The last place outside of a locker room or clubhouse that political correctness is not a worry is the barbershop. As I sat at Ronnie's Barber Shop on Center Street, I heard something that caught my attention about the Brewers that I thought was funny and sad at the same time.
The elders in the shop were talking about how it was about time the Brewers got over their hatred of black ballplayers and put winning first.
Hatred of black ballplayers
Put winning first?
I was at a crossroads of thought when I heard this brought up and wondered aloud if that was the case in the past and now. I really have never sensed the Brewers as a franchise that went out of its way to avoid black ballplayers. I also feel they have never gone out of their way to cater to brothers either. They just went for what they thought were the best players for their franchise at that time.
The one instance when there was a question of racial issues in the Brewers franchise was with Gary Sheffield, and even with that one you have to cite the source at the time of the allegations of racism.
I can think of lots of ballplayers from George "Boomer" Scott, Cecil Cooper, Darryl "Hambone" Hamilton, Greg Vaughn, Eric Young, Jeffrey Hammonds, Jeffrey Leonard, etc. -- and Henry Aaron is the most revered baseball player in Milwaukee history, so there is love from that perspective.
The Brewers even gave a black manager a shot, but Davey Earl Lopes didn't work out to well, so we just move on. My point is that the Brewers, under the old regime of the Selig family and the new regime run by Mark Attanasio, have been at least on par from what I can see in terms of ratio of African-American ballplayers.
Actually, the Brewers in 2008, which are 20 games over .500 and when CC Sabathia pitches as many as five brothers are on the field, which is way above the norm in the major leagues.
Now, the next question is have the black ballplayers been the anchors and or focal point of the franchise identity over the years and my answer to that is, "No!" That is no up until recently, and I mean the last few years, when black ballplayers been highlighted as much as any other players on the team. Prince Fielder gets as much push from the franchise as Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks as much as J.J. Hardy and now C.C. Sabathia is bringing a exposure to the Brewers they have not enjoyed since Yount and Molitor.
That doesn't mean that they didn't try to promote black ballplayers over the years, but they could have tried harder.
Back to the barbershop...
I think those feelings have some merit, but not as much as one would believe. I really see it this way: we've got a good thing going on here right now in Milwaukee. The team is winning and I see lots of black ballplayers helping get that job done. If I need to play my race card, I will play it, the game I see right now doesn't justify doing so.
Steve Haywood is the host of That Being Said, which airs weeknights at 6 p.m. on Milwaukees ESPN Radio 1510 Days / 1290 Nights. A lifelong Milwaukee resident, Steve has been working on the radio since 1996 and also is executive producer of Sports Perspectives on MATA Community Media.
After graduating from Milwaukee Tech High School in 1985, Haywood attended college at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he graduated in 1991.
He has covered a number of major events, including the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 2002 and the NBA All-Star Game in 2003.
Haywood, 39, is married with two kids, a dumb cat and a dog described as a real curmudgeon.