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The Most Racist Team in Professional Sports


Michael Tomasky’s excellent piece on the Washington Redskins, a team whose owner, George Marshall, made the team identity his own virulent racism, is well worth a read. The Redskins were the last team in the NFL to integrate, in 1962 when Marshall was also openly supporting southern segregationists against the civil rights movement. Moreover, the person responsible for its integration was, of all people, Stewart Udall, who forced Marshall’s hand when he wanted Department of Interior land to build a new stadium.

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  • efgoldman

    I’d suggest that the ‘Skins might be in a dead heat withe the Yawkey red Sox, the last MLB team to integrate, by bringing up a bad-to-mediocre infielder named Pumpsie Green in 1959.
    The Sox famously had chances to try out the likes of Hank Aaron, Willie Mayes and Sam Jethro (not a HOF-er, but a pretty good player). Never offered any a contract, of course.
    It is signioficant that the Dick Williams “Impossible Dream” team of ’67 included a significant number of black players: closer John Wyatt, catcher Elston howard (acquired in mid-season from the Yankees), 3rd- and 1st-basemen Joy Foy and George Scott, and Reggie Smith and Jose Tartabull (another in-season acquisition) in the outfield.
    Neither Williams nor GM Dick O’Connell cared about a player’s skin.

    • efgoldman

      Aargh. Proofread/edit/adjective fail. Of *course* significance is significant.
      :::slinks away, quill pen between legs:::

      • c u n d gulag

        Don’t worry, I knew what you meant.

        And as for Scott, even a Yankee fan like me loved him.
        Jesus, could he play first? He and Boog were the best fat fielding 1st Basemen in the AL. And I loved him as a hitter. But until I just looked it up now, I’d forgotten how good a hitter Boog really was.

        And poor Scotty – driven out of 2 jobs by Cecil Cooper, who was also a helluva good player.

    • There was an excellent documentary on race and baseball several years back (strangely, it was on TNT, if memory serves me right), and they talked about the Red Sox being the last to integrate. Apparently, they had the chance to take Mays, but an official report for the team determined that he wasn’t “our kind of player.”

      • mark f

        Mays playing Fenway’s CF is fun to imagine.

      • c u n d gulag

        They said Mays couldn’t hit a curveball.

        So I guess maybe in his entire career, no one ever figured that out and threw him one, then? :-)

    • JOHN


  • Davis

    Didn’t Clark Griffith move the Senators to Minnesota because DC was too black?

    Lack of black players was the reason the AL lost to the NL so often in the 1960s & 1970s

    • wengler

      Griffith was cheap and his team sucked. Minnesota already had a stadium that could be expanded and a fan base that would actually go to ballgames.

      Note that DC is the only city to have TWO major league baseball teams move away from it. So where does Selig think the Expos should move to? DC, of course!

      • c u n d gulag

        Montreal’s a great, great city. My favorite outside of NY in North America (I’ve never been to SF, sadly).

        It’s a shame the Expo’s moved. If they had built a ballpark downtown seating 35-40,000, it would have been very popular. I’d have loved to seen games there.

        I went to Olympic Stadium once. What a huge dump!
        It had to be the worst place to see a baseball game since the Dodgers left the LA Coliseum for Chavez Ravine.
        It’s no wonder baseball lost its popularity there after the Expo’s left tiny little Jarry Park.
        And they had some occasionally awesome teams from the late 70’s until the strike year. Can you imagine if they’d built a nice park like Pittsburgh did? It would have been a jewel!

        • Brett Turner

          I saw a ballgame in Jarry Park in the mid-1970s, at the age of maybe 12. Small, but I remember thinking how nice and clean it was.

          I was living in Cincinnati at the time and my “base” stadium was Riverfront, a cookie-cutter football/baseball stadium, so the idea of a small ballpark seemed pretty new and different at the time.

        • wengler

          Yeah I think that stadium had a Cleveland Stadium effect-making the paltry crowds that showed up look even smaller.

          A nice, cozy ballpark would’ve been great.

      • rea

        If you don’t count New York

        • rea

          As a city that had two major league baseball teams move away, that is.

  • Deggjr

    George Marshall did set the stage for a great sports line: “Jim Brown, born ineligible to play for the Redskins, integrated their end zone three times yesterday” (written by Shirley Povich).

    • Kurzleg

      Man, that must have burned Marshall. Both the TDs and Povich’s phrasing.

    • mpowell

      That line is awesome. It even sounds dirty somehow.

    • Marek

      Thanks for this, it’s brilliant.

    • witless chum

      That line is better than anything.

    • KadeKo


  • Jim Lynch

    “Scalp ‘um, swamp ‘um, we will take’um big score….”.

    Fans still sing that at Redskin games, don’t they?

    • Fosco

      No one really sings after “Fight for ol’ DC”, thankfully.

      It’s hard to be a football fan in DC for a number of reasons — I wish the team would finally change the dang name and let me wear a hat without feeling racist. In the meantime, you got to do what you can and only sing half the song.

      • efgoldman

        …you got to do what you can and only sing half the song.

        Hey, as (often) the only Jewish kid in school, that’s what I used to do with Xmas carols.

  • Nathan of Perth

    Surely there’s an argument for the poor Cleveland Indians in there somewhere?

    • witless chum

      If I have to walk up and insult the biggest Indian in the world, I’d rather call him a Cleveland Indian than a Washington Redskin.

  • Why “of all people, Stewart Udall”?

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