James Iska | Chicago Reader

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Re: “Unfriendly confines: Did racial discrimination start the Cubs' slide?

As far as black players are concerned, it's true that Phil Wrigley was no Branch Rickey or Bill Veeck. But he was no Tom Yawkey either, the owner of the Red Sox who wouldn't sign a black player until 1959. In other words, regarding race, PK was smack dab in the middle, not much different from his fellow owner/executives, with those obvious exceptions. It should be pointed out that when Buck O'Neil was hired by the Cubs to be a coach in 1962, he became the first African American coach in the majors. Old PK was certainly an idiosyncratic owner, many of his decisions were detrimental to his team. The worst was probably his refusal to accept the concept of the farm system, invented by Branch Rickey back in the 20s and adopted by just about every successful team. The new Cubs management is just now starting to make up for lost time on that issue. As for the Broglio/Brock trade, the Cubs traded what for them was a speedy but mediocre hitter who was a terrible fielder (as he would be his entire career), for a winning pitcher which they sorely needed. Unbeknownst to them, it turned out Broglio was damaged goods. As for Brock, he added about 100 points to his batting average that year after he changed uniforms from blue to red. In the end his lousy fielding was more than compensated by his offensive prowess. Terrible trade for the Cubs to be sure but there was logic behind it that had nothing to do with race. It's very true that in the 50s the percentage of black superstars in baseball was disproportionate to the number of black players in the league, but it also must be remembered that the fifties were dominated by the Yankees, one of the last teams to sign a black player. While there are plenty of ethical issues concerning the Cubs' policies toward black players in the past, I'm not convinced that issue has much relevance as far as the team's lack of success since 1945.

14 likes, 4 dislikes
Posted by James Iska on 03/24/2014 at 11:00 PM

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