Cub fans as racists
On December 3rd 2003, the Chicago Cubs signed one of the top free agent relievers in the game -- LaTroy Hawkins. Hawkins was a failed closer who proved to be an ideal set-up man, posting ERAs of 2.13 and 1.86 in 2002 and 2003 for the Twins. He was also the first of a string of players to accuse Cub fans of racist tactics and behaviors. Hawkins told Bob Nightengale that he used to receive "boos, taunts, and racial mail and phone calls" when he was with the Cubs. The implication being fans hated him (obviously) because he's black.
On December 3rd 2003, the Chicago Cubs signed one of the top free agent relievers in the game -- LaTroy Hawkins. Hawkins was a failed closer who proved to be an ideal set-up man, posting ERAs of 2.13 and 1.86 in 2002 and 2003 for the Twins. He was also the first of a string of players to accuse Cub fans of racist tactics and behaviors. Hawkins told Bob Nightengale that he used to receive "boos, taunts, and racial mail and phone calls" when he was with the Cubs. The implication being fans hated him (obviously) because he's black.After the Hawkins experiment failed, the Cubs went out and spent a lot of money on another former Twin, Jacque Jones who replaced the extremely white Jeremy Burnitz in right field. By 2006, he too claimed Cub fans were racist -- and cited that Hawkins had warned him -- while, at the same time, we learned that another Twin, Torii Hunter, had specifically said he would never accept a trade to the Cubs because he didn't want to play in front of racist fans.
Later, Dusty Baker would cite the racist phone calls and letters he had received, with his wife chiming in to say that she and Baker's son stopped going to the ballpark toward the end of Dusty's tenure at Wrigley Field because it was such a hostile atmosphere.
Last year, when Kosuke Fukudome hit Chicago, vendors around the ballpark were selling "Horry Cow" t-shirts, depicting a slant-eyed Cubbie bear with Harry Caray glasses and Fukudome's number on the back. Wittenmyer wrote at the time "Apparently, it's not only the Cubs' World Series form that's stuck in a 100-year time warp. For all the innocently mistranslated signs, bows and zealous cheering from right-field bleacher regulars for the franchise's first Japanese major-leaguer, the mere creation of this shirt -- but especially its popularity -- sends a raw, vulgar message about Fukudome's new hometown." Then again, these are the same vendors who sold "We've Got Wood" t-shirts to fans for years. Both are inappropriate, aren't they?
All of this leads us to this season, Milton Bradley. Already on his 7th team in 10 seasons, Wittenmyer -- who seems to enjoy stoking the "racist Cub fan" fire -- wrote that Bradley expects to be mistreated by fans and will not be phased by their taunts. Since then, of course, Milton has been suspended, booed, ridiculed, and has voiced his feelings of isolation and unhappiness.
Wittenmyer also wrote that "crowds at Wrigley and Boston’s Fenway Park also are considered among the worst by African-American players for a racist element comprising at least vocal minorities."
Let's look back on all of this. Since the end of the heart-breaking 2003 season, Cub fans have demonstrated unbridled anger and hostility to Baker, Hawkins, Jones, and Bradley, all "targets of racists." They've all been called racist names, received racist threats, and dealt with racist hostility.
Or maybe -- just maybe -- they all sucked as players in Chicago and that was why fans booed them.
Don't get me wrong. I am sure that there are fans in the crowd who will call Bradley a "noogie" at every chance. Shockingly, though, I doubt that people uproot their homes across the country to move to Chicago for that opportunity -- racists are everywhere, they follow every team. But chances are, any hostility that Bradley receives, just like Soriano, just like Fukudome, just like anybody stems from the bitter, angry disappointment that fans feel from the poor level of play their superstars have received.
Contrary to what the race-baiter Gordon Wittenmyer seems to feel very strongly about (as he has written on the topic numerous times over various years, making him the Lead Race-Baiter by far) the fans are doing mostly as they should. Aside from the fact that there surely must be a handful of legitimate racists in the crowd (because there are racists in every crowd), Cub fans are booing effort and results. LaTroy Hawkins was the single worst closer I've ever seen pitch for the Cubs -- and I was alive when Mel Rojas was on the team! Jacque Jones was a multi-million dollar right fielder who had the outfield arm of a quadriplegic and hit an amazing 5 homeruns in his final season with the Cubs. Dusty Baker was the "genius" manager brought in to win the World Series who pitched multiple young arms into oblivion.
Maybe they were all hated because they weren't good.
Ironically, many of the same fans who are now labeled as racists worshiped the toilet Sammy Sosa pooped (Latino) in. They bowed in reverence to Andre Dawson (African-American) at every opportunity. They crafted silly signs promoting an unearned optimism toward Shawon Duston (African-American). They cheered on the greatest Cubs pitcher of the 70's Fergie Jenkins (black and Canadian).
And even if it's true that racism is a part of the team's past -- and it may be true, I'm sure the Wrigleys weren't exactly known for their charity toward the blakes -- who was the most-loved Cub of the 1950's? Who earned the moniker "Mr. Cub" and remains the single greatest to ever wear a Big Red C on his uniform? Hint: he won't be leading KKK rallies any time soon.
Have we ever stopped to think that maybe it's not that Cub fans are racist so much as they are stingy, they are disappointed, and they want to win? Does anybody really think that fans would be booing Milton Bradley if he did the things he was brought to Chicago to do?
Anyway, a few days ago I shot Gordon an EMail. It (mostly) reads as follows:
My name is Kurtis Evans. I'm a writer for a Cubs blog you may have heard of called Goat Riders of the Apocalypse (www.goatriders.org).
Not too long ago you wrote some articles which seemed to imply an opinion that Cub fans are racist (specifically pertaining to how they treat Milton Bradley). I will be writing a piece on this subject for my site and I thought I'd ask you for clarification before making any assumptions.
Do you think Cub fans are racist? (Some, all, many, or few?)
If Cub fans aren't racist, why do you think they might be booing Bradley?
I'd appreciate if you could help me out.
Shockingly, he never got back to me. So I'll answer my own questions:
Gord Wittenmyer is a race-baiting idiot. It's probably no coincidence that Cub players claiming racism is relatively new while their claims of a media-created hostile environment is old and storied. It's probably no coincidence that shortly after Wittenmyer's original story was published, Bradley went on a week-long media boycott and later complained to Carrie Muskat about "certain journalists."
I'm sure that if Wittenmyer wanted to write about paranoid Cub fans who wear tinfoil hats, he could probably find a few to justify the column inches. That still doesn't make him right for painting his broad picture of Cub fans as racists. But because of his vendetta against the Cubs and Cub fans, because of his disturbing articles, the reputation will spread and stick, players will come here with hostile expectations or they won't come here at all, and it will be that much harder to build the arsenal necessary to win a World Series. Let's all thank Gordon for that: firstname.lastname@example.org