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Garret Anderson is a Baseball Player, Not a Racist

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I’ve been thinking about the blog Tony Pierce posted a few days ago which was titled “Garret Anderson Doesn’t Care About Black People,” and although I didn’t initially want to respond to it, I feel that it’s necessary for me to do so. Let me start out by saying that I’ve received a handful comments on my posts that have basically implied that I don’t know what I’m talking about when I’ve expressed my opinions on the Angels, and I don’t respond to them for two reasons. The first is that I don’t see the point in getting into a pissing contest with people I’ve never even met before. The second reason I don’t respond is because I respect a person’s right to their opinion, and even if I don’t agree with them, I don’t think it’s my job to slam them for expressing it. With all that being said, I absolutely respect Tony’s opinion and he has a right to it, but when somebody writes what he wrote about a guy who I feel didn’t deserve to get thrown under a bus, I’ve gotta respond to it.

In the blog in question, Tony wrote that because Garret Anderson is choosing not to wear Jackie Robinson’s number this April 15th, Anderson doesn’t care about black people. The number was retired by baseball 10 years ago, but it’s being un-retired for one day to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball. The idea for un-retiring the number came from Ken Griffey Jr., who called Bud Selig to ask for permission to wear the number on the 15th. Selig loved the idea, and asked Griffey if he would mind other players wearing the number that day. Griffey didn’t mind, and as a result, number 42 will be worn all over MLB on April 15th. Anderson was approached by the Angels to wear the number on the 15th, but he declined. When asked by the media about it, GA responded by saying, "It wasn't my idea, and I'm not the type of person to jump on the bandwagon because someone else is doing something. If I did it just because someone else was doing it, it would seem kind of empty to me."

Although I respect Tony's opinion, I feel like he responded to the first half of the quote, and ignored the second half of it. Anderson essentially said that if he wore the number just because other guys were doing it, it wouldn't mean anything to him. To me, it's as if GA was saying that he thinks that because wearing the number was Griffey's idea, he should be the only one to do it. I think he's saying that it means more to him if you have one guy wear the number than if you run 30 guys out there wearing the number. Do I think GA should've agreed to wear the number? Yes, however I don't see how this means that he doesn't care about African Americans. But to think that Anderson would ever want the attention of wearing the number is ignoring the first 13 years of his career.

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Tony, can you, or anybody for that matter, find another quote that Garret Anderson has made since he made his Angels debut in 1994 that gives the impression that GA doesn't care about black people? Let's take that a step further, how many Garret Anderson quotes can you find since 1994 that have been inflammatory at all? I'm guessing not that many, because that's not GA. The fact of the matter is that since 1994, GA's been a guy who just wants to play baseball, to the point where it's frustrated the media because when it's come to quotes and interviews, they've always wanted more from him than they've received. But that's GA, he's always shied away from the spotlight. He's never done many endorsements because he's never wanted the attention. To not wear number 42 on the 15th of April isn't his way of saying that he doesn't respect baseball tradition (although I don't see how wearing a number that's been retired for ten years is a tradition since this is the first number that's been retired throughout baseball, and they don't regularly un-retire it for a single day). GA isn't about all the attention that would come from wearing the number, that's just not him. 46 years ago there was another guy who got a lot of crap because he shied away from attention, his name was Roger Maris. The media made his life miserable because he wasn't quotable and didn't like the spotlight. I can't imagine what would've happened if he'd have played in the age of the internet.

Calling Garret Anderson selfish means you probably haven't paid attention to what he's done in the community.The guy donates college scholarships, and has been involved in campaigns for the Boy Scouts, Responsible Fatherhood, and the Boys and Girls Club of America. He's not donating non-black scholarships, and none of those organizations exclude African Americans. If you were going to write something saying that Garret Anderson doesn't care about black people, you should've done your homework. Half an hour of searching on the internet would've shown you that he's a guy with a history of giving back to the community, and isn't a card carrying member of the KKK. To write that he doesn't care about black people because he won't wear a number is like saying that anybody who doesn't give money to AIDS charities is pro-AIDS and wants the illness to spread. That's just not right.

Let's think about Jackie Robinson for a minute. Do you think he's looking down right now, upset that Garret Anderson won't wear his number on April 15th? I think if you could ask Jackie Robinson how he could best be honored, he'd tell you that the best way to do it would be for African American baseball players to bring their A-game day in and day out, and excel at the game that Branch Rickey gave him the opportunity to play at the highest level. And Garret Anderson has excelled at the highest level of baseball in the world. The guy is a career .296 hitter, he's driven in 1130 runs, and from 1995 through 2005, Derek Jeter was the only player in the major leagues to have more hits than GA. He may not be an obvious hall of famer like Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. will be, but he has something those guys don't have, a World Series championship ring. And although Anderson isn't the player he was a few years ago, he's still only 34 years old, so he's probably got 5 or 6 seasons left. Will he get to 3,000 hits, probably not, but he definitely has a chance to get close to it. I think that if you could ask Jackie Robinson right now what he thought of Garret Anderson, he'd tell you he was proud to see Garret Anderson, a young African American, spend the last 13 years making the most of his God-given ability and the opportunity he was given.

AP photo by Francis Specker