Sports fans! Time for Biff Lippman's annual...


April 05, 1993|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

AWW RIGHT, sports fans! Time for Biff Lippman's annual Opening Day baseball pop quiz! I guarantee you you'll pass!

Question: Why is Jesse Jackson picketing the Orioles, complaining about hiring practices today instead of picketing the Chicago Cubs' Opening Day game in his old home town?

A. Because the president is throwing out the first ball here; more cameras are trained on Camden Yards than on Wrigley Field.

B. Because the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, whose presidency Jackson seeks, is located in Baltimore.

C. Because they don't have a designated hitter rule in the Cubs' National League.

If you answered A, B or C, you are right!

A. Jackson is a genius at finding the publicity spotlight. He wants personal attention. Protest keeps him going. I mean that in both ways. It energizes him and it attracts him. It's also about all he's got left. Putting on a show, I mean. The civil rights wars have all either been won or lost -- at least for the time being. Many blacks and most whites now believe, rightly or wrongly, that the tragic conditions afflicting poor blacks are not the result of white racism nor amenable to traditional civil rights solutions. If the Orioles fired every white front-office executive and replaced them all with blacks, crime, grime and hopelessness in Baltimore's black slums and projects wouldn't change a bit. The protest at Camden Yards is not going to accomplish anything, except distract attention from real problems and real solutions.

B. With Ben Hooks retiring, the presidency of the nation's best known and most prestigious civil rights organization is being sought by a lot of people, including Jackson. Why him? According to a news story carried in The Evening Sun last month, "friends [of Jackson] viewed the position as one that would provide a platform to solidify his leadership role in the nation. 'It would also make it more difficult to marginalize him,' said one associate." You might remember that Bill Clinton marginalized him last year, and it hurt.

C. The American League allows non-players to bat. The National League doesn't. So non-player Jackson gets to designate himself the hitter for those who think baseball discriminates on the basis of race in hiring. In the National League, the hitters are "players," League President Bill White and Atlanta Braves Senior Vice President Henry Aaron.

* * * *

Jackson's complaint about the Orioles is that by his way of figuring only one of 14 "power" positions in the Orioles organization is held by blacks. That's 7.1 percent.

But there are several ways to calculate power positions. It is possible to argue that black power in the Orioles organization is at least 13.3 percent (2 of 15) and as much as 20 percent (4 of 20). I'd say that's pretty good in a nation that is 12 percent black. Not many organizations -- in baseball or out -- can match it.

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