By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Cubs manager Joe Maddon still vividly recalls a game more than three decades ago in Little Rock, Arkansas, for all the wrong reasons.
He was coaching third base when racial slurs were being yelled toward three of his African-American players — Reggie Montgomery, Devon White and Mark McLemore. Left upset by the incident, Maddon approached the general manager of the Arkansas Travelers and “loudly” voiced his displeasure, requesting security.
“‘That’s just the boys having a little fun’ — that’s what he told me,” Maddon said Tuesday in recalling the incident.
“That’s 30 years ago. It’s even worse before that. At some point, you’d like to believe it’s going to change. But who knows when?”
This past weekend, the Cubs and Red Sox celebrated their respective franchise’s successes after decades of futility. It was a festive scene in Boston as the two historic organizations with countless links to each other cherished the three-game series.
But Monday night at Fenway Park brought a different mood. Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said he heard racial slurs as a fan threw peanuts in his direction. Red Sox president Sam Kennedy issued a public apology. Shortly after, commissioner Rob Manfred condemned the “completely unacceptable” behavior.
Jones pleaded for changes, suggesting fines for fans who use racist tones to players. It’s a daunting proposition to enact, though one that made its way around the big leagues Tuesday.
Unfortunately, racism is more common than isolated incidents.
“Nothing really shocks me to that extent, when stuff like that happens,” Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward said. “I’m not saying you expect it to happen, but you’re not surprised, I guess, growing up African-American, growing up playing baseball.
“I’ve heard it my whole life. It is what it is.
“It’s not going to affect me. It sucks. It’s something that I feel like a lot of people would like to not hear anymore ever. It’s a part of life — an unfortunate part of life.”
Maddon has been coaching in baseball since the early 1980s, with stops in Idaho Falls, Idaho; Salem, Oregon; Peoria, Illinois; and Midland, Texas. He has encountered overt racism on several occasions, often confronting the person.
Maddon acknowledged racism comes from a small percentage of fans, then added he wants a zero-tolerance policy.
“Whatever it takes,” Maddon said. “I’d be to the point where even if I heard a fan, if you can prove it somehow, that fan is never allowed in the ballpark. How? I don’t even know how that would happen. But somehow. The more you get into legislation, the more you create rules, the more difficult, a lot of times, it is to enact. So you have to really think this out well.
“Those people should not be welcome there (or) any place else. But it’s like anything else, there’s not a simple solution. But if there’s something you don’t like and you consider it a legitimate problem, don’t just table it. Just keep working at it until you find somewhat of a solution that’s workable.”