Alvin Dark 1978 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for October 23, 2017

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I am sure I say things now that future generations will call “insensitive” and maybe bigoted or perhaps even racist. Our knowledge of what is appropriate language grows with each  passing years.

Some people complain, whine about “political correctness” or some other euphemism. But as we as a culture evolves to a more tolerant and understanding society, there will always be those who express the points of view of the past.

Transitions will always be hardest for them. But we should not be quick to forgive with the blanket “they are from a different time.” An ignorant statement is an ignorant statement. They should be treated as such. And hopefully the people who say the ignorant statement can learn from their mistakes.

I hope Alvin Dark did. He lived a wonderful baseball life but said something publicly that expressed a point of view of bigoted mindset. Later in Dark’s life, he predicted his statement would be mentioned in his obituary.

He was right.

Dark accomplished just about everything one could hope for in a baseball career. The Oklahoma native grew up in Louisiana. He served our country in World War II, was courted by the Philadelphia Eagles to play football and signed with the Boston Braves. His service time may have cost Dark a shot at the Hall of Fame.

He won the NL Rookie of the Year in 1948 and led Boston to the World Series where they fell to the Cleveland Indians. Later he became the captain of the New York Giants under Leo Durocher. He was a part of the 1951 NL champs and 1954 World Series winners. Durocher considered him to be the cement of the team.

After bouncing between the Cardinals, Cubs, Phillies and Braves between 1956 and 1960, he retired and became the manager of the 1961 Giants.

In his second year, the San Francisco squad beat the Dodgers for the pennant and locked horns with the Yankees. Willie McCovey hit a deep foul ball and a line drive with two outs and the tying and winning runs in scoring position in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7 of the 1962 World Series. Had the foul ball stayed fair or the line drive was a foot to the left of Bobby Richardson, the Giants would have won the World Series.

Instead the Yankees won 1-0 and took the Series.

Later he would manage the Kansas City A’s and the Cleveland Indians. In 1974, he joined a turbulent Oakland A’s squad that had just won back to back World Series. Dark was taking over for Dick Williams who led them to the post season in 1971, 1972 and 1973 and won it all in the last two years.

Dark was a lot different than Williams, laying on his Christian faith thick in the clubhouse and going along with all of owner Charlie Finley’s hairbrained schemes. There might not have been a lot of harmony in the A’s clubhouse, but there was success.

Oakland would win the 1974 World Series over Los Angeles. Dark successfully managed both Bay Area teams to the World Series. It should have been the crowning achievement of a long career.

He was let go after 1975 and after a brief stint managing the Padres, as shown in this Topps Card, he retired. He lived until November 2014.

But alas, that isn’t his legacy. His long term legacy is expressing a mindset probably forged from growing up in Depression Era Louisiana but can be still heard from bigots today.

During the 1964 season, he was quoted by Newsday reporter Stan Isaacs complaining about the racial makeup of the San Francisco Giants.

“We have trouble because we have so many Negro and Spanish-speaking players on this team. They are just not able to perform up to the white players when it comes to mental alertness.”

That’s what he was quoted as saying. He was referring to a team featuring Willie Mays, arguably the greatest player in baseball history, plus Hall of Famers Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal plus Jesus, Matty and Felipe Alou.

Dark did damage control, claimed his words were “deformed” and he was misunderstood. What is there to misunderstand about this?

The players on his team, including Cepeda, remembered him asking the Spanish speaking players to only speak English. Felipe Alou thought Dark was a nice man who was “totally separated from the reality of the world.”

I bet he just held long unchallenged views that he never expected to have to defend. Either way, his days on the Giants were numbered.

It was not his racial views that got him removed from the team but a hypocrisy of his devout Christian life. The loud Bible thumper was carrying on a long term extra marital affair. The revelation of that mixed with his racial controversy led to his dismissal after the 1964 season.

Was Dark a racist? No doubt he was a product of a racist environment. Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson both defended his character but that does not diminish what he felt comfortable to express as a truism.

It is clear over this year that we have a long way to go with racial peace in this country. There are still plenty of people who hold points of view, whether they are insidious or not, that an entire ethnic group is superior to another.

That must always be combated and the people who express that must be made to understand the folly of their point of view.

Alvin Dark never lived it down but perhaps we can learn from it and improve. Maybe he did. We may never know.

But the player and manager who was ironically nicknamed “Blackie” had his wonderful baseball life tarnished by his words.

Claudell Washington 1989 Fleer Update – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for July 19, 2017

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Every year at the end of the World Series, there in inevitably a group of veterans who put in many many years and finally won their first ring. Those are always touching moments.

And every year there is a kid who just got called up from the minor leagues who picked up a ring and never have to wonder if they will ever win one during their career. Players like Derek Jeter, Buster Posey, Dustin Pedroia and Cal Ripken for that matter won a ring early and got weight off of their shoulders right off the bat.

Then you have someone like Claudell Washington who before he he could legally drink, checked off major accomplishments on the big league level and then played long enough to become a distinguished veteran. Born in LA, he was signed as an unsigned free agent out of Berkeley High School by the A’s in 1972.

The local kid tore up single AL ball in 1973. He was 19 years old in 1974 when he was assigned to Birmingham of AA. He batted .361 there with 11 homers and 33 stolen bases while posting an eye popping .976 OPS.

The A’s at the major league level were the two time defending World Champs, but they found room for 19 year old Washington on the big league roster. And unlike his unrelated namesake Herb Washington, whose role it was to be a pinch runner and never take the field or bat, CLAUDELL Washington could play. He appeared in 73 games and did not embarrass himself, batting .285 with a .702 OPS. He didn’t homer but he tripled 5 times.

That October, the 19 year old was in the post season. He started Game 2 of the ALCS and singled and scored against Baltimore’s Dave McNally.

He appeared in all 5 World Series games against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In game 4, he reached base 3 times and scored, helping the A’s win 5-2. He also got a hit in the Game 5 clincher.

By 19 years old, he was a World Series champion.

In 1975, the 20 year old batted .308, stole 40 bases, hit 10 homers and was named to the All Star team.

His new teammate that year was future Hall of Famer Billy Williams. He was 37 years old and had played 16 years without one single post season game to his name. I always wondered what he thought of Washington checking World Series winner off his to do list before his 20th birthday.

The A’s won the Division again that year but were swept by Boston.

Washington would play 15 more seasons (17 in all) and bounce from team to team. He had some incredible highs, such as being a major part of the 1982 Braves playoff run and being named to his second All Star team. He had some lows, like being named in the Pittsburgh drug trials (which almost seem quaint now.)

By the time he was a New York Yankee in 1988, he was a 33 year old distinguished veteran, being a reliable performer in centerfield between Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Dave Winfield.

With the Yankees clinging to a thin hope for the AL East on September 9, 1988, Washington hit a walk off homer in the 9th against the Tigers to win the game. Two days later, he hit a walk off shot in the 18th inning. He became a Yankee fan favorite with those heroics.

Between 1989 and 1990 he went back and forth between the Yankees and the Angels before calling it quits.

Washington played with many Hall of Famers and did so over three decades and accomplished a lot in his 17 year career. But the hard stuff? He got that out of the way early.

Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – November 13, 2014

Universal Studios

Universal Studios


Detroit Tiger fans need to treat 2015 like it is a Toga Party.

Also thoughts on the Cy Young award and remembering Alvin Dark on this episode of The Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.

 

 

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