erik lundegaard

Sunday September 07, 2014

How Ronald Reagan Helped Integrate Baseball, or the Birth of Truthiness

Here's a quote from Ronald Reagan on why he was against the 1964 Civil Rights Act not only in 1964, but as late as 1975, when he began running for president against GOP incumbent Gerald Ford. Basically it's the idea that the American people are so decent they don't need the U.S. government telling them what to do. His example?

“I have called attention to the fact that when I was a sports announcer, broadcasting major-league baseball, most Americans had forgotten that at the time the opening lines of the official baseball guide read, ‘Baseball is a game for Caucasian gentlemen,’ and in organized baseball no one but Caucasians were allowed. Well, there were many of us when I was broadcasting, sportswriters, sportscasters, myself included, [who] began editorializing about what a ridiculous thing this was and why it should be changed. And one day it was changed.”

And here's Rick Perlstein's response in his book ”The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan“:

And indeed, he had called attention to that, in 1967, in a televised debate with Robert Kennedy, when he told the same story about baseball. In the interim, if anyone had bothered to point out to him that there was no line in the official baseball guide asserting that “baseball is a game for Caucasian gentlemen,” or had pointed out to him that he stopped broadcasting baseball in 1937 and the sport wasn’t integrated until 1947, the intervention clearly didn’t take. He was still telling the story in the White House nine years later.

I'd say Reagan's ”one day" allows for the 10-year difference, but not for the fact that the official baseball guide never said the words he said they said. Reagan's whole story feels like B.S. to me. Is there any evidence that he editorialized in this manner on the radio? Does he ever say what he said? And even if he could provide any evidence, what does it matter to his argument? What does it mean to Montgomery, Ala., or Birmingham, Ala., or Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers, Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner, were murdered in 1964, and where Ronald Reagan, his party's nominee, gave a states' rights speech in August 1980, on his way to the presidency?

Ick, ick, ick. Every time I read about Reagan, I can't get the ick off. 

Ronald Reagan and Jackie Robinson


Posted at 02:35 PM on Sunday September 07, 2014 in category Books  
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard