Bowie Kuhn - Actions As Commissioner - Race


When baseball writers came out in support of inducting Negro League players into the Hall of Fame, Kuhn supported recognizing the players in the Hall, but was unable to garner sufficient support from the Hall of Fame board of directors. As a compromise, Kuhn established a committee to select the greatest Negro Leaguers, to be honored with a display at the museum in Cooperstown. Satchel Paige was selected as the initial inductee for the Negro Leagues display.

The decision to honor the Negro Leaguers with a separate exhibit received significant criticism. Sportswriter Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "They segregated the Hall of Fame! ... To have kept Satchel Paige from playing in the white leagues for 24 years and then bar him from the pearly gates on the grounds he didn't play the required 10 years is a shocking bit of insolent cynicism, a disservice to America. What is this – 1840? Either let him in the front of the hall – or move the damn thing to Mississippi." Larry Doby, the first black player in the American League, commented, "With another wing ... whatever good they've done, they've torn it down."

Kuhn, in his autobiography, claimed that he "knew that the furor would be heard by the board of directors and that the public outcry would be hard to resist. That is exactly what happened." Within a few months, the Hall of Fame board of directors changed its mind and agreed to give Paige, and future honorees of the Negro Leagues selection committee, full membership in the Hall.

Bill James, in his book The Politics of Glory: How Baseball's Hall of Fame Really Works, wrote that Kuhn seemed "very proud of how he handled the affair, doing an end run around the Hall of Fame board of directors by exposing the Hall – and himself – to public criticism. Perhaps this does reflect some personal courage, and he was able to see that the right thing was done. But the Hall of Fame was also damaged. ... The message that got through to the public, loosely translated, was that the Hall of Fame was a racist institution. ... Bowie Kuhn would have been a better friend to the Hall of Fame if he had led them to come to terms with their institutional racism in private, rather than leading them to expose it to the public."

Read more about this topic:  Bowie Kuhn, Actions As Commissioner

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