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Murray Chass, Stan Musial, and Blogging

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Infamous bigot Stan Musial recoils visibly at the thought of a black president giving him a lifetime achievement award. Bill Russell looks on in disappointment.
Infamous bigot Stan Musial recoils visibly at the thought of a black president giving him a lifetime achievement award. Bill Russell looks on in disappointment.

Murray Chass is not a blogger [1], which is fine with me. He is a writer of internet-based columns, which is what I thought blogging was, and recently he put his foot in his mouth without doing any research, which is definitely what bloggers often do, but I'm willing to allow him to identify himself.

I'm not willing to push traffic in his direction, because if he's not a blogger he's definitely a troll, which is one of those words we bloggers use. So allow me to summarize the content of his latest controversial internet column, which is available at his WordPress-based, reverse-chronologically ordered internet column aggregator, which you could find in the Readers' Guide to Periodical Internet Literature.

Stan Musial recently was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but it turns out he is "NO MAN OF HONOR, MR. PRESIDENT." Chass was recently talking to Marvin Miller, and they got to talking about a time when Curt Flood and a host of black teammates were apparently turned out from Stan Musial's restaurant for being black. A "lawyer with no first-hand knowledge of the incident"—this is at least more information than we get about a typical unnamed source—relates that "Musial tried to organize a boycott against playing" the Dodgers if Jackie Robinson were on the team.

Unfortunately, the headline of this column isn't "MURRAY CHASS HAS CONVERSATION WITH MARVIN MILLER", because I don't doubt that they spoke, and I don't doubt that Miller told the story. It's not "UNNAMED LAWYER WITH NO FIRST-HAND KNOWLEDGE OF THE INCIDENT MISTAKES STORY ABOUT ENOS SLAUGHTER FOR STORY ABOUT STAN MUSIAL", either, because that would also be accurate.

There are two versions of the Curt Flood story in circulation, and my guess is that Marvin Miller read one of them a long time ago. One of them comes from Curt Flood himself—you can find it here, if you search for the words "famous restaurant" inside the book. In it, Flood (with a girlfriend, not other players) isn't seated, asks Musial about it, and then "Musial turned livid. He said he'd look into it. I never raised the topic with him again, nor did he with me." Later Flood returns to the restaurant and is treated with an especially unctuous deference.

In another, Stan Musial tells a reporter in 1971 that what actually happened was that Musial had to turn Flood away because, "Our kitchen closes at twelve thirty... I was the one who told him he couldn't come in, and I told him the reason why. I felt bad about it because he was a friend - and a teammate - but I've had to do the same thing many times."

I'd like to thank Baseball Think Factory internet-letter-to-the-editor-writers DCW3 and Vlad for digging those up on this thread. Neither of these sounds remotely like the story Chass is telling; a newspaper editor would probably have had him fact-check it, especially when he mentions the girlfriend story but says that it "didn't come directly from Flood." If it didn't come directly from Flood Chass should write a vicious piece on author Peter Golenbock, who heads the story with CURT FLOOD: and encloses it in quotation marks.

We go on to learn that in 1946 Stan Musial didn't join the renegade Mexican League; was named to a committee to create the resulting pension plan by the owners, and not the players; and that Marvin Miller, surprisingly enough, did not like the resulting plan.

From one veteran internet columnist to a hard-working newbie: Being on the internet means bloggers are free of externally imposed standards—they swear, for instance, when Chass "spent [his] professional time in the print world, where obscenities don't see the light of day."

That doesn't mean there aren't any standards; it means you have to have your own. It's taken me a while to figure mine out—I started when I was an angry high school student, so they're very different than they used to be—but there are a few things I wouldn't consciously do, precisely because the medium is unpoliced. What you write doesn't reflect on an institution anymore—it reflects exclusively, and occasionally paralyzingly, on you.

I wouldn't report third-hand, defamatory gossip as hand-to-god news. I wouldn't report an anecdote without at least googling it. I wouldn't put a hit piece out on one of the most respected athletes in the history of American sports because a famous friend of mine and some lawyers heard some stories that I could verify myself.

"I have made mistakes occasionally in my Web site columns -- fortunately very few -- and I correct them. I don't know that bloggers acknowledge and correct their mistakes." - Murray Chass

Some of us don't, some of us do.