FanPost

A Belated & Supplemental Refutation of Blogger Murray Chass's Baseless Smear of Stan Musial


I am a Cardinals fan largely because my grandpa was a dyed-in-the-whool Cardinals fan from southern Missour-ah. I am as much a Cardinals fan because of my grandpa as I am because of Ozzie Smith. When I would visit my grandparents, we would listen to an LP he had of great moments in Cardinals history, a record that featured the radio call of Stan Musial's 3,000th hit. I went to my first game at the astroturfed Busch Stadium II with my cousin, my dad, and my grandpa. My cousin and I got our picture taken with my grandpa in front of the Stan Musial statue. Stan Musial was my grandpa's favorite player and I have never doubted why. Musial was a Cardinal who I have never heard anyone speak of Musial as being anything but kind and decent. My grandpa passed away a few years back and, as I Iook back today, it occurs to me that I have never heard anyone speak of him as being anything but kind and decent, either. My grandpa and Musial will be forever linked in my mind. I teared up reading Joe Posnanski's wonderful feature article on Musial in Sports Illustrated not because of Musial but because of my grandpa.

I am sharing this because I want you to understand where this post comes from, that, like many of you, being a Cardinals fan is intertwined with being a member of family. It is a part of who we are. And that began with my grandpa. There is no question that I had the "Busch Beer Salutes" poster of Stan Musial on my wall growing up because of my grandpa or that I met Stan Musial as a boy and got him to autograph a baseball for me because of my grandpa. At that time, I did know much about the statistical basis for Musial's greatness. I only knew that he was my grandpa's favorite player, so Musial must be great. In 1988, I got my first Baseball Encyclopedia as a Christmas present (you see, I have always been a stat geek, even as a child) and this multi-inch thick reference book led me to become quickly versed in the numbers of the all-time greats. I marked Musial's page in it. As I have grown older, like many of you, I suspect, I have grown more and more aware of the stories about Musial's kindness and decency. None of them surprised. In fact, I expected no less. After all, Stan Musial was my grandpa's favorite ballplayer.

I consumed baseball growing up and still do as an adult. It was not just stories and books about the Cardinals. I had books on Mantle, Ruth, Williams, and more. When I was younger, my favorite book, without a doubt, came from a series of books in white binding. Each one had a character trait as a title and was a mini-biography about a famous individual who, at least according to the book, embodied that character trait. My absolute favorite was titled, "Courage," and was the story of Jackie Robinson. To be sure, this story was more a charicature of the great Robinson, casting him in the light of myth as much as man. As I have aged, I have found the stories featuring Robinson to be even better, because they illustrate that he was a human being, and I feel that makes him all the more admirable and his accomplishments all the more impressive. 

One can imagine, then, what I felt as I read the baseless smear of Stan Musial perpetrated by the blogger Murray Chass. The anger swelled up inside of me. Even now,a week later, I am still angry. Angry for so many reasons. As a Cardinals fan, I am angry that a blogger would baselessly smear the good name of The Greatest Cardinal Of Them All. As a grandson, I am angry that a blogger would paint my grandpa's favorite player a racist, even though it is absolutely false. As a baseball fan, I am angry that a blogger would irresponsibly attempt to stain the rich history of the sport with such falsehoods. Lastly, as a blogger, I am angry that another blogger would give mainstream reporters more ammo to use in their attempts to discredit the work that we do by posting on his blog an article that does not approach even a high-school newspaper's level of journalistic standards. 

I try not to write when I am angry. Emotion can make a post great, but anger is typically not something that should not ever fuel a post. So, I decided to wait. I was certain that other, more measured and objective criticism of this blogger, Murray Chass, would be written. And it was. I was so pleased to read DanUp's post addressing the matter. It was everything we have come to expect from DanUp: smart, thoughtful, very well-written, and articulate. I think his post is absolutely terrific and would encourage you to read it, too. Then, Joe Posnanski tweeted about the baseless attack, a teaser of sorts for the Joe Blog post that would follow which was everything one would expect from America's best sportswriter. Both Dan and Posnanski do a thorough job of disproving the assertions made by Blogger Chass relating to Curt Flood's experience at the St. Louis restaurant to which Musial lent his name. After these refutations and others, I hoped that Blogger Chass would retract his blog post and apologize. But, he has not done so.

Since Blogger Chass refuses to do the right thing in the wake of having been proven false in his disgustingly baseless allegations, I felt that I might lend my voice to the chorus of those refuting his blog post. Given my interests, I felt that focusing in on the allegation made by an anonymous "lawyer with no first-hand knowledge of the incident," that Musial was an organizer of an alleged boycott that never took place of Robinson's Dodgers in 1947. There are numerous authors who have written well-researched books on Jackie Robinson and have delved deeply into Robinson's first season in big leagues, the allegations that the Cardinals organized a boycott, and the relationship between Musial and Robinson. There is dispute as to whether any boycott was ever actually organized. There are reports that Musial opposed it. And there are consistent outright denials by Musial that a boycott was ever a serious possibility.

To me, the best account can be found in the wonderful book by Jonathan Eig, Opening Day:  The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season. Eig's book is excellent and I highly recommend it for next Hot Stove's reading list. I only wish that Blogger Chass approached his craft with the thoroughness and professionalism of Eig. In his account, Eig actually uses Musial's own words:

"I heard talk," Musial told the writer Roger Kahn many years later. "It was rough and racial and I can tell you a few things about that. First of all, everybody has racial feelings. We don't admit it. We aren't proud of it. But it's there. And this is big league baseball, not English tea, and ballplayers make noise. So I heard the words and I knew there was some feelings behind the words, but I didn't take it seriously. That was baseball."

In Brooklyn, where the fans had trouble saying his name, Musial was called Musical. Elsewhere, he was Stan the Man. He'd played with a black boy in high school, a kid named Griffey (whose son and grandson would go on to some renown as big-leaguers), and never had any problem with integration. He was a quiet man, by no means a leader, who would sit in front of his locker with a knife and some sandpaper; carving and smoothing the handles on his bats, oblivious to the noise of the clubhouse. To Musial, it seemed that Jackie Robinson wanted the same thing his own parents had wanted when they came to America: economic opportunity. But either he lacked the courage to tell his teammates or he didn't know how. "For me at the time--I was twenty-six--saying all that would have been a speech and I didn't know how to make speeches. saying it to older players, that was beyond me. Besides, I thought the racial talk was just hot air."

It probably was. Most descriptions of the conflict suggest the Cardinals who discussed a boycott were indeed trying to talk tough, to impress one another, to kill time on a couple of rainy days. They never came close to striking.

Jonathan Eig, Opening Day:  The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season 93 (Simon & Schuster 2007). This gives you a good idea of the thoroughness of Eig's research and the wonderfully easy prose he lends to the narrative. What this passage from Eig's book clearly does is to directly refute Blogger Chass's baseless smear. But Eig's well-researched book is not the only one to so refute Blogger Chass's false attack on Musial's good name.

Scott Simon, in his very well-done book, Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball, writes regarding the alleged boycott, in the context of Stanley Woodward's New York Herald story which told of a conspiracy centered in the St. Louis clubhouse with a league-wide reach:

All these later, it is not clear that there was anything more to Stanley Woodward's story than a little overhead loose talk. The best known members of the 1947 Cardinals have denied the story. Stan Musial, who would become a friend of Jackie Robinson, has always maintained that if there was any plan to refuse to play the Dodgers, the plotters kept it from him. St. Louis could not have mounted much a boycott without their stellar player.

Scott Simon, Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball 126 (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2002).

One would think that, if a blogger is going call his blog "Murray Chass On Baseball," that a blogger might read about baseball in his spare time, that he might have contacts in the field of baseball history like Eig, Kahn, or Simon that he could call upon to fact-check the assertions of a source that is not willing to be named. Or, that Blogger Chass might go to Amazon.com, search for books on Jackie Robinson, and call the authors of some of the recent, well-reviewed books, such as Eig and Simon, for their viewpoint. Rather than doing some elementary homework and research, Blogger Chass clicked "publish" on his blog with a story full of baseless yet detrimental assertions about a truly kind, decent, and honorable man. The Man, in fact, that has been such a wonderful ambassador for the game of baseball and the ballclub that we all hold dear. Blogger Chass owes Stan Musial an apology and a retraction. I hope that he is honorable enough to do so.

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