EricN
EricN

Open Letter to Major League Baseball

April 2, 2021

 

To Rob Manfred, Commissioner

Major League Baseball

Today I had a Denkinger moment. In 1985, as I watched with non-partisan interest at my two favorite teams in the World Series, I witnessed what has gone down in history as one of the worst calls in the history of the game. The Cardinals seemed to have the series in the bag, ahead three games to two and were leading the game 1-0 going into the bottom of the 9th. On the mound was baseball’s premier reliever Todd Worrell. Jorge Orta hit a chopper in the infield that Jack Clark fielded and tossed to Worrell for the out. Except Orta was called safe. The replay showed this to be a really bad call, but this was in the days when the umpire’s call was final. I realized, at that moment, that my blood ran red, not blue. Sorry KC fans, but I grew up a Cardinal fan and it was just an instinctive reaction.

 

Today, Major League Baseball decided to play hard-ball politics by moving the MLB All-Star game from Atlanta because of the Georgia Election Integrity Act recently signed into law. The following statement was recorded on ESPN:

 

"Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the non-partisan Civic Alliance to help build a future in which everyone participates in shaping the United States. We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have our game's unwavering support."

 

Hmm. All this because of what?

 

Background

 

Before spelling out my response, I think it is important for people to note the following:

 

  • I have been a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals since I had an interest in baseball beginning with the 1964 World Champions. But my devotion to the team and the game deepened considerably when I saw Bob Gibson pitch in the 1967 World Series. I not only saw my favorite team win, but I also became a fan of the game itself, appreciating the greatness of such players as Carl Yastrzemski, Lou Brock, Kurt Flood, Reggie Smith, and George Scott.

  • I followed the Royals from their inception. I worked in Kansas City and will never forget attending the games and sitting next to third base watching George Brett.

  • I typically attended at least one game each year. Not having a lot of dollars to expend on baseball games and not living in either St. Louis or Kansas City, it was not easy to go to a lot of games. But somehow, I made a few games when I lived near Chicago and Minneapolis while visiting the in-laws, was there to see McGuire hit his 500th home run and Tony Gwynn almost make it to 3,000 hits. Even though I have lived in Alaska for the past 18 years, I have somehow managed to sneak a few games into the travel plans.

 

And before stating my response, I must summarize my political views:

 

  • I typically vote Republican

  • I voted Libertarian this time around – so don’t ever accuse me of being a blind devotee to Donald Trump

  • My concern with election integrity did not begin with the 2020 election fiasco, but was triggered by the events of 2018 as ballot harvesting reversed the outcome of several congressional races in California.

  • As someone who worked, under Democrats, in voter registration, I have a great deal of respect of the hard work that local officials and volunteers undergo to make elections honest and transparent.

  • Beyond question, the election of 2020 introduced new technologies and methodologies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The results were as expected – confusion and a general loss of confidence in the electoral process. That is not a partisan statement. When you look at the data, you will see that inconsistencies in electoral processes have affected candidates of all parties, and typically affect local elections much more often than for federal offices. One only has to look at the confusion and angst generated by the introduction of new technologies to the Iowa caucus in February 2020 to appreciate how difficult it is to manage an election.

  • MLB made their decision on innuendo and posturing – not on facts. Voter ID and authentication of person and address are fundamental to any sound election process. Furthermore, it is critical that the chain of custody be maintained to insure that ballots presented are received and counted.

  • As an American, I find the strong-arm bullying of MLB to be offensive. It is not the business of baseball to dictate to the American public how it governs itself. It is the decision of the people of Georgia. It is democracy. Live with it.

 

My Response

 

I have a personal philosophy that God is my center. I value personal liberty above all else and consider the U.S. Constitution one of the greatest achievements of mankind. I can list several other things I deem important. Not making the list is sports.

 

As I began this essay, I had a Denkinger moment when I heard about the decision of MLB to pull the All-Star game. I realized that I valued integrity more than baseball, respect for the governing process more than All-Star Games, and reason over innuendo.

 

  • I will no longer follow the St. Louis Cardinals

  • I will no longer follow the Kansas City Royals

  • I am done with MLB – no TV, no games, no sportsware

  • I am unfollowing MLB, my favorite teams from the various media sites I frequently visit.

  • I am doing the same from social media

 

It is my greatest hope that common sense will come back into play and that MLB will apologize and return the game to Atlanta. The people who will be paying the greatest price will be black Americans who live in Atlanta, who work at the stadium, restaurants, bars and hotels. The debate can still continue. I have never been a fan of boycotts. We can find fault in everybody. Life is complex. But as I said, I had a Denkinger moment. This will no doubt go down in history as one of MLB’s most embarrassing moments.

 

I realize I am just the little guy here. I am not your season ticket holder or your team shareholder. You can easily ignore me. Or maybe you shouldn’t.

 

Eric Niewoehner

 

"1985 World Series Trophy" by ChrisM70 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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