Free Ride

Joe theorizes why the Cards have gotten so many "Get Out of Jail Free" cards.

Hey Joe: It seems to me that if pro sports are so overly consumed with steroids or so-called performance-enhancing drugs, as well as dog-fighting issues, they should also investigate substance abuse (i.e. alcohol). I mean, the Cards fired their hitting instructor, La Russa was cited in Florida for drunk driving, Josh Hancock was killed on the highway and Scott Spiezio went to rehab. All of these things are somehow or another related to alcohol use, misuse or abuse, and these bigwigs keep getting slapped on the wrist, or the powers that be seem to turn the other cheek. Things seem very hypocritical, racist and classist in this country.

Oh, I forgot: Anheuser-Busch is a big contributor to the Cards' franchise, so I guess you can literally get away with murder, but if you ain't part of the good ol' boys' club, you get a high-tech lynching through media pundits. I'm sorry for venting, but what are your thoughts, sir? Thanks for your time.
Ray Hughes, St. Louis

First and foremost, everybody needs an outlet to voice his or her concerns. Second, so-called sports of the professional caliber are nothing but big business, which are big contributors to politicians' campaign funds. Seems to me that the public is getting pimped by the very people chosen to represent it. I'm not a betting man, but I'd be willing to bet that steroids are prescription drugs, thus casting them into the lot of big business. Obviously, dog-fighting isn't, even though it's been around since before the Dead Sea got sick.

The connection between Anheuser-Busch and the Cards goes way back, but there are others, too. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig was the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. At the time the park was named Miller Park, so baseball also falls into the category of "If you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours." The steroid matter — led by Selig and a few members of Congress — sheds light on it. Rather than going after the drug industry, they found it more convenient to focus on the players (which includes Barry Bonds).

In reference to the Cards, I remember when their owner Fred Saigh was found guilty of income tax evasion in the '50s. When facing the judge, he was told that it would cost him $5,000. It was rumored that Saigh said, "I have that right here in my pocket." Then the judge supposedly added, "...and also five years." Then he finished up by asking, "Do you have that in your pocket?!" Of course you know how things worked out. Barry Bonds and Michael Vick are two wealthy black men, which makes bringing them down a prime political ploy, especially if done to keep the color line intact with bad publicity — like subtly saying, "No matter how great the accomplishment, a nig, um, I mean, a black is still a black."

Prince Joe Henry, one of professional baseball's original "clowns," was an all-star infielder for Negro League baseball teams in Memphis, Indianapolis and Detroit throughout the 1950s. But up until the late 1940s, Prince Joe didn?t know anything about the Negro Leagues. His knowledge of organized baseball was limited to the Cardinals and Browns games he attended during his preteen years at Sportsman?s Park, accompanied by lifelong buddy Eugene "Gene" Crittendon, who could pass for white.

Perhaps Henry?s most vivid memory of those games: Upon entry, white ushers would politely escort the boys to a small section of the left-field stands reserved for "Colored." After climbing past several tiers of bleachers, they?d arrive at their stop, rows and rows behind their white counterparts.

Even at a young age, the boys were conscious of the double standard -- and determined to vent their disdain. The opportunity would arise with the urge to urinate. Rather than head for the latrine, the boys would edge their way to the front of the section and let fly. As the liquid foamed its way down the concrete steps toward the white kids, Henry and his pal would ease back and relax, politely rooting for the visiting team to beat the hell out of the Browns or the Cards.

After all, Henry and Crittendon hailed from Brooklyn, Illinois, a small, predominantly black township just east of the Mississippi River. So hospitable were the residents of Brooklyn that they were known to take in a rank stranger, treat him to breakfast, lunch, supper and a night out on the town -- and afterward, if he messed up, treat him to a good ass-whippin'.

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