Unethical Questions, Anti-Semitism, and Greenberg’s Chase

I first encountered the device of the unfounded accusatory rhetorical when, as a teenager, I became fascinated by the Lincoln assassination conspiracy. A best-seller at the time was Web of Conspiracy, an over-heated brief for the theory that Lincoln’s War Secretary, Edwin Stanton, and others were in league with John Wilkes Booth. The author, a mystery writer named Theodore Roscoe, was constantly suggesting sinister motives by asking questions like “The sealed records of the official assassination investigation were destroyed in a mysterious fire. Was the War Department afraid of what the documents would prove? Would they have implicated Stanton? We will never know.”  This tactic is on view regularly today, used generously by the purveyors of modern conspiracies, but it is also a regrettably common tool of journalists and historians. Now the eclectic sports journalist Howard Megdal (who also edits a terrific website, The Perpetual Posthas found a new use for it. His question: “When Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers made a run at Babe Ruth’s season home run record, falling two short with 58 in 1938, was he pitched around because he was Jewish?” Continue reading

Mark McGwire’s Steroid Confession, Part 1

Former slugging first baseman Mark McGwire finally admitted yesterday that he indeed was a steroid-user while playing.  Telling the truth, even, as in McGwire’s case, when it is done too late and in a self-serving manner, is a good thing.  Nevertheless, his admission should have no bearing at all on the judgment of him as unworthy of  post-career honors. McGwire cheated, and his use of steroids damaged his fellow players and the game.  Nothing he said changes any of that. Continue reading