So You Want To Tear Down Monuments?

Pre-Integration Baseball Statistics Need To Be Erased

  • Graphic Nico Holzmann

Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s colour-barrier on April 15, 1947 when he took the field at second base for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

78 years after the MLB was formed, a Black player had joined the ranks of baseball’s highest organized league. However, the obstacles didn’t end there for Robinson. Once there, He continued to face plenty of discrimination and hate from fellow players, coaches and executives.

Years later, MLB tries to excuse itself for that particularly shitty moment in history by holding “Jackie Robinson Day” every April 15th. Every player wears the number 42, Robinson’s number, and the day is labelled a league-wide celebration of diversity and inclusion.

One day to erase 78 fucking years of segregation? Hell no.

This August, progressive activists in the United States began to remove monuments and statues commemorating Confederate figures. Unsurprisingly, there has been a backlash from conservatives who will argue that removing these monuments erases a part of America’s heritage.

Centrists will say shit like “we should have a conversation about this and not rush into anything,” as if marriage was being proposed to someone who really wasn’t into it.

Tearing down these monuments is good because you’re tearing down reminders of the Confederacy. There are plenty of other reasons, but all of those reasons will stem from this first one: to erase awful reminders of a racist past and to stop any glorification of racist figures.

I think it’s about time MLB acted similarly, and void all statistics, records, and accomplishments before Jackie Robinson broke the colour-barrier in 1947. Essentially, MLB should erase any and all traces of its segregated past.

Baseball is all about statistics. A baseball player’s performance can just as easily be observed by their stats as it can be by actually watching them on the field. Current baseball players’ stats get compared to past players all the time. Sometimes they get compared to recent legends like Barry Bonds, and other times they get compared to pre-integration players like Ty Cobb.

Cobb, who played in the early 20th century, was a known racist. Beating up a black groundskeeper for trying to shake his hand after a baseball game is one notable instance of his incredible rage. Some of these stories have since been put into question, but I have a hard time believing they aren’t true.

Despite that, there was still an agreement in place to keep baseball white. So, when we’re talking about achievements and statistics before Black players came into the Major Leagues, we’re taking them out of that context. We refer to them as objective truths about a sport, without remembering that every at-bat, win, loss, and out recorded before 1947 is tainted with white supremacy.

Not to mention that in the year 2017—when Black players take the field in certain cities—they expect to hear racist taunts. In a May 2017 interview, New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia claimed to have only ever in his career been called the N-word by opposing fans in Boston.

Fenway park—home of the Boston Red Sox—unsurprisingly, sits on Yawkey Way. A street named after former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, who was so reluctant to have a Black player on his team that it took until 1959 for him to promote one to his Major League roster. They were the last team to integrate.

Removing confederate monuments in the U.S creates a safer, more inclusive space for all people who live in such an ethnically diverse country. If baseball, which has since become a very ethnically diverse sport, wants to do the same, it has to confront its racist past.

It has to realize that having a ballpark on Yawkey Way isn’t alright. It has to realize that it did not welcome Black athletes for three quarters of a century. It has to realize that 70 years after Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier, Major League Baseball still isn’t an entirely safe space for all.

Taking everything that happened in Major League Baseball before Jackie Robinson out of the context of racism is dangerous. Thinking of them as “achievements in baseball” is similar to thinking a statue of Robert E. Lee is an important commemoration of American history.

It isn’t. Robert E. Lee was not someone worth commemorating. He was a racist, and any public allusion to him is dangerous. Given that stats are so integral to baseball and its history, removing all statistics and achievements before baseball became integrated would be a good start. They aren’t physical monuments, but they are symbolic ones. In a sport that treats statistics like statues, voiding all of those stats is a good thing to do.

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