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Tag: "baseball"

The Stadium Scam: Urban Planning Disaster Edition

[ 82 ] August 12, 2017 |

Great piece by an urban planner about how the ridiculous new Cobb County stadium for the “Atlanta” Braves is a completely disaster.

The Braves chose to relocate to Cobb County from downtown Atlanta’s Turner Field after only 19 years because of a $400 million public subsidy from Cobb taxpayers. The costs are almost certain to balloon thanks to some significant fiscal buffoonery on the part of Cobb officials, including a lack of a comprehensive transportation plan and forgetting to ask the Braves to pay for traffic cops. The sum is almost paltry compared to a lot of other public financing schemes—Las Vegas still takes the cake—but it was enough to run former County Commissioner Tim Lee out of office two years after the funding mechanism was approved following a series of closed door meetings that probably violated state transparency laws. (Lee did not respond to repeated requests for comment.) A Cobb County local I spoke with on the condition of anonymity as her family is involved in local politics said “there’s very little good that could be said about the stadium for the Cobb County taxpayers” and that “many of us in Cobb County are still bothered by the way the Braves deal came about.”

Unlike governments that dangle plum financing deals in order to entice teams to relocate across state lines, Cobb County’s decision to offer up nearly half a billion dollars in public money to the Braves in order to move them across county lines is a rare case of intra-regional competition. “A stadium leaving one district and going to another, it’s similar to industrial plants or major retail establishments relocating,” says Jason Henderson, a professor of geography at San Francisco State University and author of the paper “Secessionist Automobility: Racism, Anti-Urbanism, and the Politics of Automobility in Atlanta, Georgia.” “Places become competitive with each other,” he told me, “and Cobb is trying to get the stadium for the sales tax since that’s a huge source of revenue for the county. It’s a very American phenomenon to have localities competing for things like this.” Cobb’s decades-long campaign to remain apart from Atlanta proper only serves to amplify that competition; I’ve had several Atlanta locals tell me they’ll never attend another Braves game because of the way the regions were pitted against each other.

Attached to SunTrust Park like a Cinnabon-scented goiter is the Battery Atlanta, a $550M mixed-used development that looks an awful lot like a New Urbanist project, the widely criticized school of planning that is equal parts social engineering and neoliberalism. New Urbanism is city planning as Truman Show, attempting to humanize and rescale the misguided master planning concepts favored by designers like Le Corbusier. Cities like Seaside, Fla.,—where the Truman Show was partially filmed—and Disney-designed Celebration are attempts to urbanize the suburbs by integrating venerable concepts like transit-oriented design into communities cut from whole cloth. What many of these inorganic communities lack, however, is true diversity. Studies show that homes in New Urbanism communities are often expensive and the communities are more racially homogeneous than urban neighborhoods. “New Urbanism takes seriously many challenges of America’s current suburban landscape with an attention to the human scale, historical references, and architectural character,” says Ashley Bigham, a Walter B. Sanders Fellow at the University of Michigan’s architecture school and co-founder of Outpost Office. “However, many critics of New Urbanism have noted that relying on a historical understanding of urban spaces limits, if not excludes, more contemporary aspects of the city including individual expression and economic diversity.” Planting a project like the Battery in the middle of Cobb County (62 percent white at the last census, compared to 38 percent for Atlanta) only serves to amplify those issues.

With the Battery, the Braves are attempting to create a consumer ecosystem in a vacuum while allowing Cobb County to suck up enough sales tax receipts to legitimize the $400M public subsidy. They’re not the only franchise to attempt to anchor a mixed-use development with a new stadium, but what sets this apart from developments like the Ice District in Edmonton or the Arena District in Columbus is that the Battery is distinctly suburban, a Jacobsian island in the middle of a Moses-dream asphalt ocean. ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle had this to say on his first trip the stadium complex:

It’s an experiment, one where a sports franchise attempts to create a bubble. And once a fan enters it, there is no reason for him or her to spend money outside of it. And if it works, the ramifications will be noticed by baseball owners from coast to coast. If it works, it could change a lot of things. But we won’t know if it works for a long time.

So I guess I don’t see why this would work, but then what do I know? But who would go to this stadium unless you are a Cobb County resident? Why deal with the traffic? Is this sort of consumer experience really that appealing to people? And I suppose the answer is that I simply am not the target audience for any of this. I can say that many of the games I attend are as a tourist checking out a game in a new stadium or city. I would guess that 1-2% of attendees at a normal game are tourists. None of those people are going to venture from Atlanta to Cobb County except for the people determined to visit any stadium. But if you want baseball to be even whiter than it already is, I guess this is the future.

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A Hive of Scum and Villainy

[ 55 ] April 26, 2017 |

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I mean, sure you would think that Jeffrey Loria would be the worst possible person to own the Marlins, barring Daniel Snyder wanting to break into baseball. But no! Evidently, no one can join the new Marlins ownership team without breaking into a special elite rich man’s douche club.

Former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is part of a group led by ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush that has reached an agreement to purchase the Miami Marlins after submitting a bid of $1.3 billion, according to multiple media reports.

Jeter and Jeb! Was Henry Kissinger not available? Pat Buchanan too busy talking to white nationalist groups to get involved? Alex Rodriguez too busy worshiping portraits of himself? John Elway too involved in hanging out with the equine side of his family? At the very least, it would seem to serve Tom Brady’s trips to visit Herr Trump at Mar-a-Lago.

Still, one can assume Scott Walker was too lame and boring to get invited into this club, which at least says something for them. Can still root for the Marlins over the Brewers anyway.

The Stadium Scam: Milwaukee Edition

[ 39 ] April 22, 2017 |
UNDATED:  Robin Yount of the Millwaukee Brewers poses during an MLB game.  Robin Yount played for the TEAM from 1974-1993.  (Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

UNDATED: Robin Yount of the Millwaukee Brewers poses during an MLB game. Robin Yount played for the TEAM from 1974-1993. (Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Publicly funded sports stadiums, the grift that keeps on giving.

Oh, what a lovely investment the Milwaukee Brewers team is. Mark Attanasio paid $223 million for the Brewers in 2005 and the team is now worth $925 million, according to the latest analysis by Forbes magazine.

Pro sports owners almost never lose money. They may have a net loss in a given year or years, but that is far offset by the way sports franchise values rise. The resell value of the franchise is always rising and always guarantees a huge return.

One reason is that a team like the Brewers is basically a monopoly, the only such sports franchise in the metro area. But perhaps a bigger reason is that the company’s major cost of operation, the stadium in which the team plays, is largely paid for by taxpayers. The cost of Miller Park, which could ultimately run anywhere from $524 million to more than a billion in taxes, depending on what costs and subsidies you choose to include, is far more than Bud Selig and his partners invested in the team (including the original purchase price) during the years they owned the Brewers.

And the fact that the taxpayers continue to pay for the stadium, its maintenance and new additions, makes the Brewers a sweet deal for Attanasio. Moreover, he doesn’t just get to a heavily subsidized baseball stadium, but an ever-growing concert venue as well.

As Forbes notes, the Brewers “poor play dinged ballpark attendance 9% last season, but their concert business is picking up. Country superstar Kenny Chesney’s June 2016 concert at Miller Park ranked as the top-grossing concert in that period with gross sales of $4.8 million, according to figures reported in Venues Today. The Brewers signed a deal with Ballpark Music to stage concerts at Miller Park next season. The agreement provides a financial boost to the Brewers because any money earned at the non-baseball events goes directly to the team under the Brewers lease. The Brewers keep the revenue from parking, food and merchandise.”

Yep, yet another gift from the taxpayers of this five-county metro area (which includes Racine county, much to the continuing anger of its residents), who get no cut of the concert revenues in the stadium they built.

But hey, at least ownership is investing those profits in making the team competitive!

In 2000, the year before Miller Park opened, the team had the eighth-lowest payroll at $36.5 million, well below the median payroll of about $56 million and far below the top payroll of $92.5 million for the New York Yankees.

How has Miller Park changed this? Actually the disparity has gotten far worse. The current payroll of the team is $62 million, which is dead last in the league, far below the median payroll of $138.2 million and light years below the top payroll of $244.6 million for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

True, the Brewers have been in a rebuilding mode, but the team’s payroll rank since Miller Park opened has averaged between the 20th and 21st in the league — about the same rank it had in the years before the new stadium was built.

In short, while Miller Park assured Major League Baseball remained in Milwaukee, and has greatly increased the wealth of Selig and Attanasio, it didn’t exactly make the Brewers a powerhouse. The team’s last (and only) World Series appearance was back in 1982, and 16 years after Miller Park opened, it hasn’t gotten the team much closer to another pennant.

Why, it’s almost as if the rich lie to the public about their investment priorities!

Baseball!

[ 107 ] April 2, 2017 |

Hey, it’s baseball season! Last season, the Cubs winning the World Series was an omen for the election of Trump. Let’s hope this year returns the world to normal. As for the Mariners, I’ll believe any success when I see it. At least the Yankees have started off with a stinker.

Open thread on the return of baseball.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 65

[ 27 ] January 8, 2017 |

This is the grave of Carl Pohlad.

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Born in 1915 in Des Moines, Carl Pohlad moved to California to play junior college football. He was discovered by none other than Bing Crosby, who convinced him to go to his alma mater Gonzaga University in Spokane to play football, even though he was in his late-20s already. He then fought in World War II beginning in 1943 where he was supposed to be part of the Normandy invasion until he got poison oak. But he was wounded later in the war and won the purple heart and silver star. He had already gotten involved in business even before he played football, starting to make money by foreclosing of people’s farms during the Depression. After the war, he became a major banking investor and from there a general businessman involved in any number of ventures that made him a billionaire.

In 1984, Pohlad bought the Minnesota Twins, one of the most pathetic franchises in the game. But under his ownership, they won the World Series in 1987 and again in 1991. He spent resources to resign stars like Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek instead of letting them to go free agency. But as the price of baseball players grew, Pohlad became a stingy owner, dooming his team to being terrible. His sense of public service over profit was never strong. When the state of Minnesota balked at paying for a new stadium, Pohlad started looking to bail. He nearly sold the team to a businessman with the intention of moving it to Charlotte in 1997. And then in 2001, he volunteered to have his own team contracted in Bud Selig’s idiotic contraction plan. This led to howls of fury from Minnesota fans. Moreover, this was a pure profit motive from Pohlad, who would have received between $125-250 million for it, more than the team was worth. Moreover, Pohlad had lent $3 million to Selig, giving a strong and probably accurate impression that a quid pro quo was in action here. Selig was forced to give up his idea but Pohlad defended the move to the end of his life in 2009.

Of course, Pohlad tried to avoid paying estate taxes by transferring most of his ownership in the Twins to his son before he died. This led to an IRS suit against the family that was eventually settled for far less than the family should have paid.

Pohlad has never been a character in a film or on TV. Maybe someday there will be a show on the sheer greed of billionaire sports owners.

Carl Pohlad is buried in Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Oddly, he is buried right next to Paul Wellstone. The number of famous people with no connection buried next to each other in this nation is bizarre, including Andrew Carnegie and Samuel Gompers. When I wrote the Wellstone post last week, I neglected to mention that the lake in the background, which you can also see above, is Lake Calhoun. Because for some reason Minnesota felt the need to name a lake after John C. Calhoun. Unfortunate that Wellstone has to overlook a lake named after such a terrible human. More fitting for Pohlad.

It Is So Hard Being a Billionaire Baseball Team Owner

[ 87 ] October 5, 2016 |

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Well, this truly justifies the impoverishment of minor league baseball players.

Yes, clearly the horror of paperwork, something billionaires could not possibly afford to pay $50,000 a year to a secretary to take care of, is a great reason to make your employees’ lives terrible.

Living Wages for Baseball Staffers

[ 122 ] August 31, 2016 |

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I enjoyed reading this profile of Boston Red Sox organist Josh Kantor, largely because he’s a player in the larger New England music scene and sat in for most of the Drive-By Truckers’ show in Providence last fall, which was super cool. However, one thing about this interview alarmed me greatly:

AVC: You’re doing 81 games a year, plus playoffs?

JK: Yeah, 81 home games, and then hopefully if were lucky there are playoff games in addition to that.

AVC: Are you full-time or are you contract? Are you paid by the Red Sox?

JK: I get paid by the Boston Red Sox. I receive an hourly wage, which is a pretty small hourly wage, but I love the work, so that’s why I keep going back.

AVC: You’re not getting Big Papi money?

JK: Oh, I’m not even getting pay-the-bills money. I work an office job, and I do a ton of freelance music work as well.

What? The Boston Red Sox, an organization raking in endless dollars, does not pay their organist, who works 81 days a year, assuming they don’t make the playoffs, anything even approaching a living wage? Do they really pay him $10 an hour or something? That is absolutely disgraceful. It’s not as if I didn’t already know that professional sports franchises owned by billionaires with gargantuan television deals and endless marketing opportunities take every penny possible from their everyday employees. They’d still be doing the same to the players if they could get away with it. But I would have figured someone as central to the team as its long-time organist would at least be getting something that looks like a living wage. But no. Not even close evidently. Call me a filthy communist if you will, but I think the Red Sox organist should be able to pay his bills on his salary.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 42

[ 48 ] July 31, 2016 |

This is the grave of A. Bartlett Giamatti.

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Giamatti was born in 1935 and became an literature professor at Yale. In 1978, he became president of Yale, serving in that role until 1986. His tenure as president was marked by a bitter strike among Yale employees and his refusal to divest Yale investments from South Africa. He left Yale in 1986 to become president of the National League and then replaced Peter Uberroth in 1988 as commissioner because of strong reputation as a unionbuster while at Yale. He is also responsible for the crazy jump in balks in 1988. Giamatti, a heavy smoker, would die of a heart attack a year later, but before he did, he made his largest contribution to the game, which was banning Pete Rose for life.

Bart Giamatti is buried in Grove Street Cemetery, New Haven, Connecticut.

Save America’s Pastime–From the Minimum Wage and Overtime Pay?

[ 52 ] July 1, 2016 |

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Did you know baseball evidently needs saving? From what, you might ask? Is it from sluggers using specific drugs that challenge the records of the heroes current sportswriters had when they were kids? Is it from Clayton Kershaw going on the DL? Is it from the horrors of the Yankees winning the World Series? No. Evidently baseball needs saving from the oppressive measures of the Fair Labor Standards Act. But what, you say? Major league players are millionaires! Indeed. This is about making sure that minor league players don’t receive proper compensation.

Cheri Bustos of Illinois and Brett Guthrie of Kentucky introduced the “Save America’s Pastime Act” late last week. The bipartisan legislation—Bustos is a Democrat, Guthrie a Republican—proposes to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and create a specific exemption for minor league baseball players (who are not unionized) so that they are explicitly not guaranteed the minimum wage, and thus not allowed overtime pay.

Minor leaguers are professional athletes, so they’re never going to get widespread sympathy from the public, but MiLB’s wage structure is set up such that that they can barely earn a living while playing baseball. At best, they can break even. It’s tricky to conceive of sports jobs on hourly terms, since the responsibilities of a professional athlete extend so far beyond simply clocking in and out on game days, but minor league baseball players live all of the round-the-clock lifestyle of MLB players, just without getting the pay to justify it.

The bill alleges that MiLB players need their wages locked in at poverty level and that if players start getting paid at least as much as fast food workers, grassroots minor league baseball is at risk:

If the law is not clarified, the costs to support local teams would likely increase dramatically and usher in significant cuts across the league, threatening the primary pathway to the Majors and putting teams at risk.

This is bullshit. Major league owners pay the salaries of their farm teams. MiLB teams don’t need attendance revenue to pay their players, the money comes from the top. As ESPN noted, bumping every minor leaguer’s pay by $5,000 would shake out to 5 percent of Justin Verlander’s salary. MLB made $8 billion in revenue in 2013 (the number is certainly higher now). But the “Save America’s Pastime Act” isn’t about saving money, and it certainly isn’t about saving America’s pastime.

If you are asking why a Democrat like Bustos would be involved in such a horrible piece of anti-worker legislation, the answer is pretty simple. Her father in Major League Baseball’s chief lobbyist. The entire justification is completely ridiculous. Major League Baseball is going to support a minor league system because they require a minor league system to prepare players for the major leagues. The idea that teams in Missoula and Batavia are going to fold because the Yankees and Dodgers have to pay the minimum wage to the players does not hold up to even the first bit of scrutiny.

Outside of the grotesque nature of the arguments for this rather Orwellian named bill, Grant Bisbee explores just how despicable it is by thinking of the minor leaguers themselves. Basically, minor leaguers develop no job skills for the future. If they sign out of high school, they spend their traditional college-aged years learning nothing but to hit and field and pitch. If they do go to college, they probably leave after 3 years without a degree and spend their post-college years, when their friends are starting to find stable jobs and figure our careers, learning nothing but to hit and field and pitch. Most of them will never see a 40-man roster, not to mention actually playing in the major leagues. Far less will become wealthy. For most, this is a career dead-end. This bill is about making sure a 26 year old outfielder with a .700 OPS in Chattanooga doesn’t get paid if he goes to visit a nursing home in a team event, not about protecting players, the minor leagues, or baseball itself.

…Bustos has since withdrawn her support of her own bill in what Bill Shaikin calls “a flip flop monumental even by Washington standards.” Honestly, this is enough that her constituents should seek to primary her out of a job in 2018. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball is doubling down and saying that minor league players aren’t really employees–they are creative class people like artists and musicians. Yeah, that makes as little sense as it sounds.

The Unluckiest Pitcher of All Time

[ 63 ] April 11, 2016 |

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We are barely a week into the 2016 season but it’s good that one tradition never dies, which is the Mariners scoring no runs for Felix Hernandez. A day after dominating performance that led to yet another no-decision, David Schoenfeld claims King Felix is statistically the unluckiest pitcher of all time.

It was the 45th start where he allowed zero runs or one run and didn’t get credit for a win. That ties him with Zack Greinke for the most such starts among active pitchers. With years of inept offenses behind him — the Mariners have finished higher than 11th in runs scored just once in his tenure, back in 2007 when they ranked seventh — you wonder: Is Hernandez the unluckiest pitcher of all time? Those 45 winless games account for 13.4 percent of his career starts.

Greinke’s 45 games actually account for a slightly higher percentage of his career starts at 13.8 percent. King Felix, however, has pitched a little better in his games, throwing 317 innings with a 0.88 ERA compared to Greinke’s 288.2 innings and 0.90 ERA. Hernandez’s average Game Score is 72.5 versus Greinke’s 67.0.

How do those two compare to other bad-luck hurlers? Sticking to this one idea of “bad luck,” Sarah Langs of ESPN Stats & Information reports that over the past 100 years (getting us past most of the dead-ball era when 1-0 or 2-1 games were common), only six other pitchers have had more winless games when allowing one run or zero runs: Nolan Ryan, Tom Glavine, Don Sutton, Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens and Tommy John. So that’s good company, with four Hall of Famers, a would-be Hall of Famer and a guy who won 288 games.

Note that fewer losses means more bad luck, since you can’t lose if you allow no runs. Hernandez and Greinke are well ahead of the others in percentage of career starts that ended with these types of no-decisions. Note that Hernandez has the highest average Game Score — to be fair, he’s pitched in an era with more strikeouts, which is part of the Game Score formula — but notice as well that only Sutton averaged more innings per start.

That’s important because one reason starters don’t get as many wins these days is they don’t pitch as deep into games. That’s not the reason Hernandez isn’t winning, however; he’s pitching deep into games and just not getting any run support.

Argue around the edges, but Felix has consistently played on terrible teams throughout what should be a Hall of Fame career. But to Murray Chass, I guess Felix isn’t providing the proper amount of leaderocity and so better to elect Jack Morris.

The Texas Rangers

[ 23 ] January 10, 2016 |

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I was somewhat disappointed this season that the campaign to stop saying the nickname of the Washington Racists totally disappeared and NFL broadcasters reverted to using ethnic slurs on national television. I had real hope that the pressure would continue on Dan Snyder, terrible human, even if he no interest in listening to it. I guess buying Ari Fleischer’s services helped here or something.

Anyway, it’s worth noting that the United States’ love of memorializing its own racist history in sports nicknames goes farther than just the Washington Football Racists and the Cleveland Baseball Racists. It also extends to the Texas White Supremacist baseball franchise. Greg Grandin:

 In Texas, the rangers were established on an ad-hoc basis in the 1820s, to protect the settlers making inroads into Spanish borderlands. Soon, Mexicans and Mexican Americans replaced Native Americans as the prime target of ranger repression. For a century—from Mexico’s War for Independence from Spain in the 1820s, the Texas Rebellion, the Mexican-American War, and the upheaval caused by the Mexican Revolution, which began in 1910 and lasted years—the borderlands witnessed all the elements that make, for a certain class, death squads necessary: concentration of wealth, military occupation, racial domination, ethnic cleansing, property dispossession, and resource extraction (the Texas legislature officially authorized the formation of four ranger divisions in 1901, the year the Spindletop oil field was discovered, setting off the Texas oil boom).

In response, the Texas Rangers: not America’s only death squad but its most celebrated, complete with its own reliquary, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum.

There are historians working to document the horrors of the Texas Rangers. What are those horrors?

 Texas Rangers played a key role in these atrocities. On September 28, 1915, for example, after a clash with about forty raiders near Ebenoza, Hidalgo County, the victorious Rangers took about a dozen raiders prisoner and promptly hung them, leaving their bodies in the open for months. Several weeks later, on October 19, after a dramatic attack derailed a passenger train heading north from Brownsville, Rangers detained ten ethnic Mexicans nearby, quickly hanging four and shooting four others. Cameron County sheriff W.T. Vann blamed Ranger Captain Henry Ransom for the killings. Vann took two suspected men from Ransom and placed them into his custody and likely saved their lives. Both proved to be innocent of any involvement.

This was not Ransom’s first such action: a month before, on September 24, he casually shot Jesús Bazan and Antonio Longoria as they rode by the site where a raid had occurred. Ransom left the bodies exposed, shocking Rancher Sam Lane (himself a former Ranger) and young Anglo ranch hand Roland Warnock, who helped to bury Bazán and Longoria several days later. That fall, Ransom made a habit of running ethnic Mexicans out of their homes as he patrolled the countryside. At one point he casually reported to Ranger headquarters in Austin that “I drove all the Mexicans from three ranches.”

Former Rangers were also among the worst perpetrators of violence. A.Y. Baker, a Ranger involved in disputed shootings of Mexican suspects during the previous decade, had left the Ranger Force to become Hidalgo County’s sheriff by 1915. He also developed a similar reputation for casual racial violence. Many sources named him as the instigator of the September 1915 mass hanging. Decades later, a soldier deployed by the National Guard in 1915 who stayed in the Valley recalled he witnessed Baker “killing three guys, three Mexican fellows in cold blood . . . that’s the kind of man A.Y. Baker was. He was killing Mexicans on sight.”

A large portion of the United States military was mobilized and deployed on the Texas-Mexico border because of the violence unleashed by the Plan de San Diego. Military officers became increasingly alarmed at the conduct of the Rangers and other law enforcement officers. As mass executions began, the Secretary of State telegraphed Texas governor James Ferguson to enlist his support in “quieting border conditions in the district of Brownsville” by “restraining indiscreet conduct.” This oblique reference to lynchings was soon replaced by more pointed and adamant condemnations of state officials, such as General Frederick Funston’s threat to put South Texas under martial law so as to restrain vigilantes, Rangers, and local law enforcement personnel.

After a brief resumption of a few raids in the spring of 1916, the uprising associated with the Plan de San Diego ended. But the Rangers’ involvement in subordinating ethnic Mexicans continued. In May of 1916, José Morin and Victoriano Ponce were arrested in Kingsville on suspicion of plotting a raid, and disappeared after Ranger Captain J. J. Saunders took custody of them. Thomas Hook, a local Anglo attorney, helped residents prepare a telegram to President Woodrow Wilson asking for federal intervention to safeguard their rights. Soon thereafter, Saunders pistol-whipped Hook in a courthouse hallway.

The entry of the United States into World War I brought changes to the Ranger force that heightened this kind of retaliation against the exercise of political rights by Mexican Americans. The State expanded the Ranger force, increasing the number of Rangers from seventy-three to more than one hundred and thirty. Moreover, legislation empowered the governor to appoint three “Loyalty Rangers” in each county in order to monitor anti-war activity. In South Texas, these loyalty Rangers participated in an unprecedented assault on Mexican-American voting rights. In the 1918 election, for example, Rangers reduced the number of votes cast in Alice, Texas from some three hundred in an earlier primary to only sixty-five in the general election. “The former large number of Mexicans who have voted in previous elections was conspicuous by their absence,” noted one observer. “They did not congregate at the polls, but up town they gathered in small groups and discussed among themselves this new thing of being watched by the Rangers.” Voting across south Texas plummeted when Rangers were deployed. Rangers also harassed, disarmed, and humiliated Mexican American office holders such as Cameron County Deputy Sheriff Pedro Lerma. Rangers entered Lerma’s home while he was absent, “frightened his wife and daughters to death.” Other Mexican Americans in similar positions were forcibly disarmed; one was hung by the neck twice.

A new, more brutal white supremacy had come to the border.

So why are the Texas Rangers named after these white supremacists? Well, given that it’s the team of the Dallas metroplex, these racial crimes are a feature, not a bug. Unlikely we are going to see any grassroots effort in Texas anytime soon to rename the Rangers to the Texas Executors of Innocent People or the Texas U.S. Constitution Doesn’t Apply Heres. But at the very least, we can bring awareness of just how deep America’s racist past remains intertwined with its sporting teams.

Water Hogs

[ 28 ] November 1, 2015 |

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Who are the biggest water hogs in California? Well, in the Bay Area, the worst is a Chevron exec. Second is some venture capitalist. You’d expect these two types to lead. Third? Billy Beane!

Oakland A’s big cheese Billy Beane, famous for his statistical money-saving approach to assembling a baseball team, has been far less economical with his water, according to an East Bay Municipal Utility District roster that places him among the top water hogs in the East Bay.

The baseball team’s executive vice president, for whom the phrase “Moneyball” was invented, has been slopping nearly 6,000 gallons of water a day on the grounds of his Danville estate and his swimming pool, placing him third on a preliminary list of excessive water users released Friday.

The average residential customer uses about 250 gallons a day per household.

The list of 1,108 names is not complete, according to Abby Figueroa, district spokeswoman, including only about a third of the district’s residential customers — essentially those who received penalties for guzzling more than 1,000 gallons of water per day. Still, it is an indication of the huge disparity in water use among the 1.3 million customers in 35 East Bay cities that receive water from the district.

The East Bay Municipal Utility District as a whole has cut water use by 21 percent since Jan. 1.

Beane issued a statement Friday saying that it wasn’t really his fault.

“Multiple irrigation leaks and a significant pool leak were recently discovered and are in the process of being corrected,” said the man who was using 5,996 gallons a day at home while his baseball team wallowed in last place. “We are more than displeased and embarrassed by the usage and are taking immediate action.”

More on this issue in California broadly.

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