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06/10/2006 - 11:52 a.m.

"CHARACTER"

I am angry with Bud Selig. I do not blame him for being a baseball widow, you understand. FogieKnight loved baseball long before Selig was commissioner. I do not even blame him for FogieKnight's obsession with the Brewersóeven though Selig made sure the Brewers existed and owned them for quite a while. I do not even think he necessarily is a bad guy. I met him once in the hallways of our local middle school where we were both dealing with children who had been misbehaving in a middle school concert. I'll give him credit. He was more patient that day than I wasóbut then he was the grandparent. No, I blame him for failing to stand up for what is right when I am sure that he knows it. I blame him for what I suspect is the old, "Don't make waves and keep your own head down when it comes to religion."

I am speaking, of course, of the current behavior of the Colorado Rockies. I have told FogieKnight that I will go to a baseball game with him this year but I will not go to a game in which the Rockies play. Heck, I will go to a Yankees game. For short periods of time I can even enjoy rooting against the Yankees. But I do not feel strongly enough about the Yankees to avoid putting money in their pockets. I feel that way about the Rockies.

After having struggled to break free of racial discrimination just before I was born, there seems to be a new need to break free of discrimination and the Rockies are at the heart of that trend. The Colorado Rockies are looking for players with "character"---and character, for them, means Christian beliefs. For the Rockies, "character" and acceptance of Jesus as a personal savior are one and the same.

But, according to the Rockies chairman and CEO Charlie Monfort, none of us should be offended. (Have you ever noticed how often it is that when people say something offensive, we know not to be offended because they tell us so?) As Monfort says, "I don't want to offend anyone, but I think character-wise we're stronger than anyone in baseball. Christians, and what they've endure, are some of the strongest people in baseball. I believe God sends signs and we're seeing those." (Have you also noticed that people saying offensive things often use bad grammar?)

Nonetheless, I am offended. Monfort very clearly is suggesting that having character, at least the character he seeks, requires that a person be Christian. Worse, he has "explicitly been looking for players with 'character.'" Hiring on the basis of religion for a job that requires the ability to hit, throw, catch, or field a baseball is discrimination, pure and simple.

Perhaps I take this situation particularly personally because I am Jewish. Perhaps it is because my second cousin Steve Wapnick, who also is Jewish, pitched in the major leagues (albeit for only a short time.) Even better, he pitched for one of the loves of my grandfather's life: his precious Detroit Tigers. (Unfortunately, my grandfather did not live to see it but he would have loved it.) I want to believe that, in this county, a Jewish boy can grow up to be a ballplayer just as Sandy Koufax and, more recently, Shawn Green did. I want to be able to think of baseball as All-American, steroids and all. But if the Rockies are All-American, then where is the place for me and many of those I love?

So, what does Bud Selig, who presumably should share this dream and who himself is Jewish say about all of this? What did Bud Selig, the Major League Baseball Commissioner say? All Bud said was, "They have to do what they feel is right."

Maybe, Bud, we should let them go farther. Maybe we should let them do what "they feel is right" about the Commissioner. Maybe we should let them replace you with someone with "character." Then again, maybe you lack character in more than one way.

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