April 10, 2003
A letter to the Hall of Fame
Dear Mr. Petroskey:
I'm a lifelong baseball fan. I've lived and died with the Yankees from the days of Horace Clarke and Ron Blomberg, the never-a-dull-moment era of the Bronx Zoo, the long dry spell of the 80s when we went through managers faster than Hootie Johnson goes through Bryl-Creem, and finally the glorious revival of Joe Torre and Brian Cashman. Nothing brings a smile to my face faster than the realization that there's a game on and I have no pressing matters to stop me from watching.
I believe that baseball is sacred, and the Hall of Fame is its cathedral. There are many Halls of Fame in the world, but only one that needs no extra descriptive words to make clear which one you mean. There's Cooperstown, and there's everywhere else.
Which is why I was terribly disappointed to hear that you have taken it upon yourself to speak for my Hall of Fame (for surely it belongs to all of us) and decreed that you cannot allow the celebration of a great baseball movie because you do not approve of some things that its stars have said recently. In doing so, you have assumed that one of the great American institutions cannot abide the even greater American institution of free expression.
You, Dale Petroskey, have decided that the Hall of Fame is only for people who agree with you. You, Dale Petroskey, have foisted your own personal politics on a place that transcends politics. You, Dale Petroskey, have decreed that what you want is more important than the Hall itself.
You, sir, are wrong.
If Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon had chosen to take a celebration of the movie Bull Durham and turn it into a soapbox for their views, it would not have diminished the Hall in any way. It would have diminished them for being crass and opportunistic. I believe their remarks in response to your banishment demonstrate that they understood this, but even if they hadn't, it is they who would have suffered as a result. Not the Hall of Fame, which is above such petty matters.
By your actions, you have proven to be the crass and opportunistic one. Long after you have gone, when the Hall of Fame has celebrated its first century and welcomed untold new members and visitors, people will remember what you did. They will remember that you clearly demonstrated how unsuitable you are for the role that you now occupy. They will know that in the end, you had no faith in the enduring magic of the Hall.
That will be your legacy. I hope you fully appreciate it, and I hope you never get a chance to expand on it.
A true baseball fan
UPDATE: I actually sent this letter, as is (without the HTML tags), to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will print any response I get, but I'm not holding my breath. Other contact information can be found at Eschaton. Others who have commented include Eric McErlain, Jeff Cooper, Daily Kos, and Doug Pappas. Will Carroll of the Baseball Prospectus has excised the term "Hall of Fame" from his vocabulary.
UPDATE: Slacktivist has his own letter up.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 10, 2003 to Baseball
I may not agree with Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon politically, however, I think Dale Petrosky's comment about how public figures have an obligation to act and speak responsibly is simply outrageous. Tim and Susan did not call for the overthrow of the government, they simply stated an opinion that happens to be shared by many Americans. What this has to do with the sport of baseball or the movie Bull Durham is beyond me. Dale must think that he still works for Ronald Reagan.
By the way, I'm surprised you didn't mention Jake Gibbs along with Horace and Ron. Those early 70s teams were a disaster. I think the modern single-A team on Staten Island could beat that group.
Hear, hear, Chuck. I heard this story this morning and thought, "what a load of crap". Great letter!
Wonderful letter. I've been waiting for someone to point out that this heinous little flack nobody is simply substituting--pre-emptively, if you will--his own politics for those he thinks Sarandon and Robbins might espouse at the event. He deserves all the scorn that's now coming his way.
By the way, the blog of the organization where I work, the Center for an Urban Future, is similarly titled: it's "Off the CUF." Check it out at the URL above if you're so inclined.
David - Excellent! Thanks for the tip.
William - Forgot to reply earlier about this. Jake Gibbs never left much impression on me. Other players I remember from that epoch include Charlie Spikes, Fred Stanley, Bobby Murcer, Dick Tidrow, and Celerino Sanchez (don't ask me why), plus more familiar names who stayed around during the better years to follow: Roy White, Graig Nettles, Lou Piniella, and Sparky Lyle.
Well, I for one am sure glad they didn't let Susan Sarandon, that dangerous terrorista, speak at the BHOF.
Next we'll be hearing on Fox News/CNN that she's involved in a plot with the Dixie Chicks and Osama to destroy our National Pastime.
But wait -- aren't the owners already doing that?
And guess who is an ex-owner?? Hint: he traded Sammy Sosa in one of the most boneheaded deals ever.
Great letter, Charles
Second, I have to , gulp, defend Bush here. He traded Sosa to the White Sox. I am a Sox fan and I can tell you, I was glad when they traded Sosa to the Cubs. For most of his career, Sosa underperformed and never seemed to get serious about his game. Also, he did not have the Body by Atlas he has now, and was not really seen as a power hitter. If I was Bush, I would have done the same thing.
Good for you, Chuck! I gotta write my own nasty letter at some point.
BTW, have you heard about this fundraising campaign? Between this and the Bull Durham stupidity I feel embarrassed to be a baseball fan.
You know, between the problem Dale Petrosky has with the concept of free speech (he must have gotten it from James Watt, who as may recall, turned down the idea of the Beach Boys for a July 4th concert 20 years ago because they attracted "the wrong element"), the problem with Jerry Colangelo and his failure to understand the concept of the right of a woman to do with her body what she wants and the failure of Bud Selig to keep head out of his rear end on a regular basis, I wonder how I re-discovered baseball.
By the way, a name like Celerino Sanchez will stay with you for a long time. It's not as good as Mickey Klutts in history of Yankee names, but it's one of the more interesting names. Bobby Murcer is the most interesting player of that bunch for my money. He comes in just as the Yankees are starting to fall apart (1965), come back when they are at their worst (1969-1973) and finishes his career right after the the Yankee dynasty ends (1979-1983). It's a tossup between him and Gene Michael for the Yankee that was the most screwed over by the ballclub.
The letter is absolutely brilliant. I look forward to seeing how the Hall of Fame responds.
slacktivist has a nice open letter up as well
Perhaps Dale Petroskey should read this quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower's First Inaugural Address on Jan. 20, 1953 -
Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels - men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.
Interestingly, I found it on http://www.conservativeforum.org/authquot.asp?ID=278
Mr. Kuffner, any, rather all credibility is lost invoking baseball as religion. Your personal delusion parallels the mass delusion of conservatives and those indviduals who ascribe to the misimpression of free markets, The Constitution and corporate ideals as integral parts of our "national religion". Suppression of free speech and demonization of dissent are bad enough without citing an inaccurate metaphor to baseball as religion. "I believe that baseball is sacred, and the Hall of Fame is its cathedral." Come on Charles, you can do better, much better.
Ps: Overall, your letter is/was a good thing.
Great letter to Petroskey. In situations like this, it's interesting to put the shoe on the other foot and imagine that Robbins and Sarandon had made pro-war, pro-Bush comments. Would Petroskey have sanctioned them pre-emptively, fearing that they might use the sacred venue of the Hall of Fame to express themselves inappropriately? Methinks not....
Chris - I have heard of that antiabortion campaign. I haven't had the stomach to write about it.
William - I think it's a bit harsh to say that Bobby Murcer got screwed over by the Yankees. He was a victim of bad timing. Gene Michael got screwed as a GM, but that just made him a face in the crowd in those days.
Hi-- you don't know me, but I just wanted to drop you a note congratulating you on such a well-spoken, heartfelt statement to Mr. Petrosky. I'd also sent him an email letting him know how disappointed I was that he would use his position in the Hall of Fame to foist his personal politics upon the fans... exactly what he was accusing Sarandon and Robbins of doing, when they weren't even given a chance. And like you, I'm also not holding my breath for a response. ;)
I actually DO agree with their politics, as I am fervently anti-war. But I am also American, and I love that we all have the right to democratic free speech and our own personal opinions of the world at large. How sad for this country that adults cannot sit down and discuss their differences in the hopes of arriving at mutual understanding, or at the very least setting aside their politics to enjoy simply being Americans. Robbins and Sarandon were able to do this at their last big public appearance (the Oscars)... how sad for baseball fans that Petrosky was not.
By the way, were y'all aware that Petrosky is a former Regan administration press secretary? Wonder what other powers-at-be might have backed his decision?
Great letter, and great journal. Keep up the good work!
It's about time Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon are on the other end of power and using that power to VOICE opinion.For yoears they have blasted us with their political views and their "freedom of speech" at venues meant for things other than politics. Thanks GOD Dale Petrosky gave it back to them. They are not the only people with Freedome of Speech in this country, but they have used their power to abuse it over and over. Great Job Petrosky!
Peter - Thanks! Petroskey has since said that he'd have not wanted any pro-war remarks made either, but that wasn't the case when Ari Fleischer was invited to speak a few months ago. He blew it, and now he's trying to cover his butt. It's pretty amusing.
Amanda - Thanks much for the kind words. Yes, I did know about Petroskey's history with Ronald Reagan. He's since complained that no one mentions his 11 years with National Geographic. That sound you hear is my heart breaking for him.
R. Castle - It takes all kinds, I guess. Thanks for dropping by.
okay people dont freak on me but dale petroskey is my uncle. hes a really great guy, and he effed up. he knows it, the whole world knows it. theres no government conspiracy behind it all, its not a big deal anymore. he made an honest error, he is human, and let his own personal views fog his vision (briefly) on how to run the hall of fame. he is a conservative man, as is his whole family, with close ties to politics, making it only fitting that he would not have many liberal and democrat leaders visiting the hall of fame. that's life, so deal with it.