I'm not going to object to his superficial and endlessly debatable point - that Satchel Paige and Roberto Clemente both belong in a list of baseball's 11 greatest players - but I will draw your attention to some typically awkward and silly Scoopisms, and respond to a few of ol' Scoop's more misguided comments.
Some things are so unhidden they go beyond being missed -- they get totally overlooked.
And the difference, Scoop?
And like most situations that resemble this, those in the "we didn't know" will tell you that in this moment it really doesn't matter because, in time, the untold truth will come out.
I entered this phrase into Babelfish and translated it into French and then back to English. The result was:
And as the majority of the situations which resemble this, those in "us did not know that" that in this moment you will say when it really does not import because, in time, the incalculable truth will leave.
Not a huge fall-off in comprehensibility. I think I've discovered Scoop's secret! Type a straightforward paragraph, plug it into Babelfish, translate it into a foreign tongue, then back to English and, hey presto, you have a Scoop column!
Let's give this theory a test spin, shall we? Here is a randomly selected paragraph from the latest Gene Wojciechowski column:
"I'm still trying to figure out how a 5-7, 160-pound high school senior who dreaded classes, grew up in what he calls "one of the better bad neighborhoods" of tough west side Chicago, and was ignored by almost every recruiter once they saw his grade transcripts, conceivably could surpass Sanders' all-time single-season rushing record of 2,628 yards."
And here is the same paragraphs after passing through a Greek translation (with minimal clean up):
"I still try to calculate how a 5-7, elder of high school 160-pounder that feared the categories, grew in what he calls "one from the better bad neighborhoods of" hard western secondary Chicago, and was ignored by almost each recruiter who hardly ever saw his copies of degree, could probably exceed Sanders' all dashing single-season 2.628 yards."
Throw some "un-s" in their, a 'Pac reference, and a slick nickname or two, and that's about it.
But once I got past the names, past the digitally constructed illustration, un-caught up in the mystery of the greatness of this fictional squad, I saw the reality in the history that was missed.
Or purposely forgotten. It wasn't until I stopped looking at the picture and began to look into it that I noticed how unbeautiful the picture -- and what the picture was saying -- really was.
Un-caught up? Unbeautiful? On the heels of un-overrated? Time for a new gimmick, Scoop. This one's just unfunny.
But Ruth is not the only player whose representation in baseball is larger than the game itself. There are two others, and it's interesting -- funny in an oversensitive, cryptic, culturally paranoid type of way -- how both were not chosen for the picture. Or the corresponding roster.
"Funny in an oversensitve, cryptic, culturally paranoid type of way." Have you suggested adding that to your bio at ESPN.com, Scoop? You can stick it right after the "award-winning journalist" part.
I'm talking about Satchel Paige and Roberto Clemente.
How did two of the game's greatest players at their positions (or any position) and ambassadors of baseball -- and their influence on the influx of minority contributions to the game -- get so conveniently overlooked? How does this happen to those two particular players who are larger than life, bigger than the game, but doesn't happen to the only other one?
I don't know how, Scoop. I'm not a baseball historian or stats guy, which I suppose the SI writers were (and you aren't). Maybe Paige and Clemente should have been in, but who do you take out, Scoop? Because this part of your column focuses on the dugout picture of SI's starting 11, I assume you'd substitute Paige (RHP) for Clemens (RHP) and Clemente (RF) for ... Babe Ruth? Hank Aaron? Seriously? If SI had left Aaron of the team, the Chicago PD would be telling Scoop to "put the gun down" through a megaphone by now.
Interestingly, SI did something similar to the current ranking back in Fall 1992. Back then the list looked like this:
LF: Ty Cobb
2B: Jackie Robinson
RF: Babe Ruth
1B: Lou Gehrig
CF: Willie Mays
3B: Mike Schmidt
SS: Cal Ripken Jr.
C: Mickey Cochrane
RHP: Christy Matthewson
LHP: Warren Spahn
RP: Dennis Eckersley
MGR: Casey Stengel
Googling that SI story, I came across a sports bulletin board where fans debated the old list, and who belonged in or out. In the entire discussion, only one fan mentions Paige and nobody mentions Clemente. Not once. I don't know who these fans were, but most of them seem engaged with the statistics and the debate, and there is even a discussion of which Negro League players deserve to be on the list, in which no-one picks up on the earlier mention of Paige.
How can these experts not take into full consideration what these two meant to the sport, in and outside of the sport, to America, when they were creating a team that embodies baseball's complete history of the greatest ever?
Maybe because they were basing their decisions on skills and accomplishments, and not trying to put together a warm fuzzy college recruiting brochure.
Paige and Clemente represent more than what their stats show, even though their stats hold strong against all. Having them in the illustration would represent all the Negro League players and all the Latin players who for so many years were held out of the game, and now dominate the game but continue to go unrecognized. Satchel's image on that team would not be about him -- it'd be about Gibson and Cool Papa Bell and Roy Campanella and Larry Doby and Biz Mackey and Oscar Charleston and Peanut Johnson; Roberto's image would stand for Ortiz and Pujols and Pedro and Johan and Vlad and everyone in between, including all those who will eventually make it into baseball's Hall of Fame because No. 21 was a pioneer who changed the game forever.
This paragraph could be re-written as "There are lots of black and latino ballplayers, so couldn't SI have included a token Negro Leaguer and a token Latino?" I don't even know where to start. Of course, it's all about race for Scoop, so tokenism doesn't seem to bother him. (Yes, an objective case can be made for including Paige and Clemente, and Scoop makes it elsewhere, but here he expressly argues for their inclusion based solely on their respective races: that's tokenism.) But Scoop is so obsessed with race that he even ignores ethnicity and nationality. Why would Clemente, a Puerto Rican, represent "Ortiz and Pujols and Pedro and Johan and Vlad": four Dominicans and a Venezualan? The inter-latin rivalry and animosity on most baseball rosters is much worse than the black-white dynamic.
I can see how Paige could represent other overlooked Negro Leaguers shut out of the majors for most of their careers, but how does Clemente represent today's latin players? He may have paved the way, but he doesn't represent any current "struggle." Not of the "race" that makes up the majority of professional baseball contracts. Heck, a Venezualan or Dominican is more likely to play professional baseball in America than an American. But in Scoop's world, diversity trumps all, so none of this matters. I'm just surprised he left off Eddie Gaedel - to represent all the excluded little people still dreaming of making it to the show, you know.
Can you imagine if Paige had pitched his entire career in the majors?
Imagine with a degree of certainty that would make it a useful exercise? Nope. I can imagine him winning 600 games and being the undisputed best pitcher of all time. I can also imagine him being a great 300 game winner but no better than Nolan Ryan or Randy Johnson. So can you, Scoop, if you're honest.
It's interesting that this issue of Sports Illustrated came out the same week the great Buck O'Neil passed away. Guess it's only right. Just as O'Neil died without the Hall of Fame recognizing him and his contribution to baseball by inducting him into Cooperstown, it's only fitting that Paige got the same injustice by not being represented in the visual representation of the game's history.
You know, Scoop, I don't think most ballplayers and managers consider making the cover of SI the equivalent of election to the hall of fame. But I haven't asked them, and you're the expert ...
A beef is not what you should feel when you look at that picture. You should feel a slight sense of illness and disgust at how the game of baseball and those that tell its story still refuse to make the story complete, even inside of an image so beautiful.
Well, I "feel a slight sense of illness and disgust," and I haven't even seen the picture yet. Thanks, Scoop.