Because I believe strongly in the rights of pigeons to have a place to roost, I wholeheartedly support the building of the Bud Selig statue outside of the Milwaukee Brewers tax-payer funded stadium, Miller Park. Given the number of people in Brew City who have attended games over the decades with the dear hope that they could catch even a fleeting glimpse of the great Selig, it’s a fitting tribute. I know when I was growing up, Cecil Cooper, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, and other Brewers were just afterthoughts to the man who led the team to zero World Series titles during his time as chief executive and then had the wisdom to hand the team to his equally inept daughter Wendy.
During his time as owner, Selig also made sure that the taxpayers of Milwaukee built a park off the interstate far from the city’s struggling downtown and depressed urban neighborhoods. Perhaps the statue is a tribute to the spirit of interstate renewal. But maybe its Bud’s 18 years as Major League Baseball commissioner that has earned him the honor of artistic commemoration.
After all, his years spent reciting the economic catechism of publicly funded ballparks has turned around thriving cities like Oakland, Cleveland, and Detroit. He has been the shrewd overseer of a sport whose All Star game scored lower ratings than Lebron James’s announcement on what team he will join. Looking out for the best interests of the game, he also watched the steroid era unfold and then made sure blame was foisted on a crew of players while he is able to keep his job....and get statues! But the number one reason Bud deserves this honor is his absolutely remarkable work with “minority communities.” Just ask him. Or the public relations firm in his employ.
This is exactly what three very prominent Milwaukee activists did in July. Their names are Christine Neumann-Ortiz, the Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera; Michael D. Rosen the President of the American Federation of Teachers Local 212; and the Former Wisconsin Secretary of State, Vel Phillips. They specifically wanted to know how someone who trumpets his support of “minority communities” could possibly consent to hold the 2011 All-Star Game in Arizona when that state under the leadership of their execrable Governor Jan Brewer has become ground zero for racial profiling and prejudice.
Here, obtained exclusively, is their letter to Selig and the response of his public relations firm.
"Dear Mr. Bud Selig, Commissioner of Major League Baseball:
We are writing to request a meeting with you to discuss the Major League Baseball's (MLB) plans to hold the 2011 All Star game in Phoenix, Arizona. As Milwaukeeans who are committed to social justice, fair play and equal protection under the law, we are requesting the meeting to discuss the implications of holding the All Star game in Arizona in light of the state’s recently enacted legislation, SB 1070, which institutionalizes racial profiling. …
We believe that MLB plays a special role in the United States. Our 'national past time' has been instrumental in promoting the American ideals of justice, fair play and equality for all. In the words of former Commissioner Faye Vincent "MLB is a moral force."
The success of immigrants like Ichiro Suzuki (Japan), Fernando Valenzuela (Mexico), Luis Aparicio (Venezuela), the Alou brothers (Dominican Republic), Sandy Amoros (Cuba), Ferguson Jenkins (Canada) and first generation Americans, like Hank Greenberg (Romanian Jew) and Joe DiMaggio (Italy), has inspired generations of immigrants to pursue their own American dream and built a long lasting relationship between MLB and this country's newest arrivals. But on the streets of Arizona, these heroes would be subject to unreasonable search and seizure.
Many of these athletes, like Hank Greenberg and Hank Aaron during their pursuits of Babe Ruth's home run record in vastly different eras, were subject to racist abuse from fans and even other players, abuse that MLB championed against and which you personally found abhorrent.
....Throughout your life you have demonstrated a commitment to justice and fair play. You have the opportunity, in your capacity as Commissioner of Major League Baseball, to help heal America and ensure that Latino and other people, fans and players included, are not victimized because of how they look, their accents or what they wear. Please let us know when you are available and we will adjust our schedules to accommodate yours. We look forward to meeting with you.”
After several weeks, the three finally received the response from “Mueller Communications, Inc.”, an organization who as it says on their letterhead, specializes in “Crisis & Corporate Communications.”
Carl Mueller himself (1) responded with 650 vapid words, in the name of Bud Selig, without acknowledging their request for a meeting or saying one solitary word about Arizona, the 2011 All-Star Game, or any of the concerns raised, by Neumann-Ortiz, Phillips, or Rosen. I won’t subject readers to the full letter, but it’s basically a recitation of Selig’s greatness as the most important proponent of civil rights since Dr. King (or Glenn Beck). Mueller writes,
“Commissioner Selig has asserted repeatedly that baseball is a social institution with social responsibilities. He has backed up those assertions with more bold action than any Commissioner in the history of the game…..Now, baseball has so many people of color in those positions [of authority] no one even talks about it anymore. To keep Robinson's legacy alive, the Commissioner made his Number 42 the first number ever retired by every Major League Baseball Club, and he sanctified April 15, the anniversary of Robinson's debut, as a day of recognition so that players and fans continue to know the story of this society-changing baseball player. ….It's hard to imagine a Milwaukeean more committed to social justice, fair play, and equal protection under the law who believes that Major League Baseball plays a special role in the United States and who has been instrumental in promoting the American ideals of justice, fair play, and equality for all. He is a hero in Milwaukee, in baseball, in America, and amongst those who believe in social unity and corporate responsibility.” Only at the end of this flowery tribute to Selig are the concerns raised even referenced when Mueller (and who the hell is Mueller?) writes, “Your energies would best be spent tackling the issue at its core—it's a political issue to be resolved by politicians. Thank you again for your letter. Sincerely, W CARL MUELLER.”
It’s a good thing Selig’s alleged hero, Jackie Robinson didn’t see integration as “a political issue best resolved by politicians.”
And how can you not respect someone who would get the great W. Carl Mueller to defend his record? Have fun with the statue, pigeons of Milwaukee. And please leave a gift on its head for me.
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Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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