PG NewsPG delivery
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Home Page
PG News: Nation and World, Region and State, Neighborhoods, Business, Sports, Health and Science, Magazine, Forum
Sports: Headlines, Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, Collegiate, Scholastic
Lifestyle: Columnists, Food, Homes, Restaurants, Gardening, Travel, SEEN, Consumer, Pets
Arts and Entertainment: Movies, TV, Music, Books, Crossword, Lottery
Photo Journal: Post-Gazette photos
AP Wire: News and sports from the Associated Press
Business: Business: Business and Technology News, Personal Business, Consumer, Interact, Stock Quotes, PG Benchmarks, PG on Wheels
Classifieds: Jobs, Real Estate, Automotive, Celebrations and other Post-Gazette Classifieds
Web Extras: Marketplace, Bridal, Headlines by Email, Postcards
Weather: AccuWeather Forecast, Conditions, National Weather, Almanac
Health & Science: Health, Science and Environment
Search: Search post-gazette.com by keyword or date
PG Store: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette merchandise
PG Delivery: Home Delivery, Back Copies, Mail Subscriptions
Sports Headlines Steelers Pirates Penguins
College Headlines University of Pittsburgh Penn State West Virginia
Other Local Colleges Scholastic Sports AP Wire Sports City Guide Sports
Columnist Mark Madden: For Pirates, it's there in black and white

Saturday, July 01, 2000

Going into last night's game with Philadelphia, Pirates first baseman Kevin Young was hitting a disappointing .255. He had let the Pirates down in the clutch many times. His fielding performance usually has ranged somewhere between Dick Stuart and a man in shackles. Nonetheless, there's no denying Young's 54 RBIs (second on the Pirates) or his 42 runs scored (third). Young produces runs.

 

Going into last night's game, Pirates shortstop Pat Meares was hitting a lousy .243. He had just 28 RBIs and 26 runs scored. His fielding has been erratic, at best.

Yet fans at Three Rivers Stadium boo Young. Talk-show callers make Young the scapegoat for the Pirates' woes. Young, they say, is an overpaid underachiever. Young, they say, has never truly earned his money. Meares, meanwhile, has dodged the blame, to say nothing of the vitriol.

Why is that?

To me, it's as simple as black and white.

Young is black. He's the logical target in still all-too-racist Pittsburgh. Meares is white. He gets the benefit of the doubt from the yinzers, just like white Pirates almost always do.

If you can come up with a more logical explanation, I'd love to hear it. Young is on pace to drive in 115 runs. Meares is on pace to drive in 58. Young had a monster season in 1999. Meares missed almost all of '99 with an injury. Yet people say Young is stealing his paycheck. Meares is ignored.

It's a racial issue. If you don't believe me, let's look at the past.

In the early '90s, Barry Bonds was incredible. Still is. OK, he choked in the playoffs, and he's a jerk, but he might wind up being remembered as one of the best five baseball players ever. Andy Van Slyke, meanwhile, was mediocre, nothing more than a latter-day Bill Virdon. He was no less a jerk than Bonds.

But Pirates fans booed black Barry and embraced white Andy. Their sentiments no doubt influenced the Pirates' decision to re-sign white Andy while letting black Barry walk. Good move, huh?

Black Dave Parker was the best player in baseball during much of the '70s. But Pirates fans threw things at Parker.

Latino Roberto Clemente dazzled baseball and Pittsburgh for parts of three decades. But he wasn't exactly a crowd favorite locally, certainly not before his heroics in the 1971 World Series. Oh, sure, the longer he's dead, the more beloved he becomes. But Pirates fans often questioned Clemente's injuries. They often called him a malingerer. They appreciated his skill but didn't embrace him the same way they did white Bill Mazeroski, who was barely half the player Clemente was.

Some black Pirates have become fan favorites in Pittsburgh. Just none of the ones who demanded respect like Bonds, Parker and Clemente did.

This particular Pittsburgh phenomenon seems indigenous to baseball. In football, the players all wear helmets and face masks, so you can forget who's black and white while you watch. In hockey, they're almost all white in the first place. In basketball, well, thank God we don't have an NBA team.

Getting back to the Young-Meares comparison, Young is making $5,625,000 this year while Meares is making $3,290,000. OK, so Young is making more. But he's doing more. At least, he's doing something. Meares is doing nothing except confirming a recent Sports Illustrated article that called him one of baseball's 10 worst free-agent signings of all time.

Oh, yeah, and Meares is white. Which admittedly doesn't take much effort or talent. Meares is getting no results. But he's getting no boos, either.

Young, of course, may be getting some jeers because he spoke out about the shabby attendance and accompanying lack of fan enthusiasm at Pirates games. C'mon, Kevin, don't you know you can't be a black man and tell the truth around this town? You'd better start singing "We Are Fam-A-Lee" in a hurry.

The racism of Pittsburgh's baseball fans comes through even more loudly and clearly when former Pirates return to Three Rivers Stadium. Bonds, for example, is still booed raucously. But who can forget when the crowd at Three Rivers Stadium rose to its feet as one to give former Pirate Sid Bream a standing ovation after he hit a home run for Atlanta against the Pirates? That's white Sid Bream, by the way. As opposed to black Barry Bonds. Career journeyman Bream. As opposed to future Hall-of-Famer Bonds.

Pittsburgh baseball fans should hate me for writing this. It's been a pretty merciless portrait, kind of my ode to John Rocker's evaluation of New York City. Insulting, but true. I just had the sense to use good taste and rip white people, which everyone knows you can do.

But Pittsburgh won't hate me.

Pittsburgh will forgive me. In time, Pittsburgh once again will come to love and adore me.

I'm white, after all.


Mark Madden hosts a sports talk show 4-8 p.m. weekdays on ESPN Radio 1250.



bottom navigation bar Terms of Use  Privacy Policy