01/28/2005: Today in History department:
On this date in 1916 Louis D. Brandeis was named as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. The first Jew to be appointed to the high court, Brandeis became a lightning rod for anti-Semitic prejudices. In honor of the occasion, some words of wisdom:
When I signed Larry Doby, the first Negro player in the American League, we received 20,000 letters, most of them in violent and sometimes obscene protest. Over a period of time, I answered all. In each answer, I included a paragraph congratulating them on being wise enough to have chosen parents so obviously to their liking. If everyone knew their precious secret, I told them, I was sure everyone would conform to the majority. Until that happy day, I wrote, I was sure they would agree that any man should be judged on his personal merit and allowed to exploit his talents to the fullest, whether he happened to be black, green, or blue with pink dots.
I am afraid irony is lost on these people, but that's not the point I want to make here. A year later, I was a collector for what is now called the Combined Jewish Appeal. This time I got something close to 5,000 violent and sometimes obscene letters. In answering, something very interesting happened. The names began to have a familiar ring. I became curious enough to check our files and I found they were to an astonishing degree--about 95 percent--the same people. A year after that I converted to Catholicism. about 2,000 anti-Catholics were concerned enough about my soul to write me violent and again often obscene letters. All but a handful of them were already in our anti-Negro and anti-Semitic files.
So I am one man who has documentary proof that prejudice is indivisible. The jackal, after all, doesn't care what kind of animal he sinks his teeth into.
Veeck, is of course, the Hall of Fame baseball executive who, in his time, owned the Cleveland Indians, the Chicago White Sox (twice), and the St. Louis Browns. Had Veeck had his way, it would have been himself and not Branch Rickey who broke the color bar; Veeck was interested in bringing Satchel Paige to the majors early in his ownership of the Indians, but was overruled by the Commissioner's office. As owner of the White Sox, Veeck invented the famous "exploding scoreboard" which has been a standard in Comiskey Park (Old or New) for ages. But of course, what Veeck was best known for was his signing and sending to bat "the best darn midget ever to play big league ball", Eddie Gaedel.
In an interesting connection between the Browns of the early '50s and the Cardinals of today, the uniform--complete with number 1/8--that Gaedel wore in his lone plate appearance in Major League Baseball was in fact the uniform of the Browns' bat boy, one Bill DeWitt, Jr., who is now William DeWitt, Jr., Chairman (and member of the ownership group) of the St. Louis National Baseball Club, Inc. (DeWitt's father, IIRC, was a member of the ownership group recruited by Veeck when he gained control of the Browns).
Len on 01.28.05 @ 08:29 AM CST