one game. No wonder Sale was upset.

Now to the ethics issues: Continue reading

Adam LaRoche Drama Epilogue: A Reflection On Life, Kids, Baseball And Ethics


Well, I don’t recall anyone leaving baseball like this before.

When last we visited Adam LaRoche a couple of days ago, he was retiring from baseball (and abandoning his 13 million dollar 2016 contract  to play for the Chicago White Sox) because team executive Kenny Williams asked that he not have his 14-year-old son Drake living and traveling with the team, as well as being being perpetually in the clubhouse, as he was all last year. Today LaRoche released a remarkable statement explaining his decision.

It is well worth reading. I’ll have some comments at the end about the bolded sections, marked by me with letters. Now, here’s Adam:
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Loyalty Drama: The Strange, Sudden, Ethical, Unethical Retirement Of White Sox First Baseman Adam LaRoche


Yesterday,  baseball’s Spring Training was shaken when Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche unexpectedly announced that he was retiring, effectively giving up his guaranteed 13 million dollar salary. LaRoche had suffered a down year in 2015, but he was healthy, and assured of a place in the ChiSox line-up. The reason for the precipitous decision was mysteriously and ominously reported as caused by a “personal matter.”  Was there dire illness in the family? What would make a healthy athlete walk away from his team mates and so much money?

Today, the club revealed the surprisng answer. Last year, LaRoche’s son, Drake, 14, spent most of the season with his father and the team and even had his own locker in the home clubhouse at U.S. Cellular Field. Drake was with also with the team in this year’s spring training. White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams told LaRoche that he would have to limit the amount of time his son spent in the clubhouse this season, and in response, LaRoche announced he was quitting.

Again, the threshold question to so much ethical analysis is crucial: What’s going on here?
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Avocations, Conflicts of Interest, and Country Joe West

Some employers are troubled by the avocations and outside activities of employees, a concern that often deserves a  defiant “none of your business” in response. However, sometimes the concern is justified, such as when the avocation adversely reflects on the individual’s reputation to the extent that it harms his or her ability to perform, or when the avocation actually interferes with the job, such as a when a recreational rugby player keeps missing work because of injuries. Another problem is when the avocation creates a conflict of interest in which conduct that may be good for the avocation undermines the job.

The latter is exemplified by Major League Umpire Joe West, who fancies himself a country music singer and songwriter when he isn’t calling balls and strikes. As nicely narrated on the blog “It’s About the Money,” West has long been the most flamboyant and combative of umps, as proven by the fact that a lot of people know his name. Umpires aren’t supposed to be stars, celebrities or personalities: if you notice a particular umpire, it is almost always because he has made a mistake.  They are important, however. Their acuity of sight and judgment are called upon many times in every game, and can make a significant difference in scores, standings, championships and careers. Like judges, they have to be trusted, and their integrity above suspicion. “The Common Man,” who wrote the blog post, believes that West’s singing career, such as it is, creates a conflict of interest that undermines that trust, and worse, warps his judgment on the field. Continue reading

Baseball Ethics Confusion: When Respect Is Disrespectful

After the Florida Marlins’ Brett Carroll stole second on Chicago White Sox pitcher Scott Linebrink in an attempt to pad a 7-0 lead in the fourth inning of an interleague game between the two teams, the White Sox cried foul. The Marlins, some members of the team said, had violated one of the “unwritten rules of baseball,” in other words, baseball etiquette. Continue reading

Obama Joins Coakley, Hillary and Kerry in “The Baseball Trap”

A new poll finds the American public’s trust in its government at an all-time low, and as silly as it is, this sort of thing doesn’t help a bit.

President Obama pointedly wore a Chicago White Sox cap when he threw out the first ball at the official Major League baseball season opener in Washington, D.C. rather than the cap of the home team, the Washington Nationals, who need all the fans they can get. Last week he stopped by an actual White Sox game, and visited the broadcast booth, where he chatted with Rob Dibble on the air about his baseball loyalties, and how he was, at heart, a White Sox fan, having lived in the South Side (the North Side is Chicago Cubs territory) during his Chicago days, which extended from 1985 to when he moved into the White House—about 23 years.

Then Dibble asked the President who his favorite White Sox player was “growing up.” It was clear from his answer—stuttering, followed by the explanation that he grew up in Hawaii and thus began life as an Oakland A’s fan—that Obama couldn’t name a single one. Continue reading