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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Connecting The Dots: Doing the Right Thing

Doing The Right Thing: Sometimes A Tough Call. Most Times Not.

Last week, I stumbled onto the movie Eight Men Out. I know the story--the basic story--but had never seen the movie. Since I can never turn down a good baseball movie, I watched it.
In a nutshell, it is a movie about baseball players who took money to cheat and lose games on purpose. The World Series in fact. When they were found out they were banned from baseball. Most of us know of the story. But there was one thing in that story I didn't know about. Actually, three things. One took the money but likely did not throw the games and didn't want to be part of it. One didn't take any money or know about the scheme, while one didn't take any money and did know about the scheme and said nothing about it. That will be explored, in context, in this blog. That is the interesting part of the story for me. Otherwise, it is just a story about a bunch of cheaters who got what they deserved. Somewhat interesting, but not out of the ordinary or captivating in of itself.
First off, it is an okay movie. Not great, but not bad. Too much cliche for me, but that is Hollywood. The details were pretty much accurate, although they changed a few things in the sequence. I think mostly they did capture the set of circumstances that led to the players feeling they were being cheated by the owner and ripe for the gamblers to come in and seduce them with money to cheat on the game that gave them the life they had. And then lost. Remember the lost part. It is relevant to the back half of this blog.

Most of us know of or have heard of Shoeless Joe Jackson. He is the name most associated over time with the Black Sox scandal of 1919. The player with so much talent who wasn't the brightest light in the room and went along with the scheme because other smarter players convinced him it was a good idea. When blacklisted, he languished for years in the other lesser known semi pro leagues. They even have a chain of restaurants in Canada called Shoeless Joe's. At the end of the day though, Joe Jackson went along with the scheme. It can be debated whether he actually threw the games, and the movie makes out that he certainly seemed to be trying to win in spite of the money he took. But...he took the money to throw games. Smart or not, cheat or not, he did the wrong thing. No doubt about that. As a result, he lost his livelihood and the thing he really loved to do most because of it. That was his choice, even if he fully didn't understand that choice, as the movie claims.
Then there was Ray Schalk. That is a name most of us have never heard of before. I certainly hadn't before I watched the movie. He was played by Gordon Clapp, an underrated Canadian actor I have seen in various things over the years. He played him well and was certainly a wise casting decision.
In the case of Schalk, he was the catcher. He didn't know anything about any scheme and he was very angry that the team was not performing. He was likely to rat out the scheme had he known about it. But according to the movie, he did not. He knew something was wrong, because the two best pitchers on the White Sox were not even throwing the pitches Schalk called for. But he didn't know why.
Schalk was completely clean. He played hard and took no money and knew nothing about any fix. We have never heard about him, because like most people who do the right thing, he didn't get any press or acclaim for that. Hold that thought as well. 

"In the famous 1919 World Series, Weaver batted .324, tallying 11 hits. He also played errorless ball, lending credence to his lifelong claim that he had nothing to do with the fix.

After the Series was over, many suspicious reporters made allusions to a possible fix. However some sportwriters praised Weaver for his efforts all along during the World Series. Ross Tenney of the Cincinnati Post wrote:
Though they are hopeless and heartless, the White Sox have a hero. He is George Weaver, who plays and fights at third base. Day after day Weaver has done his work and smiled. In spite of the certain fate that closed about the hopes of the Sox, Weaver smiled and scrapped. One by one his mates gave up. Weaver continued to grin and fought harder….Weaver's smile never faded. His spirit never waned….The Reds have beaten the spirit out of the Sox all but Weaver. Buck's spirit is untouched. He was ready to die fighting. Buck is Chicago's one big hero; long may he fight and smile.
Despite this, Weaver was banned by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis for having knowledge of the fix and failing to tell team officials."

-From Wikipedia

While Schalk was completely clean, such is not the case for George (Buck) Weaver. Weaver certainly knew about the scheme. His teammates tried to bring him in on it, but he wanted no part. However, that meant he knew what was going on and didn't speak up. In the movie, his reasoning was that he had to be loyal to his teammates. A teammate doesn't rat out another teammate. That seems like the right thing to do. But baseball players play to win and they don't cheat. So, that would be the wrong thing to do. When you know about a wrong thing, is it always the right thing to do to rat them out? That is the tough call. The grey area. Weaver chose to play hard, try to win and overcome his teammates cheating. But he could not. So, the Sox lost and Weaver was implicated with the cheating players when some reporters figured it out. Eventually, he was banned from baseball because of it. He made the point in court that he took no money and played to win. Was that enough? You decide. I am not sure myself. It is a tough situation to be in and nobody who is honest and does the right thing wants to be there.
George Weaver and his family have spent more than 100 years trying to clear his name. He paid the ultimate price for doing what he thought was right even though he himself wasn't sure if it was the right or wrong thing. 
Now, I will attempt to connect the dots in this blog.

Yesterday I posted a story on Facebook about someone who took their lifelong pet to the high kill shelter because it was peeing on the floor and had cancer. It got a reaction from people. Of course it would. Most of us would never do such a thing. It was sort of a happy ending, as someone read about it and went in to the shelter, took the dog, Cocoa, home and gave it a decent life in the time she had left. That is the right thing to do. No doubt about that. Sadly, that is not how the majority of those things end.  
That person wrote the above blog, tearing a strip off the person who dumped Cocoa just like that. There is no doubt in any of our minds. The previous owner did the wrong thing, and nothing could justify it being the right thing, while the person who wrote the blog did everything right and then some.
It isn't glamorous or glitzy to do the right thing. You don't get noticed, or praised in most cases for doing so. And you really don't care. You do the right thing because that is the right thing to do. On its face. No more motivation than that. It is just who you are. 
One thing you know about doing the right thing. You know in your heart when you aren't doing it. It is a tough call when you have to weigh two factors that both seem right, like being loyal to your teammates vs. reporting a crime against the law and against baseball. That can be a tough call.
But there is no doubt that if you have a family member, like a dog--who you have had their whole lives--and now is older and has needs, that you have to look after it. That is the right thing to do and nobody could mistake it for anything otherwise. 
If I was George Weaver, what would I do? I don't know. Likely, I would not go out of my way to rat them out, but I would be crafty and leak it like Deep Throat did about Watergate. Still, what is right and what is wrong in that case is very murky waters. 
If Cocoa was my dog, what would I do? No doubt about it. I would do whatever it takes to look after her until her last breath. Whatever that costs, whatever hardships that may cause. How do I know I would do that? Because I did that exact thing with my dog when she became exactly like Cocoa, only worse. To me, it was the right thing to do. And I didn't even think about it like that. It was instinctive. If I hadn't done that, a part of me would have been lost. The good part of me that does for others for no other reason than it is the right thing to do and hopes that others will do that for me if they are presented with that situation.  
That is how you tell right from wrong, when you can. It feels right and you don't even have to debate it in your mind.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Mark. "Gut check" -- I agree completely.


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