Week of July 23, 2022

Who Gets A Statue?

TOB and I were walking past Oracle Park with our families just last week. As we passed the Gaylor Perry statue near the left field entrance, I asked TOB, a lifelong Giants fan, what the qualifications were for a statue outside the park. For the Giants, any player that goes into the Hall of Fame as a San Francisco Giant (sorry old players from NY) gets a statue. 

Perry played for the Giants for a decade and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991, but TOB was pretty insistent that he shouldn’t have a statue outside the park. His main reason: Perry played for seven other teams after his time for the Giants. 

Tyler Kepner must’ve been within earshot, because his story is about just that: who gets a statue and who doesn’t. Nearly every Hall of Fame member has a statue somewhere. As Kepner points out, Dave Winfield, a no-doubter Hall-of-Famer, doesn’t have a statue, and his fellow Hall members don’t let him forget it. 

Because statue isn’t just about greatness. Winfield played for too many teams, splitting his best years with the Padres and Angels, winning a World Series with the Blue Jays before collecting his 3,000 hit and 400th home run with his hometown MN Twins. 

To George Brett, a teammate of Winfield’s on eight American League All-Star teams in the 1980s, that only stands to reason. Brett has a statue on the outfield concourse in Kansas City, where he played for 21 seasons and is synonymous with the Royals franchise.

“A lot of these guys played in so many cities,” Brett said. “Who’s going to have a statue of Winfield? He played on eight different teams.”

Six, actually, but that raises an interesting point: Teams are more active now in celebrating their pasts, but many great players, especially over the last few decades, were only passing through on their way to better contracts elsewhere.

Kepner notes that the baseball statue boom is also due to most every team playing in a baseball-only stadium, creating space outside the park to celebrate the team’s history. Older fields like Wrigley and Dodger Stadium have made renovations outside the stadium to create nicer gathering places and plazas. That’s where you’ll find Fergie Jenkins’ statute (Cubs) and Sandy Koufax rocking back (Dodgers)

Kepner also has a cool tangent with sculptor William Behrends about how the surrounding space can dictate dimensions to the sculpture.  

Fellow Minnesotan, Kent Hrbek wasn’t the player Winfield was. In fact, he’s only received 5 Hall of Fame votes the only time he showed up on the ballot, but he’s got a great statue outside Target field, as he should, and right there is the intangible quality that is fun to think about when it comes to which players deserve a sculpture. While Tim Lincecum was freakishly great for only a few seasons for the Giants, TOB didn’t miss a beat to say yes  when I asked Timmy should have one. 

Says Hrbek: 

My daughter will go to the ballpark and take her friends or her children or her cousins and say, ‘That’s Dad; that was his favorite part of playing the game, winning the world championship, catching the ball and jumping off first base. Hopefully that memory will go on for a long time — and give the pigeons someplace to sit for a while and let them do their thing.

Classic Hrbek. Fun read! – PAL 

Source: “You Might Be a Hall of Famer, but Do You Have a Statue?Tyler Kepner, The New York Times (07/22/22)

Let Ratto Eat

There are few writers out there who savor calling bullshit as much as Ray Ratto. He takes his time, tucks that napkin into his shirt, chooses his phrases carefully, and cleans his plate with a cynical panache. A couple weeks ago, his meal of choice was Tiger Woods’ take on the LIV golf tour – the Saudi-backed competitor to the PGA. 

First, here’s what Woods, who had been silent on the topic, said before the (British) Open last week.

What these players are doing for guaranteed money, what is the incentive to practice? What is the incentive to go out there and earn it in the dirt? You’re just getting paid a lot of money up front and playing a few events and playing 54 holes. They’re playing blaring music and have all these atmospheres that are different.

And here’s Ratto just getting started. 

He sounds like just the kind of middle-aged scold every extraordinary cultural figure becomes when the audience has moved on and abandoned him or her to the dustbin of their parents’ history. In a moment where he could explode the LIV tour as doing business with dirty money in defense of even more untrammeled greed that they already exhibit, he goes for the politically safer yet far less compelling argument that successful golfers should be more grateful to the tired old boys than hyper-acquisitive and ethically indifferent in service to the morally compromised new ones.

And Later:

One suspects that he (Woods) would be in equally staunch opposition if the Saudi billionaires were replaced by the guys who gave us the raucous Waste Management Open, which means that while he may be on the right side on the human decency, he’s doing it mostly because he hates change.

You don’t need to read too deeply into this to find Woods’ ultimate incentive. Spoiler alert: it’s not about the young guys going “out there and earn[ing] it in the dirt”. To him, this is about his legacy, because it’s only ever about his legacy. His singular obsession to be the greatest golfer makes him utterly uninteresting when he doesn’t have a club in his hands (or when he’s not being chased by someone with a club in their hands). Calling out changes to the game, changes that make it easier for future generations of golfers to win, which could then makes it even the smallest bit easier for some golf-obsessed fan in 2122 to forget the greatness of Tiger Woods. And in that way, as Ratto points out, Woods is like every other aging sports icon that’s come before him. 

While Woods’ best golf is decades in the rearview, he is still the skeleton key for golf to the mainstream, at least for another year or so. He still matters more than all of the young guys who’ve surpassed his game. His last Masters win had the casual sports fan tuning in to watch his back nine. As incredible as Cam Smith’s back nine at the Open (12 putts on the back nine on a Sunday of a major), the mulleted Aussie is not sending a casual golf fan to the TV. Which is to say, if Tiger did leave the PGA for the LIV, it would be far and away the biggest blow to the PGA. 

But I don’t think the PGA has to worry about that. Not yet, at least. I can’t imagine the amount of money that would sway Tiger Woods to dilute the organization that’s woven into the infrastructure of his greatness. Maybe I am yet again failing to appreciate that every single person has a price, even a billionaire who’s built his entire empire on winning golf tournaments while playing in the PGA Tour.

Because above it all, even Woods, is the money and our ability to digest what lies beneath our viewing entertainment. As Ratto so perfectly calls it, “gradations of manic greed”. 

That there’s prize money as defined by corporate sponsors, there’s obscene prize money as defined by objectionable corporate sponsors, and there’s dirty obscene prize money as defined by governments who are comfortable with attitude adjusters like murder and oppression. You know, tiny subtleties you normal folk could pilot a cruise ship through sideways while irretrievably drunk.

Classic Ratto.  – PAL

Source: Tiger Woods Lit Up The Saudi Golf League For All The Wrong Reasons,” Ray Ratto, Defector (July 12, 2022) 

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I don’t care if Ryan murdered his entire family. He’s like a son to me.

Michael Scott