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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali and Bill Cosby to be on-field together for the Gillette Civil Rights Game

The Hammer, The Greatest…and Mushmouth?

As the three MLB Beacon Award winners, Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali and Bill Cosby will be on-field together for pre-game ceremonies at Great American Ball Park as Major League Baseball (MLB) celebrates the 2009 Gillette Civil Rights Game in Cincinnati on June 20. The game between the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox is the first regular season Civil Rights Game after two pre-season exhibitions.

“The 2009 Gillette Civil Rights Game, as one of the premier events on the Major League Baseball calendar, honors both the civil rights movement and also the legacy of three great Americans who exemplify the spirit of this era in their deeds, actions and words,” said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig.

In addition to the pre-game ceremony featuring Aaron, Ali and Cosby, Hall of Famer Frank Robinson will throw out the first pitch and Grammy Award-winning gospel artist BeBe Winans will be performing the National Anthem and a special rendition of his original composition “America, America.” Country music star Rissi Palmer will perform “America The Beautiful” and 17-year-old sensation Bernard “BK” Jackson will play “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on his saxophone, during the 7th inning stretch.

Repoz Posted: June 17, 2009 at 09:00 PM | 258 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, special topics

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   101. rr Posted: June 19, 2009 at 02:56 AM (#3224425)
Some people seem to get a charge out of calling other people racists


Who called YR a racist?

I don't think he is blaming Johnson for racism,


This is correct. He is blaming Johnson for the way the boxing establishment treated other black boxers, and ignoring the responsibility of those people for decisions they made, as well as diminishing the context of the time, in favor of assigning all or most of the responsibility to Johnson.

If Johnson had been more like Jackie Robinson, things may have been different. But that neither excuses Tex Rickard et al nor does it ameliorate the harsh realities of the social context.
   102. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:00 AM (#3224427)
I think that YR raises legitimate points

I entirely disagree. I think this poster has presented a systematic series of posts that in their considered entirety make me gag. There is no sincere intellectual engagement, no willingness to exchange viewpoints and consider other perspectives, instead simply a diatribe of baseless assertion, worse yet one steeped in racist idiocy.

I'm with Srul.
   103. rr Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:01 AM (#3224430)
But perhaps I'm alone in thinking that this is a separate question.


No, you're not. I am sure Johnson's behavior had an effect. But like I said in 57, Jack Johnson didn't run boxing and like Srul said in 97 and Rich and others said in other posts, there were many things going on in society related to racism that had nothing to do with Jack Johnson.
   104. tfbg9 Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:02 AM (#3224432)
Who called YR a racist?


See #102.
   105. rr Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:04 AM (#3224433)
101 was obviously posted before 102.
   106. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:06 AM (#3224437)
But if you insist, I'm happy to call what looks like a dog turd and smells like a dog turd, a dog turd. Let there be no confusion.
   107. tfbg9 Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:06 AM (#3224438)
There is no sincere intellectual engagement, no willingness to exchange viewpoints and consider other perspectives, instead simply a diatribe of baseless assertion


Oddly, this is exactly how Treder comes across in this thread in my eyes. He more or less shouts YR down, and takes his ball and goes home. Shrill, hysterical accusations of bigotry.
   108. Srul Itza Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:07 AM (#3224439)
Srul, that's an unfair comment.

I don't think so. I think the quoted portion is incredibly offensive, and the fact that nobody else here has commented on it does not change that fact.

Of course the situation also happened at a time when reflexive racism was more or less on the rise and it may have made no difference in the end how Johnson carried himself.

Change that to "it would have made no difference", and you're there. A lot of people here seem not to appreciate how deeply embedded racism was in this country, in the laws and customs. If Jack Johnson had never been born, things would not have been different by one iota. To suggest otherwise is indeed a whitewash.

YR may or may not like black people, but nothing he's stated here reveals anything either way in that regard.

I don't give a crap how he feels about black people, but his attempt to blame one man for endemic racism in America is absurd -- and his comments regarding gay men are beyond belief.
   109. phredbird Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:07 AM (#3224440)
it is fair for me to assume that much of what the average participant in this thread knows about Jack Johnson has been shaped NOT by his contemporary accounts but by Ken Burns' documentary and the late-20th century effort to recast Johnson as a benighted and unfairly maligned individual. Some people do seem to be "defending Johnson as a person", but I think part of that is because they know so little about him as a person.


okay, i'm going to keep trying but really i think you need to go through the thread and see how well you've been p3wned, or whatever the expression is. if you'll bother to actually read what everybody has been writing, instead of getting yourself wrapped around the axle of historical minutiae and timelines.

i'll even stipulate you're right about johnson as a person, and you might even be right about the repercussions of his behavior. but that doesn't excuse the bad acts of people like tex rickard. and saying 'oh, that's how it was in the day' doesn't excuse him either. he behaved badly towards other boxers who were not jack johnson, merely because they shared his skin color. you brought up rickard's own words to that effect. the man didn't differentiate between individuals. it would be wrong now, and it was wrong then.

white athletes not much different than johnson were given every benefit of the doubt in pursuit of their careers

I'm not sure if that's true, but it does seem irrelevant. You really can't argue that Johnson's actions *didn't* adversely hinder an entire generation of boxers. Nor could you honestly claim that black prizefighters hadn't been making enormous strides towards equality in the mere decade before Johnson was awarded his title shot. Nor could your credibly argue that Johnson himself wasn't aware that there would be significant repercussions to his actions which might even extend beyond the length of his own nose.


cripes, are you even reading anybody's comments? my point is entirely relevant to what you are spouting. if bad behavior by individuals messes up opportunities for those down the line, why wasn't the same thing happening for white athletes? what is it that makes the difference between ty cobb (i'll stay with him because i mentioned him earlier) and jack johnson? what made the difference for them in terms of whether or not they were tolerated by society at large, even though it's easy to see how like they are? both selfish. both violent. both unconcerned with what others thought of them? would you like me to go find alexander's bio of cobb and bore you with the details? are they necessary? if jack johnson had behaved like ty cobb, he would have been reviled and hounded and harassed and ... oh. wait. waddaya know. he was! now let me walk you back to ty cobb. what was the result of his bad acts? how was he punished? a bunch of sportswriters pissed on his reputation years after he retired. what a travesty. were rural georgia boys denied chances to play in the majors? any rural southern boys?
your assertion that it's somehow johnson's fault black boxers couldn't break in is odd at best, even using some of your own evidence.
   110. tfbg9 Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:12 AM (#3224444)
101 was obviously posted before 102.


I saw it as obvious that Treder was calling YR a racist by posts 81 and 87. YMMV...
   111. phredbird Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:12 AM (#3224445)
Some people seem to get a charge out of calling other people historical revisionists, especially when they're obviously getting their as$es
kicked in an arguement.

FTFY
   112. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:14 AM (#3224447)
If Jack Johnson had never been born, things would not have been different by one iota. To suggest otherwise is indeed a whitewash.

That's it in a nutshell. And Yankee Redneck has spent an entire thread attempting to present an alternate reality that's not only false, but disgustingly false.
   113. tfbg9 Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:15 AM (#3224448)
but his attempt to blame one man for endemic racism in America is absurd


That's not was he was doing at all.

and his comments regarding gay men are beyond belief


Oh fer Pete's sake, his comments about gays were meant to lampoon middle America's worst bigoted steroetypes about homosexual men.
   114. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:18 AM (#3224452)
I saw it as obvious that Treder was calling YR a racist by posts 81 and 87. YMMV...

Please allow me to repeat:

I'm happy to call what looks like a dog turd and smells like a dog turd, a dog turd. Let there be no confusion.


And please explain how the thrust of Yankee Redneck's argument in this thread isn't racist.
   115. Eraser-X is emphatically dominating teh site!!! Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:19 AM (#3224453)
I don't think he is blaming Johnson for racism, just saying if he would have handled himself differently it could have made a tremendous amount of difference.


I don't know if this is what he's saying, but whether he is or is not, I don't see how we could have any clue how we would respond in Johnson's shoes.

I mean people certainly say all the time, "As a ____________, I can definitively say that had I been a female slave, I would have acted as Harriet Tubman did" or whatever, but that doesn't make it true, it just makes them extremely presumptuous.

My uncle--the wisest person I've had the fortune to know--told me that it drove him nuts when people would criticize the way his students transplanted from the segregated south side schools related to those at the Catholic College he taught at. He said, "They would tell me, 'Sure, life hasn't been fair, but if I were in their shoes, I'd just do ________, and it'd be better!' and I would tell them, 'If I was in their shoes, I'd probably go nuts and kill a bunch of people--I don't see how anyone could get through that level of unfairness and inequity.'"

This from an extremely gentle human being. But the point is real--it's a really tough thing to hypothetically place yourself in a lifelong immersion scenario that you have limited experience with.
   116. cardsfanboy Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:22 AM (#3224455)
Change that to "it would have made no difference", and you're there

but why? if Johnson would have behaved in a manner akin to Jackie Robinson, fighting other blacks, being a professional would Tex been able to rally people to prevent another black from participating in a heavyweight title fight? Nobody is saying that Johnson caused racism in america or anything remotely similar to that, they are saying that in this one instance, integration of blacks into boxing, Johnson hurt the cause by his antics (and again I'm not defending the fact that america would have expected a black man to know his place--which is effectly what is being asked of Johnson after the fact--just that if he would have sucked it up for a while it could have helped the cause)

Johnson isn't a saint or anything and is being asked to behave in a manner contrary to his own personality for the greater good. He shouldn't be blamed for being himself, but at the same time people can evaluate how his actions could have hurt the best interest of integration.
   117. tfbg9 Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:22 AM (#3224457)
but disgustingly false.


And again.

Unless YR's saying that the subsequent re-segregaton of boxing post JJ was justified, I fail to see how it
what's disgusting about his theory.

And I don't see where he suggests that. He may be wrong, but I don't see where he's disgusting.
   118. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:23 AM (#3224458)
I entirely disagree. I think this poster has presented a systematic series of posts that in their considered entirety make me gag. There is no sincere intellectual engagement, no willingness to exchange viewpoints and consider other perspectives, instead simply a diatribe of baseless assertion, worse yet one steeped in racist idiocy.


That's interesting, because I think I'm posting *copious* amounts of historical context on a topic you don't seem too well-versed in, based on innumerable hours of my own time tracking down and reviewing first-hand accounts.

Baseless assertions? Are you going to claim that the black fighters having received world championship bouts with little historic fanfare since the late-19th century a baseless assertion? Are you going to purport that Joe Gans was not an extremely popular black fighters whose biggest bouts outdrew and overshadowed even those of the reigning heavyweight champion Jim Jeffries? I'm offering naught but specifics based on actual research while you're playing "Wouldn't It Be Nice" on a kazoo.
   119. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:24 AM (#3224460)
Oh fer Pete's sake, his comments about gays were meant to lampoon middle America's worst bigoted steroetypes about homosexual men.


I'm astounded to see anyone interpret this otherwise.
   120. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:25 AM (#3224461)
Oddly, this is exactly how Treder comes across in this thread in my eyes. He more or less shouts YR down, and takes his ball and goes home. Shrill, hysterical accusations of bigotry.
Agreed. Treder is simply morally preening here. At no point did Y_R say that whites of the era weren't racist. What he said was that Johnson gave them ammunition with his behavior. I don't know anything about boxing history (or present) so I don't know whether it's true, but I don't see why on earth it would be a controversial form of argument. It's widely known that Branch Rickey looked for a player who was as clean-cut and upright as could be, and it's widely known and accepted that he told Robinson that Robinson had to agree not to 'fight back' for the first couple of years he was in the league. And Robinson is widely praised for being all those things and for being willing to act that way, in order to avoid provoking white racism. If we can credit Robinson for his comportment, for helping smooth the way for other black players, why can't we debit Johnson for his lack of comportment, making it worse for other black boxers?
   121. tfbg9 Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:25 AM (#3224462)
And please explain how the thrust of Yankee Redneck's argument in this thread isn't racist.


Explain to us how it is?

Was Rickey a racist for insisting that Jackie be on his best behavior?
   122. Rich Rifkin Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:25 AM (#3224463)
As one who doesn't agree at all with YR's reasoning, I think the posts by a number of his latter critics are somewhat mindless ad hominem attacks. My suggestion is to attack his arguments, not him.
...they're obviously getting their as$es kicked in an arguement.
Did you mean argument?
   123. Srul Itza Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:26 AM (#3224464)
Oh fer Pete's sake, his comments about gays were meant to lampoon middle America's worst bigoted steroetypes about homosexual men.

And you know this how?
   124. tfbg9 Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:28 AM (#3224466)
And you know this how?


The Good Sisters taught me how to read?
   125. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:28 AM (#3224467)
Unless YR's saying that the subsequent re-segregaton of boxing post JJ was justified, I fail to see how it
what's disgusting about his theory.


Every time YR quotes Tex Rickard, it damn sure sounds like a justification. And if it sounds like, looks like, and smells like a justification, I'm ready to call it a justification.

And the justification of such behavior is entirely disgusting.
   126. phredbird Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:29 AM (#3224468)
but his attempt to blame one man for endemic racism in America is absurd


That's not was he was doing at all.


i think it would be more accurate to say he's using the actions of one black jerk to justify an overwhelming response of unfair and systemic discrimination by the white power structure in boxing, and implying that the black man should have known better cuz 'that's the way it was in those days. he should have known better, and behaved himself'. like somebody else said, its nauseating.
   127. tfbg9 Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:30 AM (#3224470)
Treder is simply morally preening here.


Its what he does, especially about race.
   128. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:30 AM (#3224471)
Johnson isn't a saint or anything and is being asked to behave in a manner contrary to his own personality for the greater good. He shouldn't be blamed for being himself, but at the same time people can evaluate how his actions could have hurt the best interest of integration.
Wait a minute. Why shouldn't he be blamed for being himself, if himself was a jerk? We blame Ty Cobb for being himself, don't we?
   129. Srul Itza Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:30 AM (#3224472)
Nobody is saying that Johnson caused racism in america or anything remotely similar to that, they are saying that in this one instance, integration of blacks into boxing, Johnson hurt the cause by his antics

And if he had, it would not have made a dime's worth of difference. What was happening in society at that time was wholly without regard to the content of the character of the men and women who were being oppressed. The most virulent racism made a huge comeback, wholly without regard to the many contributions of African Americans. To suggest that one man's behavior made a difference is nonsense.
   130. tfbg9 Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:32 AM (#3224473)
actions of one black jerk to justify an overwhelming response


I read it as YR was saying they used JJ's actions to justify their actions.
   131. Srul Itza Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:32 AM (#3224474)
The Good Sisters taught me how to read?

Too bad they didn't do a better job.
   132. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:33 AM (#3224476)
Baseless assertions? Are you going to claim that the black fighters having received world championship bouts with little historic fanfare since the late-19th century a baseless assertion? Are you going to purport that Joe Gans was not an extremely popular black fighters whose biggest bouts outdrew and overshadowed even those of the reigning heavyweight champion Jim Jeffries? I'm offering naught but specifics based on actual research while you're playing "Wouldn't It Be Nice" on a kazoo.

Bullsh!t. For the gazillionth time in this thread, you decline to address the issue at hand, and instead attempt to sidestep it with the introduction of a new passel of irrelevant historical trivia.

Your fundamental assertion is that Jack Johnson alone, all by himself, caused the segregation of heavyweight boxing for a generation following his career.

That is a baseless assertion.
   133. tfbg9 Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:36 AM (#3224478)
That is a baseless assertion.


Which is not the same thing as a
racist
assertion.
   134. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:41 AM (#3224481)
That is a baseless assertion.
Which is not the same thing as a
racist
assertion.


In this particular case, it's both, actually.
   135. Eraser-X is emphatically dominating teh site!!! Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:48 AM (#3224484)
Wait a minute. Why shouldn't he be blamed for being himself, if himself was a jerk? We blame Ty Cobb for being himself, don't we?


It's one thing to blame him for being a jerk and another to then blame him for white people not being able to help themselves from justifying systemic racist because they thought he was a jerk.
   136. tfbg9 Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:50 AM (#3224489)
Every time YR quotes Tex Rickard, it damn sure sounds like a justification.


I went back and looked over the posts. I just don't see it. I see explanations, not justificaions.
   137. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:51 AM (#3224490)
It's one thing to blame him for being a jerk and another to then blame him for white people not being able to help themselves from justifying systemic racist because they thought he was a jerk.

Yes.
   138. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:53 AM (#3224495)
okay, i'm going to keep trying but really i think you need to go through the thread and see how well you've been p3wned, or whatever the expression is. if you'll bother to actually read what everybody has been writing, instead of getting yourself wrapped around the axle of historical minutiae and timelines.


The axle of historic evidence and nothing more or less. It funny to see all this hysteria whipped up by individuals who clearly have little background or interest in boxing history; very little of what I wrote would have been the least bit controversial among Johnson's actual contemporary black fighters. Jackie Blackburn, the all-time great black lightweight who would later develop Joe Louis into a champion, would literally burst into a torrent of profanity when Johnson's name was mentioned. Sam Langford, who was negotiating for a welterweight championship fight with Stanley Ketchel at the time of Ketchel's murder, absolutely detested Johnson's antics and the impression he left white audiences with.

I can find no similar assignation of blame from the black boxing community towards Tex Rickard, not any other promoter or journalist. If I, a humble amateur boxing historian, am some sort of racist turd for what I have written, I tremble to think of the harsh words that would be directed at Johnson's own black colleagues for expressing the same sentiments in real-time.

Johnson was an absolute pariah amongst the black boxing community - every black contender spured his requests for bouts after he was released from prison, until Bearcat Wright took the bait in 1928 and knocked Johnson out in 5, effectively ending his career. No black contender during that era wanted anything to do with Johnson as a trainer either. Johnson was essentially persona non grata in any boxing circle until his untimely accidental death in 1948.
   139. tfbg9 Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:54 AM (#3224497)
It's one thing to blame him for being a jerk and another to then blame him for white people not being able to help themselves from justifying systemic racist because they thought he was a jerk.


See the Branch Rickey section.


In this particular case, it's both, actually.


Examples?
   140. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:59 AM (#3224500)
I went back and looked over the posts. I just don't see it. I see explanations, not justificaions.

The top contender during Jack Dempsey's reign, Harry Wills, simply couldn't get a title shot because Dempsey's promoter, Tex Rickard, would always point to Jack Johnson's debased behavior as the cautionary tale, even stating that well-connected politicians had openly told him not to make the bout.


Tex Rickard, the most powerful figure in boxing from the early 1900s through the late 1920s (he actually promoter the record-breaking Gans vs Nelson fight in 1906) and the author of Jack Dempsey's "Million Dollar Gates", openly stated that public reception of Jack Johnson had taught him to keep black fighters away from the heavyweight championship.


Nope, no justification going on here. No, sir. Uh-uh.
   141. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:05 AM (#3224503)
Jackie Blackburn, the all-time great black lightweight who would later develop Joe Louis into a champion, would literally burst into a torrent of profanity when Johnson's name was mentioned. Sam Langford, who was negotiating for a welterweight championship fight with Stanley Ketchel at the time of Ketchel's murder, absolutely detested Johnson's antics and the impression he left white audiences with.

As many of us have said, none of this matters. It doesn't matter whether Jack Johnson was a devil or an angel. It doesn't matter whether his contemporaries loved him or hated him. None of this amounts to evidence supporting the case that Johnson alone, all by himself, caused the segregation of heavyweight boxing for a generation following his career.
   142. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:06 AM (#3224504)
Bullsh!t. For the gazillionth time in this thread, you decline to address the issue at hand, and instead attempt to sidestep it with the introduction of a new passel of irrelevant historical trivia.

Your fundamental assertion is that Jack Johnson alone, all by himself, caused the segregation of heavyweight boxing for a generation following his career.

That is a baseless assertion.


Haven't I provided copious amounts of background regarding the progress of black fighters and the desegregation of boxing leading up to 1908? But of course to you, this is "irrelevant historical trivia", just that crazy old Yankee Redneck throwing out names of strange people who wore bowler hats and boxed in tiny shorts.

Jack Johnson deserves the blame for setting back the cause of black prizefighters, and the black prizefighters of that era almost immediately recognized this and acted accordingly. Prior to Jack Johnson, the recipe for black boxers to attain championship riches was simple - be great, and don't be an #######. After Jack Johnson, being great was no longer enough to get you through the door.

No cross-burning Klansman Kleagle could have done more to depress the rising fortunes of black fighters or roll back boxing's impressive progress towards desegregation than Jack Johnson did. You can blame Tex Rickard in an effort to assign blame to an appropriately colored face, but Rickard had the promotional history and box office receipts to prove you misguided.
   143. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:10 AM (#3224506)
As many of us have said, none of this matters. It doesn't matter whether Jack Johnson was a devil or an angel. It doesn't matter whether his contemporaries loved him or hated him. None of this amounts to evidence supporting the case that Johnson alone, all by himself, caused the segregation of heavyweight boxing for a generation following his career.


I'm piling on historical record as quickly as I can. What sort of "evidence" do you require to stop calling me a "turd", or at least curtail your shrill hysteria?
   144. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:13 AM (#3224508)
Jack Johnson deserves the blame for setting back the cause of black prizefighters, and the black prizefighters of that era almost immediately recognized this and acted accordingly.

By "almost immediately," according to your timeline, you mean "a generation later" in the person of Joe Louis.

Your argument has no plausible basis. It pretends that the racism of the white power structure was entirely reactive and subservient to one individual named Jack Johnson. It's ridiculous.

And with this, I'm going to go take my dog for a nice walk in the June evening. Good night all.
   145. tfbg9 Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:22 AM (#3224514)
Nope, no justification going on here. No, sir. Uh-uh.


YR is not defending the morality of Rickard's actions. Maybe you think he is, but I don't.
You have explanation/justification confusion.

He's laying the facts bare as he sees them, which is not the same thing as justifying segregation.
   146. Eraser-X is emphatically dominating teh site!!! Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:23 AM (#3224516)

I can find no similar assignation of blame from the black boxing community towards Tex Rickard, not any other promoter or journalist. If I, a humble amateur boxing historian, am some sort of racist turd for what I have written, I tremble to think of the harsh words that would be directed at Johnson's own black colleagues for expressing the same sentiments in real-time.


This is normal in a community that has been victimized by discrimination. Obviously, they are going to be more upset by those who they see as part of their community betraying than those that it is seen as normal to inflict racism upon them. That perception is evidence of the systemic problems, not of the full blame resting on the shoulders of the pariah.
   147. tfbg9 Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:24 AM (#3224517)
What sort of "evidence" do you require to stop calling me a "turd", or at least curtail your shrill hysteria?


You're wasting your time. The guy's a nitwit, and a rather closed-minded one at that.
   148. Rich Rifkin Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:32 AM (#3224523)
I'm in complete agreement with E-X's last two posts: #135 and #146.
   149. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:36 AM (#3224528)
I can find no similar assignation of blame from the black boxing community towards Tex Rickard, not any other promoter or journalist. If I, a humble amateur boxing historian, am some sort of racist turd for what I have written, I tremble to think of the harsh words that would be directed at Johnson's own black colleagues for expressing the same sentiments in real-time.


This is normal in a community that has been victimized by discrimination. Obviously, they are going to be more upset by those who they see as part of their community betraying than those that it is seen as normal to inflict racism upon them. That perception is evidence of the systemic problems, not of the full blame resting on the shoulders of the pariah.

And maybe it's just a realization that people of any color can screw you over. Et tu, Brute?
   150. phredbird Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:56 AM (#3224549)
Was Rickey a racist for insisting that Jackie be on his best behavior?


it doesn't make rickey a racist per se, but as a matter of fact, it is a suggestion colored by a racist culture. why does it behoove robinson to 'behave'? why isn't he allowed to punch someone in the face if he's called n---er? because he might be lynched and it'll be years before another black player gets to play? what does that say about the culture at large?
robinson gets credit for being pragmatic at a critical point, but it doesn't mitigate the culture of racism surrounding him.
by the same token, we can certainly fault johnson for being less of a strategic thinker when he was confronted with a similar quandary. but that's it. no mountain of 'evidence' excuses the racist behavior of people like tex rickard. when he said in so many words that you can't trust black fighters -- look at jack johnson! -- and then goes on to contribute to systematically denying black fighters a chance to ply their trade, that is racist. its racist. pure and simple.
YR, the best i can say here is we're talking past each other. all your facts point toward johnson being a jerk, or whatever strong words you want to use. you seem to get a real frisson about lashing into johnson. you won't get an argument from me.
but it doesn't make the subsequent loss of opportunity for other black fighters justified.
   151. Chip Posted: June 19, 2009 at 05:27 AM (#3224574)
For my part, I hope the first openly gay baseball player is a five-tool stud who can do anything he deigns to on the field - you know, a Matt Wieters type - and the biggest flaming queen he possibly could be off the field. Shatter those stereotypes, but good.
   152. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 05:32 AM (#3224577)
For my part, I hope the first openly gay baseball player is a five-tool stud who can do anything he deigns to on the field - you know, a Matt Wieters type - and the biggest flaming queen he possibly could be off the field. Shatter those stereotypes, but good.

I hope the first openly gay baseball player feels free to behave however he chooses to behave, whether as flaming queen or otherwise, and the rest of us grant him the right to do so regardless of how talented a player he might be.
   153. phredbird Posted: June 19, 2009 at 05:45 AM (#3224582)
You're wasting your time. The guy's a nitwit, and a rather closed-minded one at that.


that's really uncalled for. treder's been pointing to the racist undertones of some of YR's comments, maybe justified, maybe not. But YR has been dancing away from every reasoned argument undermining his dubious assertion that it was somehow johnson's fault black fighters couldn't break into the bigtime for however many years after he fought. his 'evidence' is just reams of boxing trivia that show johnson in a bad light. none of it is exculpatory in re rickard and the boxing establishment.
   154. cardsfanboy Posted: June 19, 2009 at 06:33 AM (#3224590)
And Robinson is widely praised for being all those things and for being willing to act that way, in order to avoid provoking white racism. If we can credit Robinson for his comportment, for helping smooth the way for other black players, why can't we debit Johnson for his lack of comportment, making it worse for other black boxers?

actually this may be a point in Johnsons favor, maybe(and I'm just guessing here) Rickey saw what happened with Johnson and realized that the best way for this to work was to ensure he got the "anti-Johnson". Of course that may not be what happened and there are way too many things to factor into this.

Wait a minute. Why shouldn't he be blamed for being himself, if himself was a jerk? We blame Ty Cobb for being himself, don't we?

well for one thing, many of the things he is being blamed for aren't that bad(or bad at all-just maybe bad by the perception of the time) His biggest accusations seem to be (assuming I'm reading YR correctly) that he didn't let legitimate black fighters go for the title (assuming accurate that is something that he should be blamed for) for dating white women (why would he be blamed for that, it's just bad by perception of the time) and for earning less money than white heavy weights (and he probably should be blamed if YR is correct in that he took on crappy white fighters to keep his title longer and avoided better fighters) but he should be blamed for being himself, but not for being himself that prolonged further integration because of white racist America.

or as 135 says.
   155. RollingWave Posted: June 19, 2009 at 06:44 AM (#3224592)
Ali is flawed, but awesome. That is all. At the heart of it, Ruth and Ali will be the American sportsmen the world may remember in 400 years.
......... From the colony deep beneth the sea or on Mars.
   156. cardsfanboy Posted: June 19, 2009 at 06:49 AM (#3224594)
I'm piling on historical record as quickly as I can. What sort of "evidence" do you require to stop calling me a "turd", or at least curtail your shrill hysteria?

from what they are saying(that I can tell) that you are saying the only reason integration didn't happen after Johnson is because of Johnson. I at least hope that isn't what you are saying because that is patently false. But my take on this is that Johnson hurt the movement and set it back by becoming a target to be pointed to as why not to allow blacks. I think you have to acknowledge that there is a chance that even if Johnson acted better that Tex would have found a way to keep blacks out after Johnson.

of course a defense of your statement is fairly simple, if Johnson would have allowed a black contender to fight him and lost by that very action he single handedly furthers the cause of integration as that makes two blacks to hold the title, and as long as there is a black with the belt it's almost impossible for Tex to block integration (mind you I don't for a second doubt a truly virulent racist would still find a way to end integration even in this situation)


it doesn't make rickey a racist per se, but as a matter of fact, it is a suggestion colored by a racist culture. why does it behoove robinson to 'behave'? why isn't he allowed to punch someone in the face if he's called n---er? because he might be lynched and it'll be years before another black player gets to play? what does that say about the culture at large?robinson gets credit for being pragmatic at a critical point, but it doesn't mitigate the culture of racism surrounding him.by the same token, we can certainly fault johnson for being less of a strategic thinker
when he was confronted with a similar quandary. but that's it. no mountain of 'evidence' excuses the racist behavior of people like tex rickard. when he said in so many words that you can't trust black fighters -- look at jack johnson! -- and then goes on to contribute to systematically denying black fighters a chance to ply their trade, that is racist. its racist. pure and simple. YR, the best i can say here is we're talking past each other. all your facts point toward johnson being a jerk, or whatever strong words you want to use. you seem to get a real frisson about lashing into johnson. you won't get an argument from me.
but it doesn't make the subsequent loss of opportunity for other black fighters justified.




Agreed, but sometimes you have to take babysteps, it sucks (big ass time) to be the victim,but if you truly want improve race relations you might have to be the better man. Society as a whole in the US was a bad culture, and it sounds disgusting to suggest this, but slow progress is better than no progress. There is absolutely zero chance that one day blacks were going to be considered equals by the majority of the country in 1910 or so. But if you can get people to say "I like watching that colored boy fight, he has a real presence in the ring"(or something equally as likely when it comes to boxing) then you have moved the bar a little bit towards acceptance. of course again after the turn of the century there was a racist backlash that eliminated a lot of strides blacks had made over the last 40 years.


I hope the first openly gay baseball player feels free to behave however he chooses to behave, whether as flaming queen or otherwise, and the rest of us grant him the right to do so regardless of how talented a player he might be.

agreed. It would be great if we could have a first that we didn't expect them to change who they are to be accepted. (provided he isn't something 'bad')
   157. a bebop a rebop Posted: June 19, 2009 at 07:19 AM (#3224600)
There is a fundamental problem with your argument, YR.

OBVIOUSLY other black fighters had previously been big draws with white crowds AND well-behaved. You've pointed this out on numerous occasions, and I don't know the history myself, so I'll accept it as fact. Fact: black fighters circa 1900 made bank.

Why, then, from 1915 onward, does the boxing establishment feel that top black fighters don't deserve a shot at the title?

I see two plausible answers to this question:

1) America at this time became a more overtly racist nation as a result of the social factors which Rifkin brought up in #62: increased immigration of poor whites, and migration of blacks to urban centers in the northern US. Boxing matches involving blacks became simply less profitable, and boxing promoters realized this. Instinctually, I would tend to subscribe this line of thinking, but it's not the only possible answer.

2) Your answer: Jack Johnson was a #########, and he confirmed for white folks in general the worst stereotypes of blacks. This caused a backlash of racism against other black fighters for twenty years, making black fighters unprofitable. I don't even consider this view implausible. The problem is that you appear to go further in your belief, and ascribe blame for the racist backlash to Johnson.

I'll put that belief in bold, to make it precisely clear what I'm arguing against: Jack Johnson is at fault for the racist backlash which prevented black fighters from competing for the title from 1915 until 1935. (Tell me if I'm misconstruing your beliefs and tilting at windmills, of course.)

The problem with this line of argument is that it is not Jack Johnson's fault that white America was racist.

It's perfectly reasonable to say: "hey, wouldn't it have been better if he was a good guy!" and this is probably true. But the blame for racism can only go on the shoulders of the racists.

And this is not a Jackie Robinson-type situation. Even if I one accepts that color-line breakers should be held to a higher standard of behavior, that argument doesn't apply to Johnson, because according to you, white America was already aware that black fighters could be well behaved and popular. Racists chose to use his behavior as an excuse to practice racism.

Johnson deserves no more scorn than Ty Cobb or Mike Tyson. Fundamentally: to blame Jack Johnson for the racist backlash is to hold him to a higher standard of behavior than Ty Cobb based solely on the color of his skin. This is racism. It's equivalent to saying that racism would die out if blacks were just extra-nice people, which is an ethically bankrupt position.
   158. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 12:30 PM (#3224632)
why isn't he allowed to punch someone in the face if he's called n---er? because he might be lynched and it'll be years before another black player gets to play?


Even Jack Johnson wasn't lynched, and he was beating white men and bedding white women in 1910, not 1950. I'm pretty sure Robinson would have been safe.
   159. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 12:51 PM (#3224638)
But YR has been dancing away from every reasoned argument undermining his dubious assertion that it was somehow johnson's fault black fighters couldn't break into the bigtime for however many years after he fought. his 'evidence' is just reams of boxing trivia that show johnson in a bad light.


What of the reams of "boxing trivia" that show the enormous progress towards equality black fighters made in the two decades before Johnson? George Dixon was an undisputed champion in 1890. Barbados Joe Walcott was an undisputed champion in 1901. Joe Gans was arguably the biggest draw in boxing, in addition to being an undisputed champion in 1906 (and the "Rickard a racist" crowd continues to overlook the fact that Tex promoted Gans on multiple occasions and gave Joe the biggest paydays of his career).

What other area of American society offered the black man such level playing fields? How far ahead of the country was boxing as a color-blind meritocracy? I've posted copiously of how Johnson *did* receive his title shot in 1908 and how the boxing public was ready to accept a black heavyweight champion, having been conditioned by 20 years of excellent black champions.

I don't see any attempts to dispute the facts - boxing was increasingly wide-open to black fighters prior to Jack Johnson, and that door of opportunity was slammed shut for a generation after him. This desperate attempt to retrospectively blame a "racist" Tex Rickard, who gave black fighters *including Jack Johnson* the biggest paydays of their careers, is entirely midguided and unsupportable.

Johnson's behavior didn't turn off Tex Rickard so much as it turned off the entire boxing public at-large, as evidenced by the dismal attendances of Johnson's later title defenses. Overlook this at your own folly - 6 years after Johnson was drawing 4000 paying gamblers to see his fight against Frank Moran, Jack Dempsey drew 80,000 in a fight Rickard promoted. When Rickard stated, "If a n!gger wins the heavyweight championship, then the championship isn't worth a nickel," he was speaking as an businessman relying on firsthand experience, not as some cartoonish "racist" to be slurred by 21st century magpies unfamiliar with his accomplishments.
   160. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 01:17 PM (#3224657)
I'll put that belief in bold, to make it precisely clear what I'm arguing against: Jack Johnson is at fault for the racist backlash which prevented black fighters from competing for the title from 1915 until 1935. (Tell me if I'm misconstruing your beliefs and tilting at windmills, of course.)

The problem with this line of argument is that it is not Jack Johnson's fault that white America was racist.


No, I think you've essentially described my line of argument (one small niggle is that there were no obvious top black heavyweight contenders between 1926, when Harry Wills lost to Jack Sharkey, and 1935, so a simple lack of quality talent may have been a factor as well). But if white America were "racist" during that era, it was still progressive enough to put Joe Gans on a pedestal 50 years before baseball saw fit to integrate.

As to crying "It's not my fault" on Jack Johnson's behalf, I'll avoid repeating myself and simply condense my response to, "Life is not fair". Johnson, like the numerous successful black fighters before him, knew that society had a set of basic standards it placed on black fighters. He surely knew there would be repercussions for violating those standards, he did so anyway, and a generation of fighters bore the brunt of the backlash.

Johnson was not a victim here - he got everything he wanted. Johnson froze out the top contenders, fought hand-picked tomato cans, made vast sums of money through fights and overseas exhibitions, flaunted his white female conquests when half the nation had laws against miscegenation, and even managed to have his career retroactively burnished by a generation of sports writers who believed him when he said he took a dive against Jess Willard in 1916 (to those who believe, I say "watch the film").

The real victims here, and the only figures worth of any sympathy, are the black fighters Johnson intentionally froze out of contention during his reign - Sam McVey, Joe Jeanette, Sam Langford - and the handful of top black contenders in the decade that followed (Harry Wills, perhaps Kid Norfolk and George Godfrey, thought I don't see any of them beating a prime Dempsey) who were denied the sort of big paydays Tex Rickard routinely delivered to black fighters before Johnson undermined their two decades of constant progress towards equality.

And this is not a Jackie Robinson-type situation. Even if I one accepts that color-line breakers should be held to a higher standard of behavior, that argument doesn't apply to Johnson, because according to you, white America was already aware that black fighters could be well behaved and popular.


The heavyweight title was, of course, always considered "different" than the lower weights. Black fighters continued to get title shots at lower weight classes long before Joe Louis defeated Jim Braddock. The names of Battling Siki or Tiger Flowers, probably don't mean anything to you today, but they were elite fighters of their era. Harry Greb, arguably the greatest pound-for-pound boxer in history, fought several other black fighters during the period when he was considered the unofficial "catch weight" champion (no predetermined weight limit) as well.
   161. BDC Posted: June 19, 2009 at 01:21 PM (#3224660)
it was only because a Texan, who needed something to fill up the arena he owned (Madison Square Garden) in New York, started the team that the New York hockey club was named after the famous lawmen, the Texas Rangers

Rich, it was worth reading this thread just to learn this factoid. Extremely cool. Thanks!

YR, your argument is teeming with both logic and facts, but I don't know if it passes a reality check. Dick Allen behaved in ways that confirmed racist attitudes toward intelligent, independent black men. Did that hold back Garry Maddox from becoming a star with the Phillies, or damage the stature Henry Aaron achieved in the early 1970s? Did Tommie Smith and John Carlos's gesture at the '68 Olympics slow the careers of other African-American track stars?

In all sports, black athletes in the 20th century showed themselves to be much like white athletes: a few were jerks (and I don't really see Johnson falling egregiously into this class, honestly); most were exemplary competitors and sportspeople. As African-Americans proved over time to be as gifted and as human as white athletes, integration took hold in sports; to continue to hold the color line became absurd.
   162. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 19, 2009 at 01:26 PM (#3224663)
Here are a few questions for anyone to try to answer:

WHY didn't Jack Johnson defend his title against black contenders, rather than against the sorry collection of white pretenders he actually fought against? Did Johnson himself have total control over this? Or might others have been calling the shots behind the scenes? Do we really know the answer to this, or are we just operating on general assumptions based on what we know about other fighters?

Was Johnson scared of the black contenders? Or was he just trying to monopolize the "Negro" side of the heavyweight division for purely business reasons?

Seems to me that this approaches the heart of the case against Jack Johnson.

(Though once again, this remains a separate question from the overall point as to why one man's behavior should bring down a 20-year penalty on all other members of his race after the man himself had effectively departed the boxing scene. I don't think that I should have to keep repeating that obvious point, but I'm doing it for anyone who hasn't read my previous views on the subject earlier in the thread.)
   163. BDC Posted: June 19, 2009 at 01:32 PM (#3224665)
Andy, Geoffrey Ward's book Unforgivable Blackness suggests that the color line itself kept Johnson from making many title defenses, particularly against black contenders. Also, Ward asserts that Johnson had fought and defeated all the top black contenders by 1910, so there was no doubt that he was the best black heavyweight.

Now, YR may be right and Ward wrong (Ward was a collaborator with Ken Burns, and may be presenting a rosy view of the record). But it's not like YR's interpretation of history is the only, or even the standard, way of looking at things. Ward's book is thoroughly and meticulously documented, using lots of archival sources.
   164. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 19, 2009 at 01:33 PM (#3224666)
A propos of absolutely nothing, it's always been one of my favorite random coincidences that there were two major lights in the early and mid-20th century sporting world with the name of Tex Rickard: the promoter we've been talking about here, and the legendary Ebbets Field PA announcer whose classic nasal voice introduced Jackie Robinson to the Major Leagues in 1947.
   165. BFFB Posted: June 19, 2009 at 01:38 PM (#3224671)
it shouldn't. but that doesn't mean it didn't. just as people scream context, context, context when discussing Muhammed Ali ans the NOI the same mantra should be repeated regarding the unintended consequences of different actions on the part of people like Johnson and the cold pragmatism of people like Rikard.

just my 2c.
   166. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: June 19, 2009 at 01:42 PM (#3224674)
The real victims here, and the only figures worth of any sympathy, are the black fighters Johnson intentionally froze out of contention during his reign - Sam McVey, Joe Jeanette, Sam Langford - and the handful of top black contenders in the decade that followed (Harry Wills, perhaps Kid Norfolk and George Godfrey, thought I don't see any of them beating a prime Dempsey) who were denied the sort of big paydays Tex Rickard routinely delivered to black fighters before Johnson undermined their two decades of constant progress towards equality.
Let me take a shot at this.

YR states quite clearly that Wills et al suffered because they were deserving of title shots they did not get. YR states quite clearly that the boxing establishment, personified in Tex Rickard, refused to give them the title shots they had rightly earned. YR states that Rickard "routinely delivered" title shots to black boxers before Johnson. The argument runs, then, that Jack Johnson is to blame for this situation.

But how does this logic run? What is Tex Rickard's logic, on this score?

1) Jack Johnson was a poorly behaved champion
2) Jack Johnson was black
3) Harry Wills is black
4) Harry Wills doesn't get a title shot, because he would be poorly behaved, or at least it's a risk not worth taking.

That is racism. There are jerks of every race (assuming arguendo Johnson's jerkiness), and to make assumptions about Harry Wills' character on the basis of Jack Johnson's character is precisely and baldly racist.

The victims may have been Wills et al, but the perpetrators were Tex Rickard and the entire racist establishment.
   167. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 19, 2009 at 01:47 PM (#3224679)
Andy, Geoffrey Ward's book Unforgivable Blackness suggests that the color line itself kept Johnson from making many title defenses, particularly against black contenders. Also, Ward asserts that Johnson had fought and defeated all the top black contenders by 1910, so there was no doubt that he was the best black heavyweight.

Now, YR may be right and Ward wrong (Ward was a collaborator with Ken Burns, and may be presenting a rosy view of the record). But it's not like YR's interpretation of history is the only, or even the standard, way of looking at things. Ward's book is thoroughly and meticulously documented, using lots of archival sources.


Well, here I am embarrassed to say that I have the Ward book, Johnson's 1927 autobiography In The Ring--And Out, and Al-Tony Gilmore's Bad Nlgger! (a 1975 book which is more of a long essay on Johnson's impact on race relations than a biography), all sitting on a book shelf about six feet in front of me, but I've been too interested in seeing how the Primates here are dealing with this issue to take the time to go through any of these books in search of words of wisdom. But I'm going to do that now, and may wind up quoting a few passages of interest. Stay tuned.
   168. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: June 19, 2009 at 01:47 PM (#3224680)
the cold pragmatism of people like Rikard.
What in the holy living #### is pragmatic about segregating the heavyweight title picture because one guy acted in a way that people didn't like? It is only pragmatic if there is any reason to extrapolate from Johnson's behavior to the likely behavior of Wills et al, and such an extrapolation has no backing other than bald and deplorable racism.

Now, there is a possible defense of Rickard - that integrated boxing was not going to be popular in this decade or two becuase of the racism of the times, and Rickard was, while nobody's idea of a hero, just a businessman looking out for number one, and he decided that the best money would come from segregation. In that case, though, Johnson can't be to blame, becuase it's the racism of the society that leads Rickard to his "pragmatic" decision.
   169. BFFB Posted: June 19, 2009 at 01:47 PM (#3224681)
^^^Money. From reading the back and forth the impression I got was that if he could make money from a fight he would do it. if the money dissapeared afterwards (no idea, just a musing) it would impact his subsequent decisions.


5) how much money could he make from promoting black fighters before and after johnson?
6) to what extent did the tolerance level of his customers (the paying public) change?
   170. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: June 19, 2009 at 01:55 PM (#3224687)
Let's take everything BFFB has claimed as true.

1) The paying public accepts black contenders to the heavyweight belt and attends their matches in great number
2) Pragmatists like Tex Rickard promote and organize integrated boxing matches
3) Jack Johnson becomes champion
4) Jack Johnson behaves badly
5) The paying public, stops accepting black contenders and stops attending their matches
6) Pragmatists like Tex Rickard segregate boxing

All that's happened is that the baldly and deplorably racist action has shifted to falling between (4) and (5). In this case, the viewing public is to blame for their racism.

I'm very skeptical of this history, but it still leaves YR's argument that Johnson was to blame without justification.
   171. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 19, 2009 at 02:12 PM (#3224712)
From the 1927 Johnson autobiography, here's what the old boxing critic and referee Ed Smith had to say in the foreword. Even at the time, Johnson wasn't without plenty of white fans and defenders.

Johnson's ring work always has presented the highest in the artisanship of his craft. Always a past master of defensive work and positively uncanny in his judgment of what the other fellow is about to do, Jack presents ability that is impossible to rate too highly and next to impossible to match, then, now, and possibly ever.

Of this quartet of colored Goliaths, the slaying of which by any of the puny Davids of this decade of fighting men has been accomplished only at decidedly rare intervals, Johnson was by long odds the most masterful of the lot. And when it is considered there were in his company at various times and striving always for leadership, such men as Sam McVey, Sam Langford and the incomparable game and willing Joe Jeanette, one is saying much in classifying Johnson as the master mind.

There may have been many times when Jack Johnson came in for sharp reproach and often absolute reproof, especially by those of his own race. I know Jack to be possessed of one of the kindliest minds of any great athlete I ever came into contact with. Money never meant a great deal to this mighty man of brawn and ring brains. As far as the financial end of his dealings was concerned, Jack often displayed a childish simplicity. He wanted to do for others and always went the limit---sometimes, unfortunately for himself, beyond that. But many of Jack's predicaments came about, I happen to know, through a too-trusting faith in the white brethren, be that to the everlasting discredit of the Caucasians with whom he dealt so confidently, almost implicitly.


And here's an interesting passage from "TAD" (T. A. Dorgan), who was a sportswriter and cartoonist for the New York Evening Journal, and one of the more prominent "about town" sporting figures of the 20's:

...Johnson met and defeated EVERY COLORED HEAVYWEIGHT of any note boxing at that time. His wins included fights with Langford, Griffin, Jeanette, McVey, Childs, Jim Johnson, Black Bill, Denver Ed Martin, Peter Felix, Joe Butler and others. Without any doubt Johnson was the greatest colored heavyweight....

After he was crowned champion of the world, Jeanette, Langford and other colored men put up howls for a return match, but Johnson never would give them a chance. As he told Dan McKetrick in Paris:

"I won't box any of these colored boys now, Dan. I am champion of the world. I have had a hard time to get a chance and I really think I am the only colored fellow who ever was given the chance to win the title. I gave Langford, Jeanette and those boys a chance before I was champ. I'll retire still the only colored heavy weight champ," and he did.

Jack Johnson was the greatest heavyweight of all times.
   172. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:12 PM (#3224791)
But how does this logic run? What is Tex Rickard's logic, on this score?

1) Jack Johnson was a poorly behaved champion
2) Jack Johnson was black
3) Harry Wills is black
4) Harry Wills doesn't get a title shot, because he would be poorly behaved, or at least it's a risk not worth taking.
Jeez, is it that hard to read what Y_R is saying?

4) Harry Wills doesn't get a title shot, because the customers were turned off to black boxers because of Johnson's behavior.
That is racism.
Maybe, but not necessarily on Rickard's part.
There are jerks of every race (assuming arguendo Johnson's jerkiness), and to make assumptions about Harry Wills' character on the basis of Jack Johnson's character is precisely and baldly racist.
Well, I agree with the argument against affirmative action you're presenting, but I don't think anybody, including Y_R, is denying that Americans were racist in the era, by modern standards. What he's saying is that they would have given Wills (or whomever) a shot in spite of their racism, if not for Johnson.

Just as Americans were racist in the 1940s, but gave Robinson a shot in spite thereof, but if Robinson had behaved badly, it would have cost other players a shot. That wouldn't mean that Americans weren't racist; it would have meant that Robinson's behavior was a factor.
   173. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:24 PM (#3224806)
Just as Americans were racist in the 1940s, but gave Robinson a shot in spite thereof, but if Robinson had behaved badly, it would have cost other players a shot. That wouldn't mean that Americans weren't racist; it would have meant that Robinson's behavior was a factor.
A black player in an impossible situation where he has to demonstrate virtue far above what anyone should be required to do simply to ply his trade, cannot reasonably be blamed for his behavior being read as improper by his wider society.

The racists who read the behavior as unacceptable, then proceed to extrapolate from the race of the actor to prejudice against people with similar bodily characteristics, are the people who caused this set of events and the people who are to blame.

Again, I find this history deeply implausible, but even in YR's and BFFB's history, blaming Johnson for racism is unjustiable.

EDIT: Two ways of articulating our difference. I see a difference between behavior and the perception of behavior - little that Johnson has been said to have done rises above run-of-the-mill jerkiness and self-servingness for a star athlete. Judging this behavior as worthy of collective punishment is not a function of the bahavior, but of the people judging it and their prejudices.

I likewise see a difference between this action being a factor and the actor receiving blame for the effects on his action. It seems to me that the effects of Johnson's actions (again assuming arguendo this narrative) can't be blamed to any meaningful degree on Johnson, but are a function of the racism of the society in which he acted.

EDIT2: And I agree with BDC that history tends to occur without particular regard for individual actors - segregation was happening everywhere at this time, and it seems far more likely that various racists found whatever excuse they needed to segregate the boxing scene - as was happening everywhere - than that boxing was this weird outlier world where the promoters were without prejudice and the fans willing to overlook their prejudice, until Jack Johnson, the first prizefighter ever to display questionable moral judgment, ruined their happy little world.
   174. tfbg9 Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:28 PM (#3224809)
Well, I agree with the argument against affirmative action you're presenting, but I don't think anybody, including Y_R, is denying that Americans were racist in the era, by modern standards. What he's saying is that they would have given Wills (or whomever) a shot in spite of their racism, if not for Johnson.

Just as Americans were racist in the 1940s, but gave Robinson a shot in spite thereof, but if Robinson had behaved badly, it would have cost other players a shot. That wouldn't mean that Americans weren't racist; it would have meant that Robinson's behavior was a factor.


Yes, of course.

And once again, despite it just about the worst insult that can be leveled at someone these days, a reckless nitwit like Treder will casually toss the lable of "racist" at others at the drop of his Giants cap.

YR may be a racist, he may not be. Nothing in this thread is evidence either way.
   175. BDC Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:29 PM (#3224810)
Just as Americans were racist in the 1940s, but gave Robinson a shot in spite thereof, but if Robinson had behaved badly, it would have cost other players a shot

Well, we can't know, DMN, but I think the societal effects would have been minimal. In retrospect, we see Jackie Robinson as a world-historically pivotal actor, but imagine it's actually 1946-48 again. Jackie Robinson, for some reason, goes all Jimmy Piersall on the National League. Does Bill Veeck figure that Larry Doby is a bad risk? Bill Veeck is not an idiot. He figures that the color line is dead, whatever Robinson's demons have done to him. He signs Doby. He signs Satchel Paige. Maybe he signs Roy Campanella too, because the Dodgers get cold feet. The Indians win at least the 1948 pennant and maybe 1949 in the bargain. The Braves sign Sam Jethroe, the Giants sign Monte Irvin and Willie Mays. And so forth ...
   176. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:36 PM (#3224818)
I find this history deeply implausible, but even in YR's and BFFB's history, blaming Johnson for racism is unjustifiable.

Yes.
   177. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:41 PM (#3224820)
In retrospect, we see Jackie Robinson as a world-historically pivotal actor, but imagine it's actually 1946-48 again. Jackie Robinson, for some reason, goes all Jimmy Piersall on the National League. Does Bill Veeck figure that Larry Doby is a bad risk? Bill Veeck is not an idiot. He figures that the color line is dead, whatever Robinson's demons have done to him. He signs Doby. He signs Satchel Paige. Maybe he signs Roy Campanella too, because the Dodgers get cold feet. The Indians win at least the 1948 pennant and maybe 1949 in the bargain. The Braves sign Sam Jethroe, the Giants sign Monte Irvin and Willie Mays. And so forth ...

Yes.

You'll find no greater admirer of Jackie Robinson than me. Placed in an indescribably difficult situation, he didn't just rise to the occasion, but soared above it.

But in our collective admiration for Robinson I think we've tended to overstate his impact, and bought into the myth that it was Robinson's behavior (and his tremendous performance on the field) that alone drove the subsequent history of the integration of baseball. Obviously had Robinson behaved differently, things would have been different than they were in their particulars. But the notion that integration would have been stillborn is just at odds with an understanding of the facts; integration was going to happen with or without Robinson.
   178. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:41 PM (#3224821)
And once again, despite it just about the worst insult that can be leveled at someone these days, a reckless nitwit like Treder will casually toss the lable of "racist" at others at the drop of his Giants cap.
I would deeply, dearly love to live in a world where this is the case. A pity I have to live in the real one.
   179. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:51 PM (#3224832)
Well, we can't know, DMN, but I think the societal effects would have been minimal. In retrospect, we see Jackie Robinson as a world-historically pivotal actor, but imagine it's actually 1946-48 again. Jackie Robinson, for some reason, goes all Jimmy Piersall on the National League. Does Bill Veeck figure that Larry Doby is a bad risk? Bill Veeck is not an idiot. He figures that the color line is dead, whatever Robinson's demons have done to him. He signs Doby. He signs Satchel Paige. Maybe he signs Roy Campanella too, because the Dodgers get cold feet. The Indians win at least the 1948 pennant and maybe 1949 in the bargain. The Braves sign Sam Jethroe, the Giants sign Monte Irvin and Willie Mays. And so forth ...
The implication of what you're saying here is that Jackie Robinson really doesn't deserve all the praise and admiration he gets. He happened to be first, but so what? He didn't pave the way for other black players; it would have happened regardless. Big whoop. So he's just a very good ballplayer who deserves a little sympathy for losing part of his career to the color line, but other than that, nothing special about him.

(If Bill Veeck's not being an idiot is enough, then why did he wait until after Jackie Robinson?)

EDIT: The issue here isn't whether integration would have happened eventually without Jackie Robinson; it would have. The issue here is whether Robinson's behavior played a role in it happening when it did. As opposed to, say, 10 years later.
   180. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:54 PM (#3224835)
The implication of what you're saying here is that Jackie Robinson really doesn't deserve all the praise and admiration he gets. He happened to be first, but so what? He didn't pave the way for other black players; it would have happened regardless. Big whoop. So he's just a very good ballplayer who deserves a little sympathy for losing part of his career to the color line, but other than that, nothing special about him.
No. This is stupid.

Showing incredible strength of character in a situation for more difficult than you or I have one through, deserves great, great praise.

History always happens around us. That the actions deserving of such great praise may not have held quite world-historical import in no way drains them of praiseworthiness.
   181. rr Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:56 PM (#3224842)
Since Robinson seems to be a big issue here, I have a question: who was Branch Rickey in the Jack Johnson situation? Did someone sit him down and tell him he was symbol, etc, that he had a responsibility, etc? That what he was doing meant a lot to his whole race? And then he said "Fukc that, I am going to be myself"?

One thing to remember is that Robinson changed his behavior within a few years--he was combative and mouthy on the field and spoke out all the time off of it.

What he's saying is that they would have given Wills (or whomever) a shot in spite of their racism, if not for Johnson.

Right, and many of us are saying:

a) They could have just written Johnson off as "uppity" and given those guys (the "good ones") shots anyway, and chose not to. That is evidence of their own--and institutional--racism.
b) YR is saying that Johnson's personality/behavior was the MAIN factor, not a minor factor. That is what many of us are rejecting.
   182. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:58 PM (#3224844)
Showing incredible strength of character in a situation for more difficult than you or I have one through, deserves great, great praise.
Eh. If it's meaningless, then why?
History always happens around us. That the actions deserving of such great praise may not have held quite world-historical import in no way drains them of praiseworthiness.
It diminishes it, obviously, if said praise was based in significant part on said "historical import." There's a reason why Jackie Robinson gets more praise than, say, Larry Doby.
   183. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:05 PM (#3224850)
YR is saying that Johnson's personality/behavior was the MAIN factor, not a minor factor. That is what many of us are rejecting.

He puts it even more strongly than that:

Jack Johnson's behavior, and his alone, scuttled an entire generation of black fighters


I'll put that belief in bold, to make it precisely clear what I'm arguing against: Jack Johnson is at fault for the racist backlash which prevented black fighters from competing for the title from 1915 until 1935. (Tell me if I'm misconstruing your beliefs and tilting at windmills, of course.)


No, I think you've essentially described my line of argument
   184. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:15 PM (#3224860)
Eh. If it's meaningless, then why?
Are you being willfully obtuse, or do you actually believe that ethical action under astoundingly difficult circumstances is not worthy of praise if it is of less than world-historical import?

No one else thinks this.
   185. BDC Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:30 PM (#3224878)
The implication of what you're saying here is that Jackie Robinson really doesn't deserve all the praise and admiration he gets. He happened to be first, but so what? He didn't pave the way for other black players; it would have happened regardless. Big whoop.

Not exactly. Taking the first step is always a big deal, and taking it at all, let alone as effectively as Robinson did, deserves great praise. He certainly did pave the way for others.

I 'm saying something a little different. You said "if Robinson had behaved badly, it would have cost other players a shot." That doesn't seem realistic to me. White owners and GMs knew that black guys could play baseball. They were scared to take that first step. Once taken, though, was every other GM in baseball going to pass up such a flood of talent because one individual couldn't handle the stress?

There were indeed racist organizations that took the opposite approach. Despite Robinson and a string of Dodger pennants, despite Doby, Paige, and the 1948 pennant, despite Irvin, Mays, and the 1951 pennant, other organizations dragged their feet. Part of their rationale was that sure, Jackie Robinson succeeded, but who can find another Jackie Robinson? That kind of attitude (exemplified by the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies) indicates that yes, when racism was in play, it didn't matter what Jackie Robinson did. Robinson had six championship rings, universal respect, and was retired from baseball before the Red Sox came around. Meanwhile, teams like the White Sox, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati began to wonder what it would be like to win pennants instead of holding the color line.


(If Bill Veeck's not being an idiot is enough, then why did he wait until after Jackie Robinson?)

Branch Rickey > Bill Veeck in this respect, no doubt. But Veeck waited all of three months after Robinson's debut before bringing Doby to Cleveland. He wasn't waiting for Emily Post to give Robinson a good manners award before trying to win the AL pennant.
   186. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:37 PM (#3224884)
But Veeck waited all of three months after Robinson's debut before bringing Doby to Cleveland. He wasn't waiting for Emily Post to give Robinson a good manners award before trying to win the AL pennant.

And Bill DeWitt (or whoever it was who was running the Browns at the time) waited all of two weeks after Veeck brought Doby to Cleveland to bring Willard Brown and Hank Thompson to St. Louis. Of all places.
   187. Eraser-X is emphatically dominating teh site!!! Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:41 PM (#3224888)
Or to put it another way--look at all the ######## on this website. Do any of them run the risk of destroying opportunities for all white lawyers in the society?

That's societal racism.

Also, why is "racism" of Rickart in quotes? If calling someone racist is the worst charge imaginable, why is it totally acceptable to call this that and the other person of color racist, but it's so God awful for someone to accuse some white dude WHO IS JUDGING SOMEONE ON THEIR ACTION AS SOMEONE OF THEIR RACE to be racist?

And lastly, before someone whips out the same old character attacks, how many times have I referred to someone with the term "racist" since Andy asked me to stop?

How many times have other posters accused me of using the term, or used the term against me?
   188. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:52 PM (#3224900)
Are you being willfully obtuse, or do you actually believe that ethical action under astoundingly difficult circumstances is not worthy of praise if it is of less than world-historical import?

No one else thinks this.
But you're begging the question. What makes it "ethical"? If it had no impact on anything, why does it matter? Robinson, as is known, did start fighting back, after a couple of years of taking it lying down. Does that mean he was then being "unethical"?
   189. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:53 PM (#3224902)
First, I want to mention that I've never been at the epicenter of such spirited discussion here since I first stumbled across the Primer back in the day. I feel strangely gratified.

Andy, Geoffrey Ward's book Unforgivable Blackness suggests that the color line itself kept Johnson from making many title defenses, particularly against black contenders. Also, Ward asserts that Johnson had fought and defeated all the top black contenders by 1910, so there was no doubt that he was the best black heavyweight.


Johnson won the heavyweight title in 1908, so that's the jump-off point for any discussion over his ducking habits.

Johnson did indeed defeat most of the best black heavyweights prior to becoming champion. However in boxing, as in baseball, the best participants have their peaks, and this was no exception.

Yes, Jack Johnson beat Sam Langford in 1906. At the time, however, Langford was a 155lb welterweight who would eventually grow into a 185lb heavyweight during Johnson's reign. In 1906 Langford hadn't beaten a single heavyweight of any stature whatsoever; during Johnson reign he owned wins over nearly every contender in the division, including Fireman Jim Flynn, Joe Jeanette, Gunboat Smith, Sam McVea, Bill Lang, Porky Dan Flynn, and a rising young Harry Wills.

Yes, Jack Johnson did defeat Joe Jeanette before he became champion, but he beat an absolute greenhorn with an 8-7 career record at that point. By 1914, near the end of Johnson's title reign, Jeanette's career record stood at 87-17 - clearly not the same fighter.

Yes, Jack Johnson did beat Sam McVea three times - in McVea's 7th, 10th, and 11th career fight during 1903 and 1904, at which time Sam's record stood at 11-3. By 1912 Sam's record stood at 46-6-3 with wins over Denver Ed Martin, Joe Jeanette, Sam Langford, Bill Lang, Arthur Pelkey, Harry Wills, and Sandy Furguson, again clearly not the same fighter.
   190. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:55 PM (#3224908)
And lastly, before someone whips out the same old character attacks, how many times have I referred to someone with the term "racist" since Andy asked me to stop?

I've never once seen you do it since then.
   191. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:56 PM (#3224909)
I 'm saying something a little different. You said "if Robinson had behaved badly, it would have cost other players a shot." That doesn't seem realistic to me. White owners and GMs knew that black guys could play baseball. They were scared to take that first step. Once taken, though, was every other GM in baseball going to pass up such a flood of talent because one individual couldn't handle the stress?
I don't understand your logic here. They were scared to take the first step, but after watching the other person, who took the first step, suffer for it, they would have eagerly rushed in to join him?

They had shown that they were willing to pass up the potential flood of talent. So how would Jackie Robinson's failed debut make them less willing to pass up said talent?
   192. Eraser-X is emphatically dominating teh site!!! Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:58 PM (#3224912)
Re: 187
EDIT: Just before anyone gets smart-ass on me, obviously I mean "the difference between what we face and what turn of the century black athletes faced is societal racism", not "white lawyers not being blamed is societal racism".
   193. cardsfanboy Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:59 PM (#3224916)
Or to put it another way--look at all the ######## on this website. Do any of them run the risk of destroying opportunities for all white lawyers in the society?

I liked pretty much all your posts on this thread, but this is not a remotely similar situation. Racism existed and was gaining momentum at the time Johnson had the title. People were looking for a reason to justify exclusions of black in any walks of white society. Johnson made it easy to give them a reason. (he isn't responsible, but he helped hurt the cause)

Albert Belle or Dick Allen being asses after the barrier was broken didn't hurt anything else but themselves(and maybe their fans and teams) It's the first one through the door that helps determine how soon a second person can get through the door (in this situation)

again, I don't feel that Johnson should be held in contempt for his actions because he was just being himself, but it's arguably possible that if he didn't give them the ammunition they couldn't have as easily blocked the path. (I don't agree with YRs comments that he is solely responsible, but he did have a part)

and let me join in in saying that the Jackie Robinson comparison isn't really the same either, baseball knew it was inevitable, Jackie made the transition a lot easier by being who he was, but integration was going to be happening and if Jackie would have been less classier, I don't think it would have changed much in the big picture.
   194. phredbird Posted: June 19, 2009 at 05:00 PM (#3224918)
When Rickard stated, "If a n!gger wins the heavyweight championship, then the championship isn't worth a nickel," he was speaking as an businessman relying on firsthand experience, not as some cartoonish "racist" to be slurred by 21st century magpies unfamiliar with his accomplishments.


wow. if you can't see what's wrong here, you have got serious comprehension problems. if you think that's solely a value neutral statement of business principles, all the poring over boxing history in the world isn't going to fix the problems with your world view, and it seriously calls into question your self-proclaimed title of boxing 'historian'. you're just a repository. that's it. you are a repository.

and i meant that to sting!

please don't regale me with another five paragraphs about slappy walcott or whoever was wronged by awful jack johnson. address the issues. you can't separate the boxing establishment of the time and racism by using johnson as a scapegoat. it doesn't work.
   195. rr Posted: June 19, 2009 at 05:04 PM (#3224922)
So how would Jackie Robinson's failed debut make them less willing to pass up said talent?


Many reasons. One would be financial. One excuse used was that having black players would kill attendance. Even if Robinson had failed, there was evidence in from his debut that all the blacks coming to the games didn't make the whites stay home.

Another is simply a rule of nature, so to speak: the first atttempt at anything is often the most painful (maybe I should say that in the porn thread).

There are other reasons.
   196. BDC Posted: June 19, 2009 at 05:08 PM (#3224925)
Johnson won the heavyweight title in 1908, so that's the jump-off point for any discussion over his ducking habits

Yes, of course – sorry, I was thinking of the Jeffries fight in 1910, which removed any doubts.

Still, you have your interpretation and Ward has his; I am no expert, but I know enough to know that others disagree with you.

In any case, heavyweight champions of most eras have defended their titles sparingly. Johnson held the title a little over 6 1/2 years and defended it nine times. Jess Willard defended his twice in four years. Dempsey defended his six times in seven years. Title bouts were hard to arrange, and promoters had no interest in matching Johnson against anybody but a "white hope" – at least, that's Ward's interpretation.
   197. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2009 at 05:16 PM (#3224936)
So how would Jackie Robinson's failed debut make them less willing to pass up said talent?


Many reasons. One would be financial. One excuse used was that having black players would kill attendance. Even if Robinson had failed, there was evidence in from his debut that all the blacks coming to the games didn't make the whites stay home.

Moreover, it wasn't as though it was Robinson or nothing at all. In 1946 the Dodgers signed not only Robinson, but also Campanella and Newcombe, and played them both in their minor league system. It's not plausible to imagine that if Robinson had flamed out, the Dodgers would have given up on both Campanella and Newcombe, who were developing wonderfully in the minors in 1946-48.

Robinson's debut gathered nearly all the attention, perhaps as it well should have. But it didn't take place in a vacuum; he was just the first in a line that was already forming.
   198. Eraser-X is emphatically dominating teh site!!! Posted: June 19, 2009 at 05:17 PM (#3224937)
I liked pretty much all your posts on this thread, but this is not a remotely similar situation. Racism existed and was gaining momentum at the time Johnson had the title. People were looking for a reason to justify exclusions of black in any walks of white society. Johnson made it easy to give them a reason. (he isn't responsible, but he helped hurt the cause)


This is exactly my point. I just articulated it horribly (and then missed the EDIT window).

I was merely pointing out that it's not really fair to vilify people because they didn't perfectly measure the racial climate of the society before they acted.

I think there's differing levels of appreciation of how challenging and unjust it is to represent not only your own reputation but that of everyone of your race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

I work with the students on this frequently from both sides--that's it's wrong that they carry this burden, but that they do indeed in many ways carry it.

So I think I'm fulfilling my responsibility and fostering personal responsibility, but I expect that others do the same before passing judgment.
   199. JC in DC Posted: June 19, 2009 at 05:26 PM (#3224947)
I'm not really sure what's in contention at this point, but like Andy, I do appreciate Y-R's willingness to defend his position, his civility, and his knowledge of the time. I think people aren't distinguishing different levels of causality. YR never says "Johnson caused racism"; he says "Johnson prevented the continuing integration of boxing" or something like that. That's an assertion, and it can be evaluated on its face. I'm not convinced by it, despite the evidence he's presented, but it certainly doesn't make him racist to suggest that, does it?

And, I think DMN's point, which coheres with YR's, can be argued to be the very opposite of racist: it involves treating the men (Johnson and Robinson) as true actors, or agents, and not merely passive instruments of historical movements. We applaud Robinson not for being the first black player, but for being a heroic man whose heroism depends on having been the first, but stems from the dignity of his response to that situation. Perhaps, YR is suggesting (to me, at least), we should not similarly treat Johnson (which, again, is an assertion and needs to be defended much as YR has attempted). A black man's actions, then as now, matter.

That said, I agree with E-X on this: "it's not really fair to vilify people because they didn't perfectly measure the racial climate of the society before they acted."

And, finally, I wish Treder and Srul, two self-professed progressives, would stop closing their minds to different views.
   200. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 19, 2009 at 05:26 PM (#3224949)
It's not plausible to imagine that if Robinson had flamed out, the Dodgers would have given up on both Campanella and Newcombe

Actually, there was another player that signed with Jackie but quickly flamed out and has been forgotten by history. I even have a baseball card of him but I can't think of his name. This is going to drive me nuts now.
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