|White Rat Poison|
By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist
Heard about what former manager and baseball diplomat Whitey Herzog said over in Iowa last week, didn't you? Well, we did.
Think me guilty of overstatement here? Well, that's just what Whitey Herzog wants you to think, that I'm guilty of something. Herzog said the "minor-orities," as Archie Bunker used to call "them," were interviewing for all the 30 managing jobs, said it was an example of reverse racism, damaging to major league baseball, particularly to white men ... like his boy Bruce Kimm, minor-league manager of the Iowa Cubs. Made your day, didn't it? Did mine.
"But I do think today, the people that are really getting it stuck to them are guys like this guy over here (Kimm) because he isn't a minority," White Rat said So. Reverse racism is gnawing away at the earning potential of white men. Go ask the families of Tony Dungy and Denny Green about it. Sure. They'll tell you. White Rat's boys are being treated like bald-headed step-children by other white men, powerless in the thrall of power-wielding Negroes. And this is Middle-Earth, and I'm a Ring Wraith, posing as a Hobbit.
Later, on Sunday, Whitey halfheartedly backtracked, said he was not accusing baseball of reverse racism, even though managerial prospects like Kimm can't get interviews. According to what's in between Whitey's lines: If they can't, must be a black guy's fault.
"I'm not talking about racism. I'm talking about opportunity," The White Rat said, before adding, "if I've offended any minorities, I certainly didn't mean to do that. I regret that and apologize."
No offense, Whitey? OK. None taken.
Certainly none taken by, say, Italian-American managers. Whitey didn't bring up paisans when talking about who all was denying shots to white men like Bruce Kimm. Torre and La Russa? No problem with them. It's all on the Donnie Baylors of the world.
Did he do it? No. He innocently said the brothers are muscling in.
I'm going to tell you why that's foul, especially coming out of White Rat's pie-hole. But first, let me admit, I'd always thought White Rat was cool, sorta, kinda. He was halfway down, at least, I thought. So did some "minorities" who know baseball, coaches in the Babe Ruth developmental league in Oakland and the county leagues in suburban Washington, who respected ... if not revered ... White Rat as a manager. When his latest tactic hit, they were sorely disappointed. "White Rat didn't say that, naw," they said to me, disbelief apparent. Then they dropped and shook their heads.
Let's not analyze White Rat. Yet. Let's break on what he said: Reverse racism keeps white men from interviewing for jobs -- one assumes managing in the majors, but implicitly all over pro ball.
There are 30 managing jobs in big-league baseball. There are four African-American managers and one Hispanic manager, and one manager with a Hispanic surname who is a white man.
Wow. That's a lot. Especially compared with:
NFL: 32 teams, one (1) "minority" head coach (after the firings of Green and Dungy).
NHL: El Zippo (0), even though Willie O'Ree works for the league in a developmental capacity.
NBA: 29 teams, eleven (11) head coaches, two "interim."
Let's not just leave it there. In addition to those jobs, how many of the, say, 500 or so athletics directors, GMs or equivalent, owners or presidents in those leagues and universities and teams are African-Americans? Far less even than on-field management numbers. Owners and presidents you can count on one finger.
Whatda %$#@&%! is Whitey Herzog talking about?
What am I asking? I know good and well what he's talking about.
He's talking about Whitey Herzog.
It's all about Whitey Herzog.
This brings us back to Whitey Herzog.
I used to dig on White Rat. He ran a hella game. We all dug him, me, Ralph, D., Sarge, Will Ash, and also Dusty, F. Robby, guys I met in developmental leagues not affiliated with big-league baseball, other than they coached and managed the same game. Hardball.
Once, White Rat was the best manager in major league baseball. This was back in the day, the early '80s, when I wrote The Show as a member in good standing of the infamous Baseball Writers Association of America; this was according to me, coaches in Oakland Babe Ruth, down in the Prince Georges County League, in Maryland, and the minors, and The Show. The White Rat had his following. He had his detractors of all hues, for many reasons, as well. I don't use "minorities" when discussing any of these baseball people because ... are we not all men, or women?
White Rat was making his bones with the Kansas City Royals and the St. Louis Cardinals. His style relied on speed. With both teams, he loved these speedy, great-field, no-hit, no-power, but stealing-bags-like-1999 outfielders leading off, and speedy infielders hitting second, and, if possible, another speedy outfielder hitting third. He encouraged them to beat down on the ball on artificial turf and leg out hits. Would'a told that to Mays, probably, and to Barry Bonds.
Some dudes you tell that too, it's an insult. You don't tell a five-tool outfielder to "hit down on the ball and try to leg out some hits for me," without saying, "with your pathetic hitting ass."
But some guys emulating White Rat down in the true minors started telling the wrong young guys that, for the wrong reasons, and relations got strained because of guys trying to emulate White Rat. Not many "minorities" are going to stick around in any strained-relations situations in the minor leagues. Maybe that's the idea.
Willie Wilson, U.L. Washington, Vince Coleman and Oz, they all played for White Rat with either the Royals or the Cards. They were all major-leaguers. Oz had the Hall of Fame glove. The rest of them could run down line drives, run, hit their weight, steal bags, that was about it. I never cared for the games of Willie Wilson or Vince Coleman. Neither one could hit, as far as I was concerned. Major-leaguers, but with no pop. Brian L. Hunters. A true big-league hitter who plays the outfield can deliver the extra-base hit with the tying or winning run on first with two out. Color won't help you do that. Gotta be able to hit for power. You need The Fifth Tool.
The extra base hits that Willie Wilson and Vince Coleman had, they legged out. They could steal 90 bags, but, as White Rat was prone to point out, they couldn't steal first base. But, they could help you get three or four runs a game against most pitchers then, and run down liners in the gaps to help save you a few runs a game.
White Rat made a living off this.
"Gimme three jackrabbits, a plumber to hit behind (Strawberry at clean-up), I'd have myself a flippin' team," White Rat once said.
So why is this sad now? You know, you're right. People like White Rat can think whatever they want, as long as they're not knocking the shovel out of my hands. But it's still sad for a man to make his bones by relying on the legs of people, then later come back and call them "minorities," and basically say they're a problem. It's sad to run them, then subtly deny they might be able to run you, and are in the way when they interview for a job of running a club.
Despite back-tracking, White Rat was preaching, and preaching a lie at that, but a popular lie, to a willing congregation and outright converts, who all want to believe the worst in other people, because that precludes them from trying to get the best out of themselves.
Don't try to act like you're performing some public service, White Rat. Tell the whole truth. You managed back when managers were stealing two or three hun thou a year, tops. Now, Torre is making, what, five mil? You're White Rat. You deserve your cheese, too.
OK. Fair enough. But do you blame -- without offending, of course -- the paisans for getting over on you? No. You pick out these black dudes, who own nothing, who are trying to get in the game. They have some economic power, too, but aren't in the habit of using it, most often giving it back to wherever they got it from.
It's all about the cheese. White Rat wants money. B. Kimm wants money. You want money. I want money. We all want money; sure, we'd take money for the relatively simple matter of running a big-league ballclub, if we can get it. It's not like playing. You can run a club until you die. Look at Connie Mack.
Yes, Look at Connie Mack ...
The only reason Connie Mack was still managing the Athletics past age 75 is because he owned the team ...
People such as White Rat perform a public service by reminding us no matter how far we've come as a culture, a country, as Inner Ball World, there are still deeply held, hateful resentments. So it comes down to ownership -- diverse not "minority" ownership -- as the only way to stop all this bilgewater about racism/reverse racism. You'll never stop it all. You just don't want it to stop you.
If history has taught us anything, it's that you ain't gonna change people by preaching to them. Most often, you ain't gonna change people at all. People were brought up the way they were brought up. Can't teach them what their own folks didn't. But for White Rat, who could work a game, whatever that's worth in the scheme of things, to end up saying this ... it doesn't damage "minorities" as much as it damages Whitey. Bulls--- scare tactics are unworthy of a former field tactician such as Whitey Herzog. White Rat, before you opened your yap, you had rep. Always figured you'd end up being listed with Casey Stengel, Dick Williams, Jimmy Leyland, not with Pap Finn, Archie Bunker, Strom Thurmond ... it ain't right, Rat. Sad.
Torre left you behind, Rat. Torre has a "white" owner, and "white" scouts, and a "white" GM delivering him players of all hues who win games, if he allows them to. Joe Torre left White Rat behind because he believes in the capabilities of his men. All of them.
What in the eight walls of Hades am I talking to the White Rat for anyway? He has been made. He cracked out of turn. Disappointed in him or not, at least we know where he's at. For future White Rats and future victims out there, listen up. Learn it while you're young and remember:
Whatever somebody's accusing you of doing, nine times out of 10, that's what they're guilty of doing themselves.
Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."