Like the word surreal? Seems like we use it a lot, self included. Hard to avoid hearing someone describe some otherwise fairly innocuous scene as being just so surreal.
Yet there was one moment in my life that truly seemed otherworldly, that even as you saw it transpire, felt uncomfortably eerie and unreal and as if you were watching it unfold while somehow suspended from above.
Twenty-five years ago, Al Campanis sat on a wooden stool on home plate in the cavernous Astrodome. Save for those in the press box, dutifully writing about the Dodgers’ season-opener against the Astros, the giant stadium was empty and dark.
A tired-looking Campanis had one bright TV light on him, sat staring into an unmanned camera, an empty field behind him, alone as Robinson Crusoe. And throwing his career away.
Of course, in the press box we didn’t realize it at the time. We’d glance down and think of how uncomfortable Campanis must have felt. The Dodgers general manager and vice president was being interviewed by Ted Koppel for a rare “Nightline” show dealing with sports. It was supposed to be a fairly innocuous show, saluting his ex-roommate Jackie Robinson. Given his habit of malapropisms and that he was 70 and it was almost midnight, we wondered what the hell he was saying.
Then came Campanis’ infamous comments about blacks and necessities and buoyancy, and by the next day it was over. He was fired after spending his lifetime with the Dodgers.
William Weinbaum takes a long look at the night and its aftermath in a sympathetic piece for ESPN. Included is a new interview with Koppel, who correctly states that paradoxically, the comments, perceived as racist by many, actually helped pave the way for a reevaluation of blacks in baseball and their rise as managers and general managers.
Also on the Web:
-- Saturday is the one-year anniversary of Bryan Stow’s beating at Dodger Stadium. Yahoo Sports’ Jon Morosi looks back on the still-unsettled case.
-- The Times’ T.J. Simers has more questions about Magic Johnson’s group buying the Dodgers. Particularly Magic’s clueless-sounding comment about the “fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt.”