Saturday, June 20, 2009

Halladay Wins the Satchel Paige?

Gordon Edes is a pretty good writer. He tends toward generalizations and the sensational, but overall, he is a solid writer who does his homework. His latest piece advocates changing the name of the Cy Young Award to the Satchel Paige Award. While the Fan is all for recognizing Negro League players, this suggestion seems misguided on more than a couple of fronts.

The first is the downright awkwardness of changing such a high profile award. You wouldn't rename the Stanley Cup to the Martin Luther King Cup just because no one remembers who Stanley was. Everyone knows it is the Stanley Cup and everyone knows it is the Cy Young Award. You just don't mess with iconic names like that.

The second problem is what to do with the past. Do the record books list Cy Young Award winners until 2009 and then Satchel Paige Award winners from here on out? Will everyone always know they are the same thing? It's messy.

The most obvious problem is the notion that Satchel Paige is unappreciated. He is? He's in the Hall of Fame isn't he? He's a legend, isn't he? Every Fan of this writer's generation knows who he was and what he was about. A new book was just released about the man's life. Isn't that recognition? His legend is huge and his reputation is untarnished. He never got to pitch in the majors in his prime, but as an older man, he was still good enough to succeed in surprising and inspirational ways in a suddenly integrated majors.

Look, the Fan understands the motivation behind such a suggestion. White America, at least the thinking, rational ones, are apologetic Americans. We have guilt about the Native Americans, the slavery and the other ugly moments of our past. We can't undo them. In fact, we are the only conquering nation ever in history that mourns our conquests. So there is a natural instinct to want to undo the horrid ban of African Americans from our National Pasttime until 1947. It is the instinct that led to the recent Jackie Robinson uniform tribute. But to create a messy change in something everyone recognizes and understands is misguided and unnecessary. And in the end, it does more harm to Paige's legacy than it does to aid it.

Satchel Paige is a legend. The legend hasn't diminished. We don't need to smudge it up by making a messy change in a major award to honor him.


Jack said...

White people, including me, can be kind to our African-American friends, but we always draw the line. Satchel Paige's longevity is proof that he would have eclipsed Young's number of wins, but that is only one reason the title of the award should be changed. The other is that baseball needs to set role models for all, and why not start with an entertaining pitcher who is liked by all.

Jack Garvey

Chicopee, MA

Josh Borenstein said...

I agree with you, William. Paige hasn't been forgotten. His legend continues to grow. It's always been called the Cy Young Award. I see no reason why that should change. Should we also rename the MVP Award to the Josh Gibson Award? It's just unnecessary. It's not righting a wrong, and it doesn't change the fact that Paige and Gibson were treated unfairly.

It's like the Sacagawea coin: an empty gesture. Hey, sorry we took your land and everything. Here's a coin in your honor. No hard feelings.

Jack said...

We must not be sfrsid of being fair. If the name of one award is changed, we can see how that is taken. Now that you mention it with the coin, maybe the Oscar could be renamed the " Denzel ".
As Skakespeare wrote, " A rose by any other name, smells just as sweet. "