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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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They Booed a Man in Reno, Just to Watch Him Die
2004-07-01 09:38
by Jon Weisman

I've never been booed in my life - not because I've never deserved it, but because, despite a famous In the Bleachers cartoon of years past, writers rarely get heckled by 50,000 angry fans.

Maybe being booed isn't so bad. Maybe if I had experienced it, I wouldn't be so sensitive to it.

Of course, I haven't been smacked with a 2-by-4 either. I could try that too.

* * *

Why did some fans boo Hideo Nomo when he walked off the mound last night?

It's not a trick question. I know what an 8.06 ERA is.

Though I don't boo people, I can understand fans venting while the opposition cracks, shellacks, lacquers and spackles their pitcher, and while their manager tolerates it. That's often as much about booing the event as the man.

But after it's over, after a guy has sweated through 95 pitches, almost every one of them traumatic in some fashion, how do you boo him?

Was it once-in-a-blue-moon attendees who booed, annoyed that their game had been spoiled?

Was it diehard fans who booed, to send a message that Nomo shouldn't return to that mound until the day - if that day is to ever come - he is ready to pitch with authority rather than prayer?

Was it the fates who booed, enforcing the rules that those who earn cheers one day must earn boos the next, to balance out the cosmos?

At a certain point, the past becomes irrelevant when you play the game. You have to send out your best nine of that day, regardless of how great a career someone has had. Otherwise, the starting center fielder for the Giants last night would have been Willie Mays.

But when a guy is walking off the field, if you have any knowledge at all to what he has done for your team in the past, the joy he has brought so many people, the effort he has put in for so many years, booing sounds way more hurtful to me than an 8.06 ERA.

* * *

Turning to Shawn Green ...

The original title of this piece was going to be, "Did They Boo Loo Gehrig?"

I have wondered over the past few days whether Yankee fans in 1939, before they knew that Gehrig was fatally ill, had booed their hero when his performance suddenly fell off the eight-year-old Empire State Building.

Some quick research on Retrosheet this morning reminded me that Gehrig made it through only eight games in 1939. Though he was 4 for 28, that probably wasn't enough time for Yankee fans to get angry at someone so beloved. Gehrig was coming off a fine 1938 season, batting .295 with 29 home runs and 114 RBI.

No one on the Dodgers, as far as I know, has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. But I've never seen a power hitter still in his prime look more weak, look more like he was suffering the initial effects of Lou Gehrig's Disease, than Shawn Green.

Wednesday, Dodger manager Jim Tracy dropped Green to sixth in the order, and, though he is still holding out for patience, Green has accepted the demotion.

"This team, right now, Belly should be hitting fourth," Green told "Today's lineup, it's fine. I haven't been productive. If you move a guy down with the intent of it being a holding pattern until the player gets hot, sure. I'm just trying to get in a good groove and not worrying about anything else. When my swing is right, it's right."

Obviously, Dodger fans aren't happy that Green is struggling. Some will be satisfied that he was dropped to sixth in the lineup; others won't be satisfied until he is dropped further or benched.

For my part, no matter how much he claims otherwise, Green does not convince me that something isn't physically wrong with him. He kept quiet about being hurt last year and had a major health issue heading into this season. There is very little evidence that Green would publicly disclose a physical problem.

I can be unhappy about his performance. I can even yell at him when he only jogs after a foul fly ball to right, as he did Tuesday.

But I can't boo an injured player. And something - whatever it is - about Green is hurting - even if I'm wrong about the physical and it turns out to be only mental.

* * *

Update: The following excerpts are from the 1939 New York Times, courtesy of Eric Enders.

March 15: Lou Gehrig, despite all his intensive work, is off to a typically slow Spring start. ... Gehrig and Keller have one blow apiece to show for twelve times at bat. These figures, of course, are nothing to be alarmed about. Yet an improvement would be welcomed.

March 21: "Why should I sit up nights worrying about the way Lou is looking down here? All I've got to do is look at the record book and turn over and go to sleep." - Yankee manager Joe McCarthy

March 30: Everybody seems to be worried about Gehrig. Everybody but me, that is. ... he's got confidence in himself, he's feeling fine, and I refuse to worry about him unless and until he makes me in the championship race. - McCarthy

April 3: To Sports Editor of The New York Times: Like many other fans, I attribute Lou Gehrig's recent failure to play good baseball to the havoc wrought by thirteen years of uninterrupted comptetition. I believe it was Jimmie Dykes who suggested that the Yankee first baseman go off on an extended fishing trip and forget baseball.

May 2: Lou Gehrig's matchless record of uninterrupted play in American League championship games, stretched over fifteen years and through 2,130 straight contests, came to an end today. ... With the consent of Manager Joe McCarthy, Gehrig removed himself because he, better than anybody else, perhaps, recognized his competitive decline and was frankly aware of the fact he was doing the Yankees no good defensively or on the attack.

The present plan is to keep him on the bench. Relaxing and shaking off the mental hazards he has admittedly encountered this season, he may swing into action in the hot weather, which should have a beneficial effect upon his tired muscles.

May 3: "He feels blue. He is dejected." - McCarthy

May 3: Gehrig, visibly affected, explained his decision quite frankly.

"I decided last Sunday night on this move," said Lou. "I haven't been a bit of good to this team since the season started. It would not be fair to the boys, to Joe or to the baseball public for me to try going on. In fact, it would not be fair to myself, and I'm the last consideration. ...

"McCarthy has been swell about it the whole time. He'd let me go until the cows came home, he is that considerate of my feelings, but I knew in Sunday's game that I should get out of there.

"I went up there four times with men on base. Once there were two there. A hit would have won the ball game for the Yankees, but I missed, leaving five stranded as the Yankees lost. Maybe a rest will do me some good. Maybe it won't. Who knows? Who can tell? I'm just hoping."

Gehrig retired June 21, 1939, two days after his 36th birthday, with the announcement that he suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Lou Gehrig Day was held at Yankee Stadium July 4, 1939.

Can you imagine what that year was like?

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