Say It Ain’t So

This past week, it was really tempting to just turn on SportsCenter and forget about national news.  I was thought about it, but it was a little like a NASCAR race to me.  I didn’t go to see the winner, only the wrecks.  Congressional hearings provided plenty of wrecks this week.

Just like everyone else, I listened to my share of testimony to the Senate committee in charge of advancing a Supreme Court Justice, namely Brett Kavanaugh.  This committee held the nominee in its very partisan hands as Kavanaugh attempted to become a Supreme Court Justice.

The roadblock to his nomination was a serious accusation by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.  She claimed Kavanaugh tried to rape her at a high school party. Who to believe?  I don’t know myself, but the Republicans are sure the truthful person is Kavanaugh and the Democrats are equally sure it’s Dr. Ford.  

Amazing how an affiliation can help make up their minds.  I don’t know who’s lying and I’m proudly a liberal Democrat who am equally proud I voted for conservative Republican, Mike Thompson, every time he ran for the state legislature.

I could have buried my head in sports, but then I began to realize that sports are not immune to liars and athletes asking their fans to make a choice.  Some were easy to figure out as in the case of Rosie Ruiz.

Maybe you don’t remember her since this occurred in 1980.  The first lie went virtually unnoticed.  Rosie ran in the 1979 New York Marathon and finished 11th.  That was a note-worthy accomplishment, but hardly one that would hit the front page of the sports section.

It did qualify her for the Boston Marathon in 1980.  What she did there hit the front pages of newspapers across American.  This little-known marathoner came out of no-where to win the Boston Marathon.  The wreath was placed on her head and she was paraded around as a huge up-set winner.  

Sadly, for Rosie, some people talked about how they failed to see her anywhere near the front until the finish. As it turned out, Rosie had road the subway in both the New York and Boston Marathons.  She would bolt out from the crowd near the finish and amazing go unnoticed as she raised her arms in triumph.  Too bad she got busted.

The saddest event where we had to pick the truth vs. a lie came in 2001 after Danny Almonte pitched a perfect game in the Little League World Series.  His team from New York was all the talk of the Series.  It was true he was big for his age and could throw harder than any 12-year old anyone had seen.

I really wanted to believe Danny.  They forgave Danny when it was found out he was really 14.  You see, he couldn’t speak English.  However, his father wasn’t so fortunate.  I heard Danny later played a little junior college baseball before fading from the sports scene.

I think about anyone who has followed the game of baseball for any amount of time would agree that no one hustled on the field more than Pete Rose.  Pete, playing mostly for Cincinnati, set the career base hit record of 4,256.  Pete’s nickname was Charlie Hustle.  He even would sprint to first base when he was walked.  

Every play meant life or death to Pete.  He once plowed over catcher Ray Fosse in the 1970 All Star game, a game that meant nothing other than entertainment for the fans.  Fosse’s shoulder was hurt so bad, he says it still hurts today, 48 years later.

Pete had just one problem.  He loved to gamble.  His career ended as a manager. He was a player-manager for three years, from 1984-1986, then only as a manager until 1989.  That’s when baseball found out he gambled on baseball.

Everyone knew Pete loved the ponies. I’m sure several people suspected he gambled on baseball.  However, he did what any good politician does, deny, deny, deny.

The problem was Pete was a horrible liar.  He even spent a couple years in prison for tax evasion.  Pete has been permanently suspended from baseball. He’s come clean, somewhat, at times, in an effort to get into baseball’s Hall of Fame.  Baseball still refuses to reinstate him, saying he hasn’t cleaned up his act.

“Say it ain’t so, Joe!”  That may just be legend or it may have really happened. That phrase, which is still uttered to this day, was supposedly said to Shoeless Joe Jackson as he emerged from a courtroom after his trial for fixing games in the 1919 World Series.

Shoeless Joe Jackson is one of those mystical characters that will never leave the sports conscious.  Movies have been made about him, like Eight Men Out and Field of Dreams, which was taken from a book called Shoeless Joe.  

Shoeless Joe couldn’t read or write, but he could hit the baseball like no one else in his time.  He was a great fielder, too. In 1919, the White Sox won 88 games to advance to the World Series as the American League Champ.

Things were far from happy on the White Sox team that was a heavy favorite to defeat the Cincinnati Reds in a best of nine World Series.  The White Sox owner, Charles Comiskey, reportedly had cheated some of his players out of bonuses and was consider a very frugal owner.

Somehow, gamblers got wind of the unrest and offered huge sums of money for the players to throw the World Series. Shoeless Joe was accused as one of those players who took money.  The Reds won the World Series, but the statistics seemed to clear Shoeless Joe from blame.

Joe had a World Series record of 12 hits, batted .375, was 5 – 12 with men in scoring position, hit three doubles, one home run and had six runs batted in.  He admitted to taking a small payoff but then went on to play his best and not throw any games.

The eight White Sox men went on trial and were all acquitted.  It didn’t matter to Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis.  He suspended them all for a life-time, a suspension which has been in effect to this today.  “Say it ain’t so, Joe.”

Finally, I have to tie this up with a Congressional hearing, not for a Supreme Court Justice, but an investigation by Congress on the use of steroids by baseball players.  Rafael Palmeiro, a Mississippi State graduate, who had a career record of over 500 home runs and more than 3,000 hits. Those numbers would surely put him in the Hall of Fame.

He was called before a Congressional hearing to be questioned about his possible use of steroids.  He wagged his finger at the Congressmen and said, “I have never used steroids, period.  I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that.  Never!”

Personally, I believed him.  Six months later, he was suspended from baseball after he tested positive for steroids.  Be careful Senators.  Who knows who is telling the truth.  “Say it ain’t so.”