The Lunatic is in the Hall

Michael Cox

You know what burns my britches?

I’ve spent five years of my life writing politically-neutral baseball articles because I assumed people go somewhere baseball-related to read about baseball and not politics, and suddenly the president of the Baseball Hall of Fame tells me politics and baseball can mix. Of course, they have to be the right politics, but still.

So this week Dale Petroskey canceled a celebration of the greatest baseball movie ever made — Bull Durham — because he personally found some of its stars’ previous antiwar comments objectionable. His spin included gibberish about placing troops in more danger (what, might the Iraqis begin shaking troops’ hands too hard, knowing America would bring them real freedom of speech?) and the implied fear that Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins would pull a Michael Moore.

Okay, let’s forget for just a minute that Petroskey is known as a staunch conservative, served in the Reagan White House and previously invited Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer to the Hall specifically to talk politics. (Notice how I asked you to forget, yet specifically mentioned those things? That’s called “spin,” just like when Petroskey issued a statement mentioning that he disapproves of the aforementioned antiwar statements, then says he doesn’t think the Hall is a place for political statements of any type.)

Whatever Petroskey’s opinion of Sarandon and Robbins — hell, even if he approved of their stance — the fact remains that he could have, should have, called them and asked them to stick to baseball, then made a judgment based on the response.

Sure, that sounds to you and me like it would be standard operating procedure, but it’s apparently too Herculean a task for the president of the frickin’ Baseball Hall of Fame. What does this man do all day? Sniff Ruth’s 60th home-run ball and try on Ty Cobb’s uniform pants?

As it turns out, Sarandon and Robbins go to the Hall every year with their children, just like you and I. And they haven’t yet picketed the main lobby with “Hey Hussein, he’s our man” placards. As Robbins responded, “Isn’t one of the greatest things about going to the ballpark that you can sit next to someone you don’t agree about anything with and cheer for the same thing?”

Gee, you’d think…

MLB itself backed away from the issue like Omar Vizquel from a Jose Mesa purpose pitch, seeing fit to mention that they had nothing to do with Petroskey. Bud Selig has uttered nary a peep on the matter, although that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing.

Petroskey was unrepentant several days later, issuing a second statement containing perhaps the weakest attempt at spin I’ve read this side of Selig himself:

Given the track record of Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, and the timing — with our troops committed in Iraq — a strong possibility existed that they could have used The Hall of Fame as a backdrop for their views.

Again, it was a bit too much to ask Petroskey to pick up that telephone sitting there on his desk and dial the same number the Hall had to call to invite Sarandon and Robbins in the first place.

Petroskey also mentioned that the Hall has been flooded with calls and letters, giving only an ambiguous “both pro and con” as a mention of the pulse of the baseball fan. As a preponderance of “pro” calls would have the subject of a press release of its own, you can assume most of those correspondences were not flattering to the Leader Of The Hall.

The one statement you won’t see Petroskey make is the only one he should be making:

On behalf of the Baseball Hall of Fame, I sincerely apologize for letting my politics get in the way of the work I should have done to ensure a nonpolitical celebration of the greatest baseball movie of all time. I did not perform my duties to my utmost ability, making this much more difficult for all concerned. I am a dumbass.

Okay, so he could leave out the “dumbass” part and I’d still be happy.

about the author

Michael Cox can already tell he’s going to require more Excedrin Quick-Tabs. Tell him to turn down the audio on the White Sox broadcasts when you e-mail him from our Contact Us page.

Published February 28, 2006

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