‘How I wrote the story’: Navigating the ‘anniversary’ assignment

Steve Springer probes the legacy of a few ill-chosen words about race that stunned the sports world

Our business is ambivalent about anniversary stories. It is fashionable to hate them, to claim that they exist only to fill space, to declare the obvious, to be written out of obligatory motives.

'How I wrote the story': Navigating the 'anniversary' assignment

'How I wrote the story': Navigating the 'anniversary' assignment

On the other hand–and this is directed toward any reporter who is on the receiving end of an anniversary-story assignment–the potential for fun and enlightenment is always there. Anniversary stories present you with a chance to write history, and history presents you with a chance to create a narrative flow. Anniversary stories present you with a chance to bring new texture and new understanding to a subject–to tell the audience, in effect, “It’s more complicated, more interesting, than you thought.” And anniversary stories give you the opportunity to dig up new nuggets that were lost in the original reporting.

Here’s the top of a sports story written in 1997, on the 10th anniversary of one of baseball’s most embarrassing moments. The original 1987 incident was itself an anniversary: Forty years since Jackie Robinson had broken baseball’s color line with the Brooklyn Dodgers. To commemorate Robinson’s achievement, ABC’s “Nightline” did a show shortly before the ’87 season began. A Los Angeles Dodger executive who had been a close friend of Robinson’s, Al Campanis, made a fool of himself on “Nightline” by employing a crude racial stereotype. It was a national story but it lingered painfully in Los Angeles because it cost Campanis his job and destroyed his legacy.

Ten years later, veteran sportswriter Steve Springer decided to revisit that night:

“THE ‘NIGHTLINE’ THAT ROCKED BASEBALL”
By Steve Springer
April 6, 1997

The story is organized in eight segments. The first one is a summary:

In his old office at Dodger Stadium, Al Campanis hung only three pictures–of Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax and Roberto Clemente, an African American, a Jew and a Puerto Rican.

But that’s not what Campanis saw, those who know him best insist. He simply saw the three greatest ballplayers who crossed his path during his 44 years in the Dodger organization.

“He never, ever judged a ballplayer by his color, his religion or his country,” said an emotional Tom Lasorda, the former Dodger manager who has known Campanis for more than 40 years. “I would swear to that on a stack of Bibles.”

Lasorda and others close to Campanis are speaking out in his defense on this, the 10th anniversary of Campanis’ appearance on ABC’s “Nightline.”

This should be a time of joy for Campanis, who ought to be in the forefront of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s breaking the color barrier in major league baseball, because Campanis was once Robinson’s closest friend on the field. But because of the “Nightline” appearance this has become a dark anniversary for Campanis.

Asked about the lack of a significant number of blacks among the ranks of baseball management on the ABC program that night in 1987, Campanis said that “they may not have some of the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager or, perhaps, a general manager.” He also said, “Why are black people not good swimmers? Because they don’t have the buoyancy.”

Those remarks cost Campanis his job as the Dodgers’ vice president of player personnel.

“That did not sound like the Al Campanis I know,” said Don Newcombe, another black baseball pioneer who followed Robinson to the Dodgers in 1949 and went on to become a pitching star with the club. “He will be my friend as long as he lives and as long as I live.

“I don’t believe he has a prejudiced bone in his body. If Jackie were around today, I don’t think he would appreciate what has happened to Al because Al helped him and befriended him. He would tell Al, ‘You just messed up and you’ve got to apologize,’ and Al did apologize.”

Now 80, Campanis, who never again worked in major league baseball, has trouble speaking for himself. A fall in the shower in February resulted in a broken shoulder and, subsequently, pneumonia, anemia, heart problems and diabetes. He remains hospitalized in Orange County.

Before we go further, here’s Steve’s explanation:

It was hard enough doing the original Al Campanis story ten years ago, trying to get into the head of a man who had trashed his own excellent reputation, gained through a lifetime of achievement, by uttering a couple of indefensible remarks in front of a national television audience.

The fact that Campanis had told Ted Koppel on ABC’s “Nightline,” back on April 6, 1987, that blacks ”may not have some of the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager, or, perhaps, a general manager,” and that blacks may not be good swimmers ”because they don’t have the buoyancy,” was old news. So was the fact that Campanis had been fired for his comments.

My task was to try to get into Campanis’ head 10 years later. It quickly became evident that was not going to be possible since Campanis, now 80, was hospitalized and barely able to communicate. A fall in the shower had resulted in a broken shoulder. But his condition quickly deteriorated. Heart problems, pneumonia, diabetes and anemia all followed, leaving him near death about 10 days before I was to interview him. He had since rallied, but was still not in good shape. (Editor’s note: Campanis would die a year after Steve’s story.)

One of Campanis’ sons, George, had suggested I call his father’s hospital room at about 10 in the morning when, after receiving his daily medication, he was usually the most coherent. Not only wasn’t Campanis coherent the day I tried to talk to him, but when I asked if his son, George, was there, Campanis didn’t even know who he was.

Obviously, this was going to have to be a story about Campanis, rather than with Campanis.

The idea of the story had been to examine how Campanis was handling all of the ceremonies and celebrations surrounding the 50th anniversary of the day Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major-league baseball. After all, Campanis should have been at the forefront of the celebration since he was one of those closest to Robinson when the two played for the minor-league Montreal Royals in 1946. It was Campanis, a shortstop, who taught Robinson, a second baseman, how to make the double play while avoiding the slashing spikes of players who came barreling into second base, determined to do harm to baseball’s first black.

That’s why Campanis had been invited by Koppel to appear on Nightline on the 40th anniversary of Robinson’s historic arrival.

But now, every shining anniversary of the Robinson debut was a dark anniversary for Campanis, marking the day he turned from a booster of Robinson to a bigot.

As expected, I ran into nothing but support for Campanis, from his family to his co-workers.

I had to calm down former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda, a friend of Campanis for nearly half a century, in the Dodger press box. When the subject of his old friend’s banishment came up, Lasorda started yelling and gesturing, waving his arms at the crowd filing into Dodger Stadium for the start of the game.

”There’s 35,000 people out there,” Lasorda literally screamed. ”Go out there. Find me one, just one, who says Al Campanis is a bigot. Bet you can’t do it. Bet you can’t find one.”

Dodger announcer Vin Scully, when he found out what I was doing, looked at me and said, ”Go easy on Campanis. He’s an old man and he’s dying.”

And George Campanis told me, ”We are hoping my Dad will be well enough to get out of the hospital this week. We are hoping your story will really boost him up.”

At least there was no pressure on me.

I would have had no problem painting an unfavorable picture of Campanis if that was what I had discovered. But it didn’t appear that was going to be the case. People were falling over themselves to praise Campanis.

Yet just below the surface of that praise was another story.

In an attempt to explain his father’s ill-chosen words, George Campanis said that the buoyancy story went back more than 40 years. In World War II, George said, his father had been a diver in the Navy. When recruits plunged into a tank, training for duty at sea, Al Campanis’ job had been to rescue those who had trouble swimming. According to George, his father came home telling stories about how a lot of the blacks had sunk to the bottom of the tank and had to be rescued.

George said his father explained that many blacks didn’t have access to swimming pools in their younger days, leaving them unprepared for the water.

Still, what George thought had been a reasonable explanation for his father’s shocking comment actually made his father look worse. This had not just been a 70-year- old man, flustered by facing a hard-driving interrogator like Koppel in an intimidating situation, grasping for a word and coming up with a disastrous choice in ”buoyancy.” This was a guy who had been using that word for much of his life.

So a clear picture of a good man making a bad slip of the tongue was suddenly more complex. It was now the story of a man from an earlier generation who, despite taking admirable actions to fight the prejudices of that era, had clung to some of the racial stereotypes of his time.

The inner conflict wasn’t limited to the white subject of this story. I also talked to former Dodger pitcher Don Newcombe, a black who played alongside both Campanis and Robinson. Newcombe defended Campanis as expected.

But he also took the opportunity to attack some his fellow blacks, saying they expected front-office jobs to be handed to them without working for them.

Saying that blacks with money should quit complaining, pool their resources and buy their own team-perhaps making a bid on the Dodgers, who were then up for sale–Newcombe said blacks could succeed if they have ”the necessities–you hear, I’m quoting Al Campanis now.”

When I looked over what I had, I realized my story was going to show that 10 years hadn’t calmed any of the racial tension created by Campanis’ original remarks. Just the opposite.

This was not the story I had necessarily set out to write. Instead, I had a better one.

Or, I should say, I had two that were better: one on the 1987 telecast itself and one on the man behind the telecast.

Since both aspects were important, and fed off each other so well, I decided to jump back and forth between them. That way, I could follow Campanis through the broadcast while also showing why he said what he said and thought what he thought.

Up front, I established the prevailing view among those close to Campanis: that he is not a bigot. That seemed to be a good starting point.

I felt there were two other elements that deserved to be placed up high because both were newsworthy. As a matter of fact, because neither related directly to Campanis, either one could have stood on its own as a sidebar.

First, there was Newcombe criticizing fellow blacks for not being more aggressive in pursuing job opportunities in baseball. The other was a statistical look at the lack of progress in minority hiring in baseball in the last decade.

I wanted both elements separated from the examination of Campanis himself. My other option would have been to put both at the end of the story to summarize where minority hiring stands 10 years later.

I began the Campanis segment by showing how the broadcast was set up, then leaped back in time to explain why Campanis was rightfully considered an important person in Jackie Robinson’s past.

I came back to 1987 to reveal how word of Campanis’ controversial comments spread, then again went back, through his son George, to show incidents in Al’s past that triggered his remarks.

Finally, I returned to 1987 to show Campanis’ own reaction as he realized what he had said, and then concluded with the long-range ramifications of his disastrous appearance, showing how his words will haunt him to the grave and beyond.

Was Campanis a closet bigot? Was Newcombe right in taking the stand he did?

That was for the reader to decide. Hopefully, I had taken an issue with a predictable story line and expanded it into a piece that gave readers a better feel for Campanis, good or bad, and a better understanding of how much still needs to be done on the job Jackie Robinson began a half century ago.

We rejoin the story with the last graf of the opening segment:

Now 80, Campanis, who never again worked in major league baseball, has trouble speaking for himself. A fall in the shower in February resulted in a broken shoulder and, subsequently, pneumonia, anemia, heart problems and diabetes. He remains hospitalized in Orange County.

From that point, the story went to a segment about blacks’ progress in baseball:

Many of those who were outraged by Campanis’ 1987 remarks expressed hope that perhaps some good might at least come out of his ill-chosen words. At the time, there were no black managers or general managers and there had been only three black managers and two blacks in front-office jobs in the history of the game.

“My Dad said that if this gets a foot in the door for blacks to be managers or general managers, it’s worth it,” said one of Campanis’ sons, George, an Orange County car dealer.

Immediately after Campanis’ “Nightline” appearance, Peter Ueberroth, then the baseball commissioner, told The Times, “If you were to ask me if I think we’ve made enough progress, the answer is no. . . . I’ve seen some [progress], but not to the point that I can be proud. In time, I think I will be.”

A decade’s worth of time has resulted in three blacks in managerial positions and one in a general manager’s post. Bob Watson is the New York Yankees’ general manager. The managers are the San Francisco Giants’ Dusty Baker, the Colorado Rockies’ Don Baylor and the Toronto Blue Jays’ Cito Gaston. Another manager, the Montreal Expos’ Felipe Alou, is from the Dominican Republic. Also, National League President Leonard Coleman is black.

According to statistics released by major league baseball, the percentage of blacks serving in front-office jobs was 9% in 1989, and that figure remained unchanged heading into this season. Including all minorities, the figure was 15% in 1989 and is now 18%. The percentage of blacks who were executives or department heads was 4% in 1990, and is up to 6% heading into this season. With all minorities included, the figure has gone from 7% to 11%.

Asked what the slow progress in minority hiring told him, Fred Claire, Campanis’ successor with the Dodgers, said, “That there is still a heck of a lot more work to be done.”

But Newcombe says some of the responsibility must fall on black shoulders.

“I get tired of all the bitching and moaning that there are not enough blacks here and there are not enough blacks there,” said Newcombe, who has worked in the Dodger front office since 1970. “Al didn’t mean for what he said to come out the way it came out, but blacks need qualifications for a job like anybody else needs qualifications. You cannot be a general manager just because you’ve been successful on the field. That’s not the way you run this business or any other business.

“If a group of blacks wanted to own a team, there are enough wealthy black people who could get together and go to a bank with $20 million or $30 million and the bank would let that group do whatever it pleased. I would bet my life that if somebody went to [Dodger owner] Peter O’Malley with the proper credentials, Peter wouldn’t give a tinker’s damn what color he was as long as his money was green. As long as he had the necessities–you hear, I’m quoting Al Campanis now–a man could hire his own general manager or his own manager or do whatever he wanted.

“Baseball has been branded a bunch of bigots because they are not giving jobs to blacks, but many blacks are not preparing themselves to be ready for those jobs. They ought to be preparing themselves while they are playing, but none are doing it.

“Now that’s not to say that problems don’t exist for blacks. There is still prejudice. I’m not satisfied. Jackie Robinson wouldn’t be satisfied. But people are willing to make changes.”

Now, I am not a fan of the way this story is organized. It uses the typographical device of putting an asterisk between each segment, rather than constructing transitions or employing transitional logic. As Steve explained, the structure is intended to deal with the complexity of what he discovered. I understand that. I also understand that many writers like this style because they think it makes the reader feel as though he is moving from scene to scene. But generally I think this technique fails to create a momentum that carries you along. I stayed with the story because (a) I was interested in the topic, (b) Steve is an old friend of mine and (c) he used some characters I didn’t expect, including our sports editor and Campanis’ son. Would someone not as drawn to the topic have stayed with it?

But more important than my opinion is the fact that Steve had reasons for his choices–reasons you can study, judge, steal or reject the next time you’re caught up in a story where history is in the driver’s seat. Even if I don’t like the style, it’s easy for me to see his eight-step logic: (1) Introduction, (2) Progress of blacks, (3) The Incident Part I, (4) The Campanis-Robinson relationship, (5) The Incident Part II, (6) Insightful observation by Campanis’ son, (7) The Incident Part III, (8) Campanis’ legacy.

The story now moves into Segment 3, the first detailed recounting of The Incident:

Originally, Newcombe was supposed to be the Dodgers’ representative on that “Nightline” show, which was planned to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Robinson’s debut with the Dodgers. The plan was for Newcombe, who was traveling to a speaking engagement, to be interviewed at a Sacramento television station, but, when fate intervened as Newcombe’s planned flight was delayed, Campanis, who had been Robinson’s roommate with the minor league Montreal Royals in 1946, was contacted.

Campanis agreed to appear from the Houston Astrodome, where the Dodgers were opening their 1987 season that April 6.

No one in the Dodger organization knew about Campanis’ appearance until an ABC representative approached Steve Brener, then the Dodgers’ publicity director, in the Astrodome press box in search of Campanis.

When Brener learned of the “Nightline” request, he advised Campanis not to go on.

“I told him I wouldn’t recommend it,” Brener said. “He was a 70-year-old man who had traveled that day and would be up sitting on a stool on the field behind home plate after the game, looking into a camera and the bright lights.”

After Campanis was fired, Tommy Hawkins, a former Laker and a popular figure in the Los Angeles black community, was brought in as the Dodgers’ vice president of communications. Brener wound up leaving after 18 years with the team.

* * *

In 1946, Campanis, the son of an Italian army officer and a Greek seamstress, was a struggling infielder in the Dodger organization.

That year, he was summoned by Branch Rickey, then the Dodger president, who was about to embark on a bold experiment. Rickey was going to end the ban on blacks in the minor leagues by putting Robinson at second base for Montreal, the Dodgers’ International League franchise.

If all went well, Robinson would make the leap to the major leagues in 1947.

But Rickey knew that Robinson had to be ready. And Rickey felt Campanis was the man to get him ready.

Room with him, Rickey told Campanis. Teach him how to make the double play. Teach him how to get out of the way of all those prejudiced so-and-sos who are going to come barreling into second with Robinson in their sights and hatred in their hearts.

“Jackie needed a friend at that time,” Newcombe said, “and Al was that friend.”

From his hospital bed last week, Campanis reminisced about those days.

“Jackie was very intelligent, very daring, a good ballplayer,” Campanis said. “But he was a shortstop when he went to Montreal. I showed him how to play second base.

“It wasn’t easy. Several times, I had to jump in when players said something to him about his color.”

Campanis told Robinson there were three effective ways to avoid a sliding runner at second while completing the double play.

“I’ll do it my way until I have a problem,” Robinson told him.

That lasted until a runner got a bead on Robinson and sent him crashing into the dirt.

As Robinson laid there on his back, Campanis came rushing over to see if his roommate was all right.

Robinson looked up, grinned at Campanis and said, “Can I start learning those other two ways at 9 tomorrow morning?”

Campanis had one particular way in mind.

“I’m going to teach you to throw the ball at the forehead of the next guy who comes way out of the base line to get you,” Campanis said.

All it took was a few such throws to end that practice.

Robinson didn’t forget what Campanis had done. One of the fondest memories of Jimmy Campanis, another son of Al’s, was of Robinson coming to his fifth- grade class as a favor to Jimmy’s father.

* * *

Campanis’ “Nightline” remarks were heard by a Times reporter on assignment on the East Coast. With several hours still to go until The Times’ deadline on the West Coast, the reporter called his boss, Sports Editor Bill Dwyre.

Dwyre had no access to the actual broadcast, but he did have access to Buddy Martin, then the sports editor of the Denver Post, owned in those days by Times Mirror, the L.A. Times’ [now defunct] parent company. Dwyre woke Martin up and asked him to watch the show, which would be on in Colorado 90 minutes before The Times’ deadline.

Dwyre wasn’t certain what he was going to do at first.

“When he got to the buoyancy part,” Dwyre said, “I thought he went too far. I felt this was a stereotype that reflects a certain state of mind. It was then that I said we would go with the story.

“It was the toughest decision I ever had to make. It was a real tough call. Part of me wished I had missed it, that I hadn’t had a shot at it. But once I saw it, I did the journalistic thing. My head told me one thing, but my heart told me the opposite.

“He is a friend of mine. To this day, I hate this story.”

The impact of The Times’ front-page story on Campanis the next day was so powerful, Claire, 10 years later, can still remember where it was on the page.

“It ran down the right-hand column,” he said. “It was so shocking to read those comments. But his actions in baseball just don’t match up to his words.”

* * *

George Campanis understands how the remarks came about.

“When he said necessities, he was thinking experience,” the younger Campanis said. “He had just gotten a call a few days earlier from Reggie Jackson, who had wanted his help in becoming a manager. My dad told him that he would have to start in D ball and work his way up. That wasn’t what Reggie wanted to hear. But that’s what my dad was thinking that night because he had just talked to Reggie.

“As for the buoyancy thing, growing up, we always used to hear about my dad’s experiences in the Navy in World War II. One of his jobs was to work with the recruits when they had to make a high dive into a tank to simulate falling off an aircraft carrier. My dad would tell us how a lot of the blacks would sink to the bottom and he would have to dive down and pull them up. They were so scared that they would pull and scratch at him. He finally got a pole to pull them up. My dad thought it was because they had a low fat content in their bodies and because a lot of them didn’t have their own swimming pool or a place to swim growing up.

“But you have to remember, my dad was not a silver-tongued devil like Tommy Lasorda. If Tommy said something he regretted, he could get out of it. My dad is more the strong, silent type.”

* * *

As a young announcer with the Dodgers in the ’50s, Vin Scully roomed with Campanis, so they have always been close.

After the game that night in the Astrodome, Scully remembers glancing down at the field as he walked out, looking at Campanis on what he would later learn was a hot seat.

“I didn’t know what he was saying, but he looked so alone, so vulnerable,” Scully recalled.

Scully soon learned how accurate that impression was.

When he got back to the hotel, Scully found Campanis standing in the lobby.

“Hey, roomie, what’s up?” Scully asked.

“I think I [bleeped] up,” Campanis said.

“Oh, I’m sure it will be fine,” said Scully, not aware of what Campanis was talking about. “Let’s go have a drink.”

Campanis begged off and headed up to his room.

“He seemed so confused, so upset,” Scully said. “He was pale and shaking. He had obviously gone through a traumatic experience.”

When Lasorda learned what that experience had been and that it would cost Campanis his job, the Dodger manager said he broke down and cried.

“The only other time I cried like that was when my son died,” Lasorda said.

In the days after the incident, friends rallied around Campanis. Former Dodger shortstop Maury Wills, a black player, came to the Campanis household and answered the phone by saying, “This is Maury Wills, a friend of Al Campanis.”

* * *

Campanis almost died a few weeks ago from his illness and that got people thinking about the fact that the “Nightline” incident will be what a lot of people remember of him.

“That’s going to be the shame of the whole damn situation,” Newcombe said. “Al did a lot for the Dodgers and baseball. That ["Nightline"] is what is going to be remembered or even mentioned is criminal. I wish somebody would say some good things about him rather than the one negative thing.”

There are plenty of positives. When catcher Roy Campanella, another of the early black Dodger players, died, his wife, Roxie, gave the silver cup Campanella received on his night at the Coliseum to Campanis.

When Claire and several others in the Dodger organization recently went to the Dominican Republic to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the baseball academy the Dodgers run there, they were given a plaque to present to Campanis in honor of his years of promoting Latin American players.

“I don’t want him to leave being marked with something like that ‘Nightline’ show,” Lasorda said. “They have hung an innocent man. Who do you think signed Roberto Clemente? Who do you think signed Willie Davis and so many other black players? This story has to be told.”

It will be told as part of Campanis’ story. Along with the baseball academy and the long years of service and all of the other good things. But for those who choose to remember it, the “Nightline” episode will also be there.

Said Scully: “It is truly an American tragedy.”

RECOMMENDED READING: Here is the column that the New York Post’s Wallace Matthews wrote last week, protesting a May 20 piece by fellow columnist Neil Travis about speculation that the New York Mets’ Mike Piazza is gay. When the Post refused to run Matthews’ column, Matthews posted it on a Web site frequented by sports journalists. He then either quit or was fired.

Bobby Valentine may turn out to be everything he thinks he is: baseball genius, restaurant innovator, all-around Renaissance Man.

But on one issue, he is wrong, dead wrong.

Major League Baseball is not “ready” to accept an openly gay player, as he told Details magazine in an upcoming issue.

Nor is the NBA, the NHL, the NFL, the PGA, the USTA or professional boxing. If they were, Mike Piazza would not have found himself thrust into in the awkward position of having to address rumors concerning his sexuality before the start of last night’s Mets-Phillies game.

If the fans were ready, the Mets would not care if it became known that their entire roster was made up of gays, because it wouldn’t matter.

And if the rest of society were ready, I wouldn’t be writing this column right now.

You would think that by now, two years past the millennium and in a country that considers itself sophisticated, the sexuality of an individual would no longer be an issue.

And yet, by what happened last night, we are reminded that it is still a very big issue, indeed.

Every time we start to believe we live in a mature society something like this comes along to remind us we really aren’t that far removed from the frat house or the schoolyard or the kiddie park.

Valentine’s comments to Details sparked an irresponsible “blind” item in Monday’s Post, in which a gossip columnist reprinted a scurrilous rumor concerning an unnamed Met.

The gossip columnist then acknowledged he was unable to substantiate any part of the rumor. He printed it anyway.

The Mets’ reaction, and Piazza’s statements avowing his heterosexuality, were in direct response to that item.

But in truth, there was no reason to respond to the item and even less reason to print it.

Whose business is it, anyway, what a player does off the field, or who he sleeps with, or what kind of car he drives or what kind of dog he owns? Aside from criminality, the only time a player’s personal life becomes an issue is when it can be shown to be affecting his performance on the field.

Even then, it is best to tread lightly, lest someone come peering into your windows next.

That is why the kind of “journalism”perpetrated in Monday’s Post is abhorrent. As are the McCarthy-like tactics of homosexual groups that deliberately out celebrities and athletes under the premise of exposing hypocrisy.

Doesn’t anyone understand the meaning of privacy or modesty or discretion anymore?

Perhaps Piazza, who is probably the most approachable and accommodating athlete at his level in any sport, felt it was best to lay the story to rest by addressing it head on. Maybe the Mets, worried about negative publicity and a renewed whispering campaign, put Piazza up to it. If so, they committed an unspeakable injustice to a good guy. Either way, it demonstrates that we all have a long way to go before we are truly ready to accept people for what they are.

Judging by the feeding frenzy that greeted Piazza last night at the Vet, it seems that the first openly gay male athlete, whoever it happens to be, will face the kind of abuse no athlete has faced since Jackie Robinson wiped out the color line in 1947.

In fact, it may even be worse. Robinson mainly had to worry about white racists.

Whoever chooses to come out will likely face homophobia that crosses into every race, creed, color and ethnic group. It will take a person of incredible courage and resilience to make such a stand. It is not the kind of thing that should be forced upon anyone.

And clearly, it is not the kind of thing enough people in this country are ready to accept.

If it were, Mike Piazza would have only talked about baseball last night.

PS–Anyone need a columnist?