Friday, July 23, 2004


Carlos Delgado has long been a favorite player of mine. He is an absolute monster in the batter's box, but has always seemed so personable and accessible as a top-tier major-leaguer. This week the New York Times ran two articles about Delgado's personal protest against the War in Iraq. The first, by the often insufferable William C. Rhoden, gave the background on Delgado's refusal to stand for the "God Bless America" played during MLB games:
Last March when the United States invaded Iraq, Delgado, in his own quiet way, said that for him, enough was enough. He had stood for "God Bless America" through the 2003 season but vowed not to do so this season. In an act of a simple, mostly unnoticed, protest against the war, Delgado, a 32-year-old first baseman, has chosen to remain in the dugout while "God Bless America" is played.

I'm curious to see the reaction to Delgado at Yankee Stadium, which George Steinbrenner has turned into a paean to patriotism. Some teams, including Toronto, have stopped playing "God Bless America," which was inserted into games after the attacks of Sept. 11. Most teams now play the song only on weekends or holidays.

The Yankees play it during the seventh-inning stretch at every home game. [My note: they are the only team that still plays it during every game.] That includes tonight, when they begin a two-game series with Toronto. Delgado will probably not be standing on the field...

Good for him. In the world of mainstream professional sports, where cookie-cutter athletes rarely take a stand on any issue, let alone one as highly charged as a war, Delgado is a rarity. He is unafraid to question a ritual that he does not agree with...

"It takes a man to stand up for what he believes," Delgado said Monday. "Especially in a society where everything is supposed to be politically correct."

I couldn't agree more. I admire Delgado for his stance and his conviction. The shoving down the collective throat of "God Bless America" as the new de facto national anthem since 9/11 has long annoyed me. I've got no personal problem with it to a certain point, and I sure enjoy a nice Ronan Tynan rendition, but it reached point of ridiculous overuse. I have long wondered what was wrong with the "Star Spangled Banner" or "America the Beautiful," maybe it's just me...

Anyway, Rhoden's column was written before Delgado appeared at Yankee Stadium, here's Steve Wilstein's post-game the follow-up:
How much of the patriotism and piety in sports is sincere, how much public relations?

It's a question I've often wondered while standing for 5,843 variations of ``The Star-Spangled Banner'' (some Francis Scott Key wouldn't recognize), listening to 967 recitals of ``God Bless America,'' (the late great Kate Smith still belting it out), and seeing 231 military fly-bys (hoping they don't crash into the stadium).

Sometimes I wonder it while I'm humming the anthem or mouthing the words, watching ballplayers scratch and spit and, occasionally, fall asleep on their feet.

There's a phoniness to all the packaged patriotism that sports deploy, like the flags flapping at car dealerships. Buy a ticket, buy a car, be American. Jingoism sells.

A lot of people really love all that rally-round-the-flag stuff and take it very seriously. I've seen fights break out in the bleachers when some fans thought others who didn't doff their hats were being disrespectful.

There was curiosity, then, in seeing how Yankee Stadium fans would react Wednesday night to Toronto Blue Jays slugger Carlos Delgado, who has been refusing to stand for ``God Bless America'' to protest the war in Iraq.

In this most patriotic of all ballparks, where Yankees boss George Steinbrenner has cranked up the nationalistic displays since the Sept. 11 attacks, Delgado drew only a few boos when he batted and brief chants of ``U-S-A! U-S-A!'' when he lined out in the top of the seventh.

No one went nuts over Delgado. No one threw balls or bottles at him. Civility and polite political discord prevailed. Let's hope it stays that way...

Delgado is that rare ballplayer who exhibits a conscience about social issues and has the conviction to express himself in his own small way...That's more than most athletes are willing to do.

Good for Delgado, nice job by Rhoden and Wilstein and kudos to the fans for displaying a rare moment of restraint at Yankee Stadium (I suppose it's mostly due to the fact that any of them able to read waste their time with the Post or Daily News...). I'm sure someone out there has a column on what a traitor Delgado is, but like anyone else with the courage to voice a dissenting opinion he is to me the ultimate patriot.

UPDATE: I get into it with the Baseball Crank here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You're not the only one who thinks so. I was at one of the Yankee-Jays games last year - El Duque pitched and won for the Yankees - and there were scattered boos for Delgado. But, there was also a banner with the peace symbol and "Delgado for President" on it. I have a picture.