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Jewish World Review April 16, 2003 / 14 Nisan 5763

Steve Young

Steve Young
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TAKE ME OUT OF THE BALL GAME: Politics pitched at national pastime and baseball strikes out | Abbott: Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know's on third.
Costello: Well, then, who's running the Hall of Fame?
Abbott: No. Who's on first. Some Political Hack is running the Hall of Fame.

Babe, quick, cover Jackie Robinson's eyes. Mom and apple pie were last spotted on Route # 28 heading out of Cooperstown. I hear tell Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson have requested that their names be taken off the Hall of Fame ballots.

Yogi Berra is purported to say, "If the people don't want to come out to the ballpark, nobody's going to stop them" Well, someone has: Baseball Hall of Fame president, Dale Petroskey

The Baseball Hall of Fame canceled a 15th anniversary celebration of the film "Bull Durham," with the shrine's president saying it was because of anti-war criticism by co-stars Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. Petroskey sent a letter to Robbins and Sarandon, telling them the festivities April 26-27 at Cooperstown, N.Y., had been called off. Petroskey, a former White House assistant press secretary under Ronald Reagan, said recent comments by the actors "ultimately could put our troops in even more danger."

I guess this pretty much is going to put the kibosh on the Dixie Chicks singing the national anthem at the All-Star game.

"What we were trying to do was take politics out of this,'' Petroskey said. "We didn't want people to espouse their views in a very public place, one way or another. The Hall isn't the place for that.''

I guess that means, after Petroskey espoused his own political view. The moment begged for a 2003 Joseph Welch asking: "Have you no decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

Petroskey is mystified as to the attention his actions has received.

"Certainly people have strong views about this. I'm surprised how much interest it's gotten,'' Petroskey said. Perhaps it's because at the same time he sent his decision to Robbins, he also had it placed on the AP Wire. D'oh!

Ken Burns won't be making this documentary. Try Montgomery.

With Bill Clinton seemingly losing his muscle as the favorite target of the lords of conservative talk, Robbins, Sarandan, Martin Sheen and the Hollywood anti-war movement have become the new poster children for what talk radio says is wrong with America today. That this "we're right, you're anti-American" mantra of the Right would find its way into sports, especially baseball, just shows how incendiary the tactic is.

You would think that baseball, the symbol of all that is good in America, would be free from taint of politics. But you would have thought that of the freedom of speech. How tragic it is that both have become the latest casualties of a war to give another country, thousands of miles away, the freedom to disagree.

Hooray for Roger Kahn, author of "The Boys of Summer" who was to speak at the shrine in behalf of his new book "October Men'' about the 1978 New York Yankees team that won the World Series.

In a letter to Petroskey, Kahn wrote:

"By canceling the Hall of Fame anniversary celebration of 'Bull Durham' for political reasons, you are, far from supporting our troops, defying the noblest of the American spirit. You are choking freedom of dissent.

"But here you, through the great institution you head, have moved to rob Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Ron Shelton of that very freedom. In support of the American right to dissent, I have no choice but to cancel my August speaking appearance at the Hall.''

Perhaps now some courageous Major League owner, some real baseball fan, will open his stadium for all to view the wonderful, apolitical "Bull Durham"on the date originally set for the Hall of Fame celebration. What is more American than baseball? Today, everything.

As Yogi said, "The future ain't what it used to be "

JWR contributor Steve Young, Prism Award winner and Humanitas Prize nominee for his television writing, is contributing editor at the Writers Guild of America's "Written By" magazine. He is the author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful: Mistakes, Adversity, Failure and Other Stepping Stones to Success," "The 130 Tales of Winchell Mink," Harper Collins (Winter, 2003) and the director/writer of "My Dinner With Ovitz." His website is Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Steve Young