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The irresponsibility of Blogger Chass

Blogger Murray Chass has a story up today on his blog in which he makes an accusation that Stan Musial was (and, for all I know, still is) a racist.

Chass says point-blank:

It turns out that the 90-year-old Musial is not the Saint Stan he is considered in St. Louis. For sure, Musial remains the great player he was in his Hall of Fame career and deserves all of the accolades he has received for his achievements in that career.

As a person, however, he left much to be desired. Marvin Miller raised the issue in a recent conversation and provided the evidence to make his case. It is a convincing one.

* * *

The word ironic is overused, but it would seem to me we could consider it ironic that the nation’s first black president awards the nation’s highest civilian honor to someone who discriminated against blacks.

An extraordinary charge.  And is the "convincing" case that Chass has?

An anecdote from the 93 year old Marvin Miller, who is repeating something he allegedly was told 41 years earlier:

Musial, with a partner, had a restaurant (a "posh restaurant," Miller said) in St. Louis called Stan Musial & Biggie’s. Flood and some of his teammates, also African-American and all former teammates of Musial, Miller said, made plans to attend a celebration at the restaurant. This was some time after Musial retired following the 1963 season.

"Flood organized this group of African-American players," Miller related, "He got together a group that had known Musial as a teammate and they thought it was appropriate that they should go. As he said to me, ‘We didn’t always dress up but that night we did. We wore freshly pressed pants, shirts, ties, jackets and off we went to help celebrate with our former teammate.

"When we got to the restaurant, the maitre d’ refused to seat us," Flood told Miller.

"He said they wanted to know why that was," Miller continued, "and the maître d’ finally pointed around the restaurant and said, ‘Do you see any black faces here?’ Flood said he asked ‘Is this your idea?’ No, he said. The owner had given him instructions. They left."

There you go.  Chass says that Miller says that 41 years ago, Flood told him that, several years before that, the maitre d' at a restaurant co-owned by Musial refused to seat a group of black players.

If that happened, that was reprehensible.

But offering up an uncorroborated story, that is almost half a century old, from someone in his 90s who is repeating what he was told...

That's the "convincing case" that Musial was a racist?

That said, Blogger Chass has more:

Some people believe that even earlier, in 1947, Musial displayed that view, opposing Jackie Robinson’s entry into the major leagues.

"When it became known that the Dodgers were going to bring up Robinson," said a lawyer with no first-hand knowledge of the incident, "Musial tried to organize a boycott against playing them if he was on the team. Musial was outraged."

This, despite the fact that multiple reports indicate that Musial had nothing to do with any proposed boycott.  It sounds like the "lawyer with no first-hand knowledge of the incident" was confusing Musial with his teammate, Enos Slaughter, who did try to organize a boycott, and was threatened with suspension.

Even Chass's other sources in the story seem dismissive of the claim:

Anderman also noted that Willie Mays said that when he first made the All-Star game Musial was the first white player to be friendly to him. Anderman also said that that Musial had good relations with Bill White and Bob Gibson, black Cardinals’ teammates, who did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

"It doesn’t seem like the strike would ever have been something he’d have been a part of," Anderman said.

Miller said he was not aware of any anti-Robinson feelings in Musial. "I know there were ardent racists on the Cardinals," he said, "but I never heard Musial’s name in that connection."

Over at Baseball Think Factory, where I first saw this Chass piece linked, another commenter pointed out this feature on Musial by Joe Posnanski, which also would seem to put to rest the allegations:

"Stan Musial," his teammate Bob Gibson says, "is the nicest man I ever met in baseball." Gibson smiles. "And, to be honest, I can't relate to that. I never knew that nice and baseball went together."

* * *

Another Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher, Joe Black, told me a story once. We were sitting next to each other on a plane when, without provocation, he simply started telling the story, one he has told many times. He was pitching against the St. Louis Cardinals—this was 1952, his rookie year, his best year. Black had come out of the Negro leagues, and he was young, and he pitched fearlessly. He thought this happened the first time he faced the Cardinals; Black pitched three scoreless innings that day. But he wasn't entirely sure that was the day. What he remembered clearly, though, was the voice booming from the Cardinals' dugout while he was pitching to Musial.

"Don't worry, Stan," that someone from the Cardinals dugout had yelled. "With that dark background on the mound, you shouldn't haven't any problem hitting the ball."

Musial did not show any reaction at all. He never did when he hit. He simply spat on the ground and got into his famous peekaboo batting stance—the one that Hall of Fame pitcher Ted Lyons said "looked like a small boy looking around a corner to see if the cops are coming"—and he flied out. It was after the game, when Black was in the clubhouse, that he looked up and saw Stan Musial.

"I'm sorry that happened," Black remembered Musial whispering. "But don't you worry about it. You're a great pitcher. You will win a lot of games."

Yes, Joe Black told the story often—and it's a good story. But what I remember about the way he told it on the plane that day was how proud Black was to be connected to Musial. This is the common theme when people tell their Musial stories. No one tries to make Musial larger than life—he was only as large as life. He didn't make a show. He didn't make speeches. He didn't try to change the world. He just believed that every man had the right to be treated with dignity.

 After levelling the bullspit racism charge, Chass then condemns Musial for not being more involved in the players' labor movement and his participation in a committee that disqualified players who jumped the majors to play in Mexico in the 40s from eligibility in the league's pension plan. 

This, it seems, is the crux of Chass's complaint, and I think he simply buried the lead.  Chass's particular hobby horse is Marvin Miller and the labor movement, and this issue has resulted in him embarrassing himself by reporting as facts things he was told by Miller that turned out not to be true.

As with the case where he ran with the claim that Tom Verducci voted against Miller for the Hall of Fame and ripped Verducci for not, in Chass's opinion, being a good writer anyway, it doesn't appear that Blogger Chass made any effort to contact the source of his vitriol and see if what he was saying was true. 

And you know, I probably wouldn't have even written about this, if earlier this week there hadn't been the poisonous column written by the sour T.J. Simers in which he opted to embarrass Marcus Thames for no apparent reason.  That column prompted public rebukes from former Thames teammates Morgan Ensberg and Curtis Granderson, and numerous responses from those journalists who had covered Thames, in which they attested to him being a stand up guy.

That column stuck in my craw, for much the same reason Chass's hatchet job on Musial does...both pieces are the work of old media types who have been virulently anti-blog and anti-blogger, who think that I sit in my mother's basement in my underwear and do nothing but detract from their work, and who claim that I have no accountability for what I say or write.

And yet, Simers can call Marcus Thames a "head case" and a "stiff" because, when the first thing he ever said to Thames was, "Are you that horrible on defense that teams don't think it's worth playing such a home run threat?", Thames walked away.

And that's okay. 

And Blogger Chass can call Musial a racist based on a 93 year old's recounting of a third-hand story he heard almost a half-century ago, in which Musial wasn't even a participant.

And that's okay.

Because, apparently, they are exemplary members of the "real media".  Apparently, they have accountability.