Archive for the ‘Primary Sources’ Category

MLB scouts use radar guns to time the pitches of Chicago White Sox's Sale during their MLB Cactus League spring training baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers in Glendale

Men like Hugh Alexander, baseball men will tell you, are the bedrock of the sport. Alexander was a baseball lifer, a superscout near the top of the Philadelphia Phillies hierarchy, considered one of the best organizations in baseball during the 1980s, at the twilight of Alexander’s career. A widely syndicated 1983 story by Philadelphia writer Bill Conlin said Alexander, then 66 and a part of the baseball world for half a century, “personified baseball.” He was, as Conlin wrote, “a man with a face from a Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell, a sage who speaks the earthy poetry of his game and his time from a yeasty treasure trove of reminiscence.”

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San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, according to a 1986 United Press International report, was the “pot at the end of the rainbow” for baseball scouts. The city of 123,000 had produced 270 major leaguers over the past 15 years, including 21 on rosters for the 1986 season.

“They’re hungry,” Dodger vice-president Al Campanis told UPI reporter Aurelio Rojas. “They have fairly good builds. They want to get fame and acclaim and money to eat and in that country that means being an entertainer, prize fighting or baseball.”

The year prior, then-White Sox manager Tony La Russa discussed the rise of Latin American talent with Peter Gammons, then with the Boston Globe. “It’s in a Latin kid’s blood,” La Russa said. “That’s why I believe that if you give a young Latin player the time to fully adjust to the culture — on and off the field — you’ll have someone who’s easier to manage than the American stars.”

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Dr. Lawrence A. Golding was one of the first academic voices in the discourse of drugs in sports. Golding, now retired, owned the title of “Distinguished Professor” at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas’s Department of Kinesiology. Before that, from 1958 through 1976, Golding was at Kent State University, where he became Director of the Applied Physiology Research Laboratory and performed a number of experiments and interviews aimed at figuring out exactly what drugs — like amphetamines and steroids — do to an athlete’s body.

Golding was a pioneer. Steroids and performance enhancing drugs were a peripheral issue at best in the sports world at this team, and most of the focus was on international competitions like the Olympics. Few had thought about the issue at all, much less applied scientific principles to it.

Consider the May 1973 headline “Physicians Differ On Use Of Cocaine For Injuries,” part of a series on sports and drugs by Newsday’s Sandy Padwe. “Some doctors say it would be a good drug for an athlete to use if he were competing with minor injuries,” Padwe wrote. “Other physicians say an athlete using cocaine wouldn’t have the body control he needs.” It seems safe to say our drug discourse has changed over the past 40 years.

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NCAA Football: New College Athletes Players Association-Press Conference

Wednesday’s ruling from the National Labor Review Board granting Northwestern University football players the right to form a union as employees may be the biggest sports story of the new Millennium. ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson called it a “a historic first step in a process that, together with litigation against the NCAA and legislation in Congress, could change the face of college sports.” The Nation’s Dave Zirin wrote “the established order in the sports world has been shaken to its foundation.”

If there is an analog to the NLRB decision in baseball history, it comes in 1976, when MLB arbitrator Peter Seitz granted free agent status to pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally. This was the final blow struck to defeat the reserve clause. The ruling left every major league player yet to sign a contract in 1976 eligible for free agency by the end of the season; those who had signed could be reserved one final time in 1977 before becoming free agents. Essentially, the whole league hit the free market at once, the exact kind of chaotic situation necessary to force real change.

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MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago White Sox

“As I have said hundreds of times in the past, Mr. Finley owns the ball club and he can do whatever he likes.” — two-time Athletics manager Alvin Dark.

The second time Alvin Dark was fired by Charlie O. Finley, owner of the Oakland Athletics, his club had just finished the 1976 season with 98 wins and a fifth consecutive American League West championship. Dark was fired, as United Press International reported, because the manager said Finley was a sinner who “was going to hell unless he mended his ways” at a gathering at a Pentecostal church in Hayward, California. Charlie Finley had fired men for less.

The first time Alvin Dark was fired by Charlie Finley, nine years prior, his Kansas City Athletics players had called Finley’s meddlesome ownership style into question. A’s pitcher Lew Krausse had been suspended for an incident involving alcohol on the team plane. In response, the Athletics issued a statement:

“We players feel that if Mr. Finley would give his fine coaching staff and excellent manager the authority they deserve, these problems would not exist.”

Dark was fired the next day.

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MLB Photos Archive

A few times in this space, I’ve covered the rhetoric of owners threatened by the specter of rising player salaries. When the major leagues had their antitrust exemption challenged in Congress in the early 1900s, National Baseball Commission president August Herrmann sounded awfully similar to NCAA president Mark Emmert today. Both claimed the current way is the only way, and that any changes (calling baseball a trust or paying NCAA athletes) would destroy the game.

And as the early days of free agency led to players becoming millionaires, owners and writers alike fretted about the potential consequences of players earning increasingly higher salaries. As Jerry Green wrote in 1979:
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An ominous headline graced the title page of the June 10, 1967 issue of The Sporting News: Athlete Union? STORM BREWING:

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