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  . . Off Base

Not Much Has Changed

If you navigate the main page of this website, you’ll find a couple articles that relate to things going on in the news right now. Articles published in mid-February but already dated.

Rather than rip up the front page, I thought I’d use this space to comment on the latest.

Not much has changed. Not really.

Sandy Koufax has severed ties with the Los Angeles Dodgers, angered about a December item that ran in the New York Post.

By now you know the story. A Post gossip columnist implies Koufax is gay. The paper is owned by News Corp, which also owns the Dodgers. Sandy leaves Vero Beach, where he’s working with Dodgers’ pitchers. The players talk about it for a few days, and then decide it’s best to get back to baseball. The Post apologizes, etc., etc., etc.

Yes, it’s a big deal for the Dodgers, but typical of recent Spring Trainings. They’re used to it. It won’t affect them on the field. Koufax has left the team before only to return. Fox will sell the team and Sandy will be back. Everything will be fine.

Thoroughly lost in all this however is that, here we are in the year 2003, and it’s still absolutely unacceptable to be a major league baseball player and be openly gay. People are horrified by the thought that someone like Sandy Koufax could be a homosexual, so much so that they sprint full tilt to his defense at the hint of such a suggestion.

Koufax is a sensitive guy who understands media, and may have considered that while some people might actually think that he was gay, others would be hurt by the way he chose to deny it. No doubt they were.

But he’s a private and principled man, and perhaps he simply didn’t want to work for a company that would take such a shot at him concerning something that’s none of their business, or even talk about his personal life at all, which is also none of their business. He’s made that clear for decades.

More importantly, does it really matter what an athlete’s sexual orientation is at this point in time? Is it any more important than the color of his skin? Do we really need someone to break the “gay-barrier?”

Maybe we’re making progress, but we’ve got a long way to go. Like I said, not much has changed...

Also on this page and below the fold is an article about transplants and organ donor awareness. It’s something we discuss here each spring because it’s an important, generally misunderstood topic, loosely related to baseball, and close to this reporter’s family.

Duke University botched a heart-lung transplant, and it cost 17-year-old Jesica Santillan her life. It’s unfair. The doctors messed up totally, and they’re going to have to continue with blood on their hands. But doctors must continue, and we have to get past this. The process has to move forward.

Contrary to the way it’s portrayed in the media much of the time, transplantation in the United States is not controversial. It’s not this sinister back-room thing, with doctors running around stealing organs and screwing up all the time.

Transplant recipients die. Some pass waiting for a second chance at life. Others get lucky, and move on to better things.

A young girl died a horrible, tragic death that should have been avoided. Anger and sadness and mourning are appropriate reactions, but in the end, not much has changed.

There will continue to be a shortage of transplantable organs, but thousands on waiting lists will get lucky and receive that second chance. “Living, smiling proof,” we like to say.

The media may focus on what goes wrong, but the vast majority of cases will be successful, and the greater number of endings will be happy ones…

Then of course, there’s this little tidbit, courtesy of the Associated Press: “Jackie Robinson will be nominated for the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his achievements as the first black player in major league baseball, the Boston Red Sox said.”

The Boston Red Sox said. Nice of them to get with the program after 56 years.

Adds the AP: “The legislation was announced by Red Sox president Larry Lucchino on Friday during a symposium at Fenway Park on what would have been Robinson's 84th birthday. The Red Sox, the last major league team to integrate, gave Robinson a tryout before he signed with the Dodgers, but chose not to sign him.” Last team to integrate. Chose not to sign him.

I hear you, that was then, this is now, yada, yada, yada.

All right fine, let’s give Lucchino and the Bosox some credit for making an effort. The Red Sox racism predates their current president, and he and the club are smart to do something about it now. If it turns out to be more than just an awards ceremony, it’s a step in the right direction. Maybe things have changed…a little.

They can’t go back in time to integrate in 1946 instead of 1959. It’s too late to change the way Jim Rice was treated during his years in Boston, just as the Celtics can’t change Bill Russell’s experience there.

Of course Jackie Robinson deserves the medal. And a symposium, why not? What harm could it do? It’s a start anyway. Happy birthday Jackie…

Remember, glove conquers all....


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