Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Yay for Racists!

The Nats are set to unveil their ring of honor tomorrow, which commemorates some of the greats who played in DC, and some place called "Montreal" wherever the hell that is.

One of the DCians being honored is Joe Cronin, a Hall-of-Fame shortstop who managed the Senators to the 1933 World Series. Cronin was a terrific ballplayer, and a solid manager. After his stint with DC, he went to the Red Sox, serving as player-manager, and later manager through 1947. After that, he bumped up to the Sox GM job through 1958. He'd later have a long career with the American League.

Like Frank Robinson, he's had just about every job there is to have in baseball.

Unlike Frank Robinson, ol' Joe was probably a racist.

A few people have studied him closely and not necessarily drawn any conclusions -- at least of strong personal racial convictions. But there's plenty of circumstantial evidence.

Cronin became GM of the Sox in 1947, the year Jackie Robinson broke the color line. He served as GM through 1958. How many black players did the Sox have in that time period? Zippo. Not a single one. The Sox integrated -- becoming the last team to do so -- in 1959, the year after Cronin left. (Pumpsie Green's the answer to the question you may be asking)

Prima Facie? Maybe not. But there's a little bit of smoke there.

It could be leftover from 1945, and the Jackie Robinson tryout. Early in April, the Sox -- with Cronin then acting as manager -- held a tryout from three black players: Sam Jethroe (who'd later win ROY and integrate the Boston Braves), Marvin Williams (who never made it to the majors) and Jackie.

As you can figure out, none of 'em were signed. Glenn Stout wrote a rather long, but fascinating account of the tryout, trying to dispel some of the myths surrounding it.

Moreover, neither Robinson, Jethroe, nor Williams were fooled by the tryout. The three men believed the Red Sox acted without sincerity and none ever expected the club to offer any of them a contract. According to his Negro League teammate Willie Grace, Sam Jethroe soon described the tryout as "a joke" and said Joe Cronin "was just up in the stands with his back turned most of the time. He just sent some of his men out there and told them to throw some balls, hit some balls to us, and then come back and say we had ability."

Robinson and Cronin never got along, as Stout wrote:
Robinson also held Joe Cronin in similar disdain, for over the years Cronin's story about the tryouts changed. Although he initially said the Red Sox southern-based farm clubs made it impossible to sign Robinson, over time his answer changed. He called Boston's failure to sign Robinson a mistake, but absolved himself of responsibility, claiming he was "just the manager" and did not have the authority to sign the players. Cronin and Robinson did not speak; their loathing for one another was mutual and obvious. Robinson, in failing health, appeared in public for the last time at the 1972 World Series. Cronin, then American League president, refused to join Robinson, baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, and others on the mound for the ceremonial first pitch. He remained under the stands eating a hot dog. Robinson died a few weeks later.

I can't find a link on it, but the Sox later held a tryout for Willie Mays during the time that Cronin was GM. He didn't sign him. HE DIDN'T SIGN WILLIE MAYS!!!!

Sure, eras were different. And it's not always practical to judge someone on today's moral standard, but he wasn't even doing what his contemporaries were doing. As a player he deserves the honor. But not as a person. Though seeing his name permanently linked to Buck Leonard's and Josh Gibson's is a nice kind of irony.


  • Closer to home, Cronin let the Senators move twice during his tenure as AL president.

    By Anonymous WFY, at 8/10/2010 5:10 AM  

  • Check out "Shut Out" by Howard Bryant. Just do a search inside the preview on Amazon for Cronin.

    By Blogger Kevin Reiss, at 8/10/2010 8:14 AM  

  • Same situation with Redskins owner Geroge Marshall. The Skins were the last football team to integrate.
    Very ironic for a team that now plays it's home games in a mostly black county, just outside of a mostly black city.

    By Blogger Rob B, at 8/10/2010 8:39 AM  

  • Rob B: Not as ironic as when they were the first team with a black quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

    Also, Needham is cherrypicking here, left unsaid was Buck Leonard's hatred of the Swiss.

    By Anonymous WFY, at 8/10/2010 8:43 AM  

  • I'm just happy that they are finally acknowledging their Expos heritage by honoring Andre Dawson being inducted into the HoF.

    Let the sins of the father die with him.

    By Blogger Bote Man, at 8/10/2010 2:41 PM  

  • Marshall was forced to intergrated by Jack and Bobby Kennedy. DC Stadium (now RFK) was built with Federal Money and the times "they were a changin". But Marshall had an excuse though. There were no national network contracts in the 50's each team had it own network in its "territory." The Redskins' terriroty was deep South and Marhall was afraid of alienating the base. Good to see that the "Curse of the Bambino" played no role in the post war malise of Boston rather it was overly long herld prejudice.

    By Anonymous Sec 204 Row H Seat 7, at 8/11/2010 2:23 PM  

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