November 18, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 44  

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Singer's last song? Baseball again tainted by racism

On the DL
David Lee

Sports Editor

Why does baseball have a hard time attracting new fans? Here's one reason why: many non-fans might consider the sport racist.

Last Tuesday night in Arizona, amidst baseball's annual winter meetings, Bill Singer, the newly appointed special assistant for the New York Mets, met with Los Angeles Dodgers assistant general manager Kim Ng in a hotel bar. While he may have intended to talk shop with Ng (who became the second female assistant GM in the majors when the Yankees hired her in 1997), Singer instead questioned her about her ethnic background and began to talk in gibberish, poking fun at the Chinese language.

The incident came to light last week when Brian Cashman, the Yankees' GM and Ng's former boss, stepped in and made the incident public. The Mets have apologized profusely to her while Met's GM Jim Duquette contemplates firing someone that was hired only two weeks ago. Singer -a 14-year veteran who twice won 20 games- should have known better.

All this came shortly before accusations that Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig dumped nearly $13 million of his own money into the Brewers' payroll over the last five to six years. Conflict of interest, anyone?

Selig's purported misdeeds aside, Major League Baseball is once again left to deal with racism in its ranks. This is not the first time the spectre of racism has reared its ugly head in recent years. Fans will remember Marge Schott, the former owner of the Cincinnati Reds, who often referred negatively to her African-American players -going so far as to call outfielder Eric Davis "one of her high-priced niggers." Then, of course, there is the well-known case of former Atlanta closer John Rocker. After making disparaging comments to a reporter about how he hated New York and its inhabitants, Rocker was surprised to find the fans in the Big Apple upset with him. He also called then-teammate Randall Simon a "fat monkey." With those and other incidents still fresh in the minds of fans and non-fans alike, Singer's comments don't seem like anything new for baseball. The only difference is, his comments target Asians instead of African-Americans. It's a shame that Singer, as a representative of the Mets, would make such a comment. Not only will it impair his ability to deal with upcoming Asian prospects -Singer's job description includes "talent evaluator"- but New York's large Asian population probably doesn't appreciate the jab, either.

Moreover, as the ranks of Asian players in the major leagues grows steadily, it's likely there will be pressure on the Mets from other organizations to can Singer. He will likely be held accountable to Asian players in his own organization, too.

I love baseball. I follow it year-round; the off-season can be just as exciting as the regular season for me, where teams compete for free agents and unfulfilled playoff hopes from years past fade away with the acquisition of a rising star. I get so excited about the game that I sometimes wonder how someone can dislike it.

It's times like this that I stop wondering.




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