Today we have a guest blog from long time friend of Blogging Blue: Graeme Zielinski.
The rict Waukesha County standing sieg heils poured on and over Josh Hader Saturday at Miller Park after it was revealed during his disastrous All-Star appearance last week that he, just 7 years previously, used racial slurs for black people and said he hated gay people in Tweets is a bloat stain that will hang forever on the honor of the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
I abhor it and it was utterly despicable and we are not done yet, not even close.
My hope is that his, Hader’s, actions, are used as a true teaching forward-moving moment to make us better as Brewers fans, yes even in Cedarburg. But there is much more reason to believe that this fairytale, lily-white Chamber of Commerce-WTMJ hope will bury itself in ash and shame.
Let’s start from the blood-ragged reality of it:
Hader became an All-Star (while his black counterpart who struggled for recognition was having AT LEAST as well a season); Hader went to the All-Star game; he blew a lead; his bigot Tweets were exposed WHILE he was on the mound; All-Star peers read his Tweets from the dugout JUST AS HE GAVE UP A THREE-RUN homerun; he was frog-marched before reporters by MLB to answer questions after the game; and has since then engaged in an apology tour. Without actually apologizing.
He returned to Milwaukee after his debacle in Washington where the Brewers, on a 7-game skid, saw him shamble in from the bullpen on Saturday night to preserve a lead against the Dodgers.
So, as he takes the mound and begins to pitch a shutdown inning, on sports television around the world they saw not Hader, but: A mass, a mob, a blob, the morbidly-obese, virtually all-white audience who rose to their feet on the power of their fat, oxyacetylene-white calves, and yawp at his presence, the appearance of a 24-year-old ganglebramble from Maryland who, though having very few ties to our area (and with very brief success with our beloved franchise), shared the same skin color as these drooling masses who thought to rise.
WHAT THE FUCK?
Given his high-profile tumble because of his racism,there was nothing to make him THAT much a Caruso to this crowd. There was NOTHING tying to them to this action, their ovation, other than the gross and stunning reality of his bad acts, his putrid Tweets, which were wholly despicable and almost wholly ignored in after-fact, in the Perkins-fed racist afterglow.
So you ask, fairly: What bound this stained-sweatpants cheering mob, I mean crowd, to this young and gangly man? I follow the Brewers religiously and have been excited about his success, but his real record is spare. Impressive and historic. But spare.
So what was it then that drew this mob, I mean crowd, to him?
And why was there no true allocution about what he did, explaining WHY he said what he said? Or WHY this type of speech is the speech of extermination and therefore must be driven forever from our common spaces?
He said these things didn’t represent him and everyone forgave him immediately and without question, but WHY didn’t they represent him? Why did he say these things in the first place? Why was it wrong? Does the organization believe that, sure, he and they were forgiven, and sure, they addressed this?
NOT BY A FUCKING LONG SHOT.
When I was 16, I wrote an essay about MLK that won me a trip to Atlanta to meet Coretta Scott King and Joseph Lowry and John Lewis and many other Civil Rights leaders. In that same year, I wrote a letter to the archbishop about why I wished to be confirmed in my Holy Faith.
The point is that I was writing about my convictions at a time when I was YOUNGER than Hader and I don’t remember being so parted, so far away from a moral mooring that I would use those words about black people or about gay people in a mass social setting that knew wide bounds and no expectation of privacy. And no, the dumb athlete excuse doesn’t cut it not even close.
To me, up to this point, the Brewers always have been an inclusive place, the place where I woke up in my Mexican grandmother’s arms while she cheered for Sixto Lexcano and Benjie, the place where I and my cousins took the bus from downtown to cheer on young Teddy Higuera, the place where Henry Aaron would visit from time-to-time in allegiance to Alan “Bud” Selig.
After all, it was the young Braves fan Selig, himself and his family subject to so much antisemitic bigotry from the WASP and German ruling elite in Milwaukee, who loved Aaron, who brought baseball back to Milwaukee and who, naturally, brought him, Aaron, back to hit his last home run as a Milwaukee Brewer (755).
Henry Aaron always has played his hand closer to his vest about what he endured from the fine volk of Milwaukee than contemporaries like Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson, but he certainly experienced the iced polite racism of the Midwest. Never as bad as the South, the racism of the North nevertheless commanded the power structure of Milwaukee forever, even now. He suffered it, did Aaron.
I thought of that in 2012 when I saw him at the Milwaukee Theatre, when he came for a rally for Barack Obama, when he shuffled out and told the crowd, in his low-tide, low-swell voice, “Forty-Four…is for Forty-Four.”
It was thrilling to see, but I thought of that brandy-sweet racism in which he paddled during his career in Milwaukee when I saw the suburbans’ ovation for Hader.
How much has someone like Henry Aaron been betrayed by the politics of the Brewers fan base?
They, the Brewers fan base, left Milwaukee for suburbs like Germantown and Burlington to not be by black people and thus condemn them to poverty. They, the Brewers fan base, backed Scott Walker, the racist munchkin who cut services for black and brown people. They, the Brewers fan base, voted to kill unions (which built the County Stadium that BROUGHT the Seattle Pilots to Milwaukee to become the Milwaukee Braves). They, the Brewers fan base, also opposed the rights of the very Ironworkers and other union members who built the current Miller Park, with Ironworkers giving their very blood. They, the Brewers fan base, eliminated virtually every lever of power to help Latinos and blacks in Milwaukee, along with voter suppression, further harming the social, political and economic position of people of color.
And so there are virtually no black people or brown people in the ballpark when they stand and crow for Josh Hader.
Most people of color in the Milwaukee area cannot afford going to a game. On top of it, they have been made to believe they are not wanted, except to wipe toilet bowls and empty trash bins. When they are at Miller Park they can look around and see the same Sunday Catholics and Lutherans who will not lift a finger as children get put in cages or Milwaukee is vilified time and again in barely-coded race hatred language, as schools are defunded, as human misery blooms.
When I was back at County Stadium with my cousins in the 80s, we used to eat a jalapeno slice, accompanying the nachos, for every Teddy Higuera strikeout.
One time he was on a roll, punching out batter after batter, mowing them down, Ks forever, and our mouths were on fire. The crowd roar grew.
When Higuera got to his 13th strikeout, County Stadium erupted. Everyone rose to their feet in ovation. My Mexican family rose with them.