Following his retirement from the New York Times, Hall of Fame baseball writer Murray Chass became an angry and bitter blogger. Living off his past accomplishments, Chass now seems focused on settling the score with others against whom he holds grudges from the past.
Chass’ latest target is none other than a fellow Cooperstown inductee, former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson.
Following a sparse, two-paragraph review of the upcoming HBO special about the late Curt Flood and his fight against MLB’s reserve clause which bound a player to a team, Chass quickly turned to his specialty, attacking others.
Chass labels the former Cardinals hurler a “tin man,” in other words, heartless, because Gibson did not come out publicly in support of his teammate Flood’s legal challenge against baseball’s owners in 1970.
Even as he completed his skewering of Gibson, Chass undercut his own position by admitting that Gibson was far from alone. In fact, the writer acknowledges that not one major league player came to Flood’s defense at the time.
In other words, Gibson was simply one of 599 other major leaguers in 1970 that did not step out of line to risk the ramifications of crossing the then-all-powerful owners.
Though other contemporaries of Flood such as Joe Torre and Tim McCarver are quoted in the article about their own indifference to the Flood situation, they were spared Chass’ slander.
Apparently one reason Gibson was singled out was because the candid former pitcher was willing to discuss the situation in depth with the HBO filmmakers, providing Chass quotes to dissect.
Another reason appears to be that Gibson’s long-tenured dislike of the press remains stuck in Chass’ craw.
“As a player, Gibson intimidated opposing batters with his blazing fastball and reporters with his menacing stare and gruff responses to questions,” Chass wrote. “In retirement he has not mellowed. He neither takes phone calls from reporters nor returns them.”
Did Chass single out Gibson because he spoke with HBO and not him?
One final question.
In his 1970 writings, did Chass spring to Flood’s defense, joining the lonely fight against baseball’s barons? Or instead, did he “wimp out,” just as his headline over 40 years after the fact accuses Gibson of doing?
One thing we have learned from the steroids era is that silence was wide-spread at the time. Moralizing after the fact about what should have been done simply creates the impression of hypocrisy by the accuser.
More than likely, the pot is calling the kettle black here and it is not becoming.
Update: A reader provided this link from the NYT, noting that in 1971, the very brave and visionary Chass wondered if players who demand change have mental issues.
Notes: “The Curious Case of Curt Flood” is a 90-minute documentary that premieres on HBO at 9 P.M. EDT on July 13. I also highly recommend reading “A Well-Paid Slave,” a Flood biography written by Brad Snyder.
The above photo is from the aftermath of game seven of the 1964 World Series. On the far left, an exhausted Gibson is helped off the field by catcher McCarver, while Flood, number 21, is in the far right of the shot.
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