Off Topic: Yankees Arrogance Continues On

There isn’t a more arrogant group in the world of sports than the New York Yankees. I guess when you have more championships than any team (in any sport), you have a right to be. But arrogance often leads to asinine statements, based on opinion and views from the throne. Our team is the greatest, our players are the greatest, and we play for the greatest city in America. Each can be argued, and I’d probably find some legitimacy in them. But when it comes to the granddaughter of Babe Ruth requesting that her grandfather’s number be retired across the baseball board, I’m saying no, and I’ll call out her arrogance.

Her claim is that Babe Ruth has done more for baseball than any other player in history. She claims he is the savior of the game. Her exact statement reads as follows, as she spoke about the retirement of Jackie Robinson’s number:

“I know it’s for sociological reasons, but why should that penalize my grandfather? I don’t understand that reasoning. Sociologically? Helping other people? Frankly, if Babe Ruth didn’t save baseball, there wouldn’t be a game for Jackie or anyone else to even play. Remember, after the [1919 Black Sox] scandal, everyone was disillusioned with baseball, and here comes my grandfather with his mighty bat, and he brought thousands of people back to the ballpark.”

That’s a great point, if you’re sitting on your high horse. But if she looked outside her Yankees box, she’d see others that saved the game. Baseball was up and down throughout its existence. The Black Sox scandal of 1919 may have brought fan skepticism and a plunge in interest, but the world at war nearly wiped out the game. The saviors then were the veterans of the armed forces returning. In 1945, with a slow trickle of stars returning from war and back to the diamond, major league attendance topped 10 million for the first time since 1930, and soared to over 18 million the following year.

Baseball took another hit with the strike of ’94, and even at strike’s end, the fan interest was low and fading. In 1998, 2 juiced sluggers pumped new life into the baseball audience, as fans watched Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in a race to break Roger Marist’s single season homerun record. Even in the midst of the steroids controversy, the fans had returned.

If we’re retiring a jersey across the league, we need a sense of uniqueness about the individual. Is Babe Ruth the baseball savior? Does the bible only have one prophet? No. He doesn’t stand alone, and certainly didn’t play alone. A suffering game, regardless of sport, will bring many saviors. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird saved the NBA in the 80s. Hockey is slowly boosting its image, with an influx of young stars. It’s speculation to say the Black Sox incident of 1919 would have eliminated fan interest in baseball forever, without the presence of Babe Ruth. In the 50s, a point shaving scandal was exposed in the NIT, crippling the credibility of the tournament. But here we are in 2008, with college basketball bigger than it was before then. The NFL’s savior from “spygate” is named “The New York Giants”. Imagine how ugly it would be if the Pats did achieve perfection.

Aside from his greatness on the baseball diamond, Robinson endured the degradation, racism, and death threats from fans not willing to accept change. Today, you look around the league at the number of African American players, Latin American stars, and the new wave of Asian migration, and his impact is loud and strong. Look back on the Black Sox of 1919, and it’s weakened and silenced. There isn’t a Babe Ruth record that can’t be broken several times, by several different players. Breaking a racial barrier can only be, and only needs to be, broken once.

Jackie Robinson’s Jersey (42) was retired by major league baseball in 1997. Ironically, the last active player to wear that number is current Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera. Robinson opened that door of racial opportunity, so Rivera could wear those pinstripes, that number, and have “New York” sewn across his chest. I can see it, and I’m sure Mariano does, as well. But those living inside that Yankees box of arrogance are still in the dark, and finding Babe Ruth to have a greater contribution to the game.

Besides, good luck on getting the Boston Red Sox to retire anything related to Babe Ruth.

~ by Anthony on June 29, 2008.

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