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Tuesday, August 20, 2002
Outside the Lines:
'The Right Stuff?' and 'Baby Ruth'



Here's the transcript from Show 125 of weekly Outside The Lines - 'The Right Stuff?' and 'Baby Ruth'

SUN., AUG. 18, 2002
Host: Bob Ley
Reporter: Jeremy Schaap
Guests: Jeff Smulyan, former owner of the Seattle Mariners; Rick Wolff, chairman, Center for Sports Parenting; Harold Reynolds, ESPN.

ANNOUNCER- August 18, 2002.

BUD SELIG, BASEBALL COMMISSIONER- You wouldn't want to be remembered as being part of a process that ignored the obvious and killed the game forever.

BOB LEY, HOST- Eight years later, Bud Selig faces that very danger. He is both the face of his game's troubles, and the man charged with solving them. Even with his leadership in question.

FRANK DEFORD, AUTHOR, WRITER- It's so important in this world for the leader, in whatever enterprise you're talking about, to have a strong public persona. Selig doesn't.

LEY- He is a lightening rod for criticism of both his integrity ...

MAXINE WATERS, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE - Mr. Selig, let me remind you, you are under oath.

LEY- ... and his personality.

DAVID LETTERMAN, TALK SHOW HOST- The category tonight is little known facts about Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.

SELIG- Very painful. Very, very painful.

LEY- Also this week ...

HAROLD REYNOLDS, ESPN ANALYST- Check this out, he goes out and he says, "I'm hitting it out of here."

LEY- Why are today's young athletes saying, look at me? Where do they get it from?

TONY GWYNN, FORMER MAJOR LEAGUER- Well, they learn it on TV.

LEY- Today on Outside The Lines, are kids choosing Deion Sanders over Barry Sanders?

And, does Bud Selig have the right stuff to lead baseball from the brink?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES- The baseball owners and the baseball players must understand that, if there is a stoppage, work stoppage, a lot of fans are going to be furious, and I'm one.

LEY- He's angry, and he's not alone. That's what the setting of a strike date has done to fans.

The irony, of course, is that the leader of the free world, a former baseball owner, wanted to be baseball commissioner. But instead, 10 years ago, that job went to Bud Selig.

And now Selig faces the ultimate challenge of his leadership, at a time that baseball arguably has never put on a better show. The nation, baseball's fans, has never had less of a tolerance for a work stoppage, especially as the calendar again approaches September 11th.

Selig has not commented since the players set that strike date. And he is yet to appear in a bargaining session. He is an owner at heart, and he has artfully kept 30 team owners fairly well united.

That is behind closed doors. His public image is very different. Now, Bud Selig must, behind closed doors, reach across the table to make a deal, or publicly be forever remembered by his failure to do so.

ALL-STAR GAME P.A. ANNOUNCER- We decided that the game will end in a tie if a run is not scored this inning.

LEY- Catcalls and criticism go with the job. But often, there seems an extra measure aimed at Bud Selig. The commissioner may shrug off his critics, but to some, the All-Star mishap was a metaphor for his leadership. To supporters, another crisis for this plainspoken baseball lifer, who is often the personification of the game's problems.

SELIG- I'll tell you about the day that I had to announce that there would be no World Series, people said, well, Bud Selig called off the World Series -- I didn't call it off, I just said the players are on strike and it's kind a hard to have a World Series without players.

LEY- Selig's image, according to the author of a recent profile of the commissioner, fails to inspire public credibility.

DEFORD- It's so important in this world for the leader in whatever enterprise you're talking about, to have a strong public persona. And Selig doesn't. And he's never going to get it. You can't send him to school, you can't bring in acting coaches. It's just not there.

LEY- Selig's message has been criticized as tone-deaf. Last fall, two days after an epic World Series, Selig announced plans to eliminate two teams, to take baseball away from fans in two cities. His characterization?

SELIG- Is it a sad day after the World Series we just had and the things we've done? No, I don't think it's a sad day, at all.

KENT HRBEK, FORMER TWINS 1ST BASEMAN- The sad day in baseball thing really stunk. I think he might want to take that back, because I think he hurt a lot of people with that thing.

LEY- His message has been overwhelmed by events. After Selig trumpeted the contraction of Minnesota, he's watched the Twins dominate their division. And when Selig last month warned of two teams in an immediate financial crisis, one might even miss a payroll, his top aide the very next day announced that the crisis was passed.

FAY VINCENT, FORMER COMMISSIONER OF BASEBALL- In 2002, here we are again, with Bud Selig and the owners saying, we're in terrible shape. If we don't have a major change, the world's going to come to an end.

And the public simply doesn't believe it.

LEY- Neither, with great theater, have members of Congress.

SENATOR HOWARD METZENBAUM, (D) OHIO - I can read English, and the language says he doesn't have authority ...

SELIG- But it isn't -- but they haven't involved themselves in those ...

METZENBAUM- ... well, now you're giving a different argument. As soon as I raise the question as to whether or not the commissioner has the authority, then you want to say, "oh no, they never had it." That's not the question.

SELIG- The question is he has more authority in any of those areas than he had in the past.

METZENBAUM- I say B.S. to that, Mr. Selig, B.S.

LEY- Selig has been the commissioner lawmakers love to hate.

WATERS- Despite the fact you have this exemption, despite the fact we're asking you for this information, you are not going to give it to us, and you will sue the players if they give it to us. Am I to conclude that that's what you're saying to us today?

SELIG- I don't believe I am. I ...

WATERS- What then are you saying?

SELIG- I am saying that we have given you all the financial information that all of us work with. You have all the numbers. All the statements have been audited, except for this year ...

WATERS- Mr. Selig, let me remind you, you are under oath.

LEY- Disbelief from public officials and ...

LETTERMAN- The category tonight little known facts about Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.

LEY- ... derision from other quarters.

LETTERMAN- The number one little known fact about Baseball Commission Bud Selig-Throws like a girl.

LEY- Brewers' broadcaster, Bob Uecker, is a long-time friend of Selig.

BOB UECKER, BREWERS BROADCASTER- Deep down, it's got to bother him. It's got to bother him. I don't care how thick your skin is, and I don't care who you are.

LEY- Because beyond both the comic jibes and political bruises is the intensely personal criticism that questions Selig's integrity.

SELIG- Very painful. Very, very painful. I'm much better than I used to be. I accept it as part of the job.

UECKER- I think he knew long before he ever took this thing full time, what the, you know, consequences were going to be.

LEY- He knew it nearly 20 years ago, simply trying to hire someone else for the job.

SELIG- Well, if they want this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) damn job, they can have it.

LEY- But since he is had the job, baseball's revenues and players' salaries, have doubled. On-field rivalries were refocused through inter-league play. Realignment introduced the excitement of a wild card.

Selig's tenure has featured immortal on-field achievements, and the emotional spectacle of baseball helping a grieving nation begin to return to normal -- all distant footnotes should Selig again preside over a starred season, or worse, another canceled World Series.

These next 12 days not only challenge his leadership, they will define his legacy.

DEFORD- The only thing that is going to change is the way the public, insiders and outsiders, see him, is if there is some kind of successful conclusion to the labor situation. Nothing else matters a wick.

LEY- To discuss the leadership of Bud Selig, we bring in Jeff Smulyan, the chairman of the Board of M.S. Communications Corporation.

Through four seasons, ending in 1993, he was the owner of the Seattle Mariners. Jeff joins us this morning from Indianapolis. Good morning.

JEFF SMULYAN, SEATTLE MARINERS OWNER (1989-1992)- Good morning, Bob.

LEY- To whom must Bud Selig sell his position and himself in these next 12 days?

SMULYAN- Well, I think obviously to the public. I think there's so much misconception about Bud's leadership.

But I think the key is that Bud has engendered the trust of the people he works with in the game. I think what makes Bud unique is he is truly respected and trusted by the other teams in baseball ...

LEY- That's behind closed doors, though. And you mentioned the misconceptions, let me get to that. Why do those exist then, Jeff?

SMULYAN- I think they -- I think they exist because there's so much contentious behavior in baseball. The battle with the union has gone on for so long that people throw their hands up and say, well everybody's got to be wrong. And the owners have to be as greedy as the players. And it's a very unfortunate situation, Bob.

LEY- Then how important is the public component of Selig's leadership?

SMULYAN- Well, it's important. There's no question. And I think that's been the one hard part about this, is that it's very difficult for the average fan or the average sportswriter or sportscaster to distinguish these issues.

LEY- What about staying on message? You had the situation where they were hell-bent to contract the Twins. That's not going to happen. Two teams are in trouble. The announcement was made last month. And the next day, the number two man in baseball says, but they're not going to miss a payroll.

It seems like there's a problem with staying on message, and being credible.

SMULYAN- I think that there's a problem because the economics are so bad that they've tried just about every solution over the last 30 years. And the economics of this game just get worse every single day. And I think it's very difficult. They've, you know, they've tried cutting back teams, they've talked about -- it's very obvious, the teams are struggling to make -- to meet payroll, and that central baseball is saving them in several cases.

LEY- It's well-known in baseball circles, and you alluded to it, that this is a guy who works well around the table in the back rooms, building a consensus. Can he reach across the table, though, and make a deal?

SMULYAN- It really depends on the union. You really have, the one thing that's been constant the last 30 years is you've had the same leadership of the union and the same approach.

It's really unusual in the history of American labor that this union has never changed. And they've never been willing to budge off of the notion that everything is great, and we'll just keep finding more dumb rich guys to buy baseball teams.

LEY- Well, to what extent, though, do you think in Bud Selig's mind -- and you know him well -- that September 11th is, as Mike Lupica just mentioned at the end of the "Sports Reporters," the pink elephant in the corner of the room?

SMULYAN- Well, it clearly is, Bob. I think that's why I don't think there's any -- there would be any sentiment, if this were reversed, for the owners to lock out. I absolutely say with certainty. The problem is that the owners can't control the players walking out. That's the problem here.

LEY- What's the strength that he can bring to these next 12 days, Bud Selig?

SMULYAN- The strength he brings is, number one, a great, a great passion for the game, and a great credibility within the game. I think, when you look back at the history of baseball, the ability to get revenue sharing, the ability to bring the ownership of the game together is unique, you know, it's totally different than in football and baseball.

Baseball's revenues were out of whack, in terms of the sharing mechanism, for 40 years ...

LEY- We're a little short on time. If I could just ask you to cut to the chase. In this regard, Jeff, will he avert the strike?

SMULYAN- I think it depends. I think this time there is a recognition on the part of players that the game has real problems and they have to do something. And I'm hopeful, Bob. I really am. And I think he's the right guy to do it.

LEY- Jeff, I appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us this morning.

SMULYAN- My pleasure, Bob.

LEY- Thank you, Jeff Smulyan.

Next up, an issue that some believe starts well before the major leagues. And also, is evident as well, in the major leagues. Players put the spotlight on themselves.

GWYNN- There is no doubt when you watch them play, they've watched the big leaguers do it. You know, and they kind of come to their own conclusions of how they're supposed to do it. And for a lot of them, they think that's the right way to play the game.

LEY- They are team sports, but that can be overwhelmed when athletes put the spotlight directly on themselves.

Now, to some, this is the latest sign of the apocalypse, spawned by television's twin devils of money and exposure. And to others, it's harmless enthusiasm, much like kids imitating the batting stances of their favorite players years ago.

As Jeremy Schaap reports, all of this is an issue again because of a young Little Leaguer.

JEREMY SCHAAP, ESPN CORRESPONDENT- Tuesday night, 12-year-old Fernando Frias of the Harlem All-Stars got the biggest hit of his young life. But Frias is a celebrity now not because the game-time two-run double, but because of the gesture he made before he doubled.

REYNOLDS- Watch him -- here he is, check this out. He goes up, and he says, "I'm hitting it out of here." The pose -- and then he gets a pitch over the middle of the plate and drops it off the wall in center. Oh, my goodness. The little Sammy. Don't change the dial, people.

SCHAAP- But at least one observer wished he hadn't seen Frias call his shot.

GWYNN- When I see it, I kind of cringe because, in my mind, I don't think we're supposed to play the game that way.

SCHAAP- Tony Gwynn collected more than 3,000 hits in the Major Leagues, without ever resorting to showboating.

GWYNN- To me there's certain things about the game, there's certain rules about the game. I don't care what level you're playing. You shouldn't cross -- you shouldn't go over.

SCHAAP- But the line is crossed more frequently now than ever before. Showboats were once a lonely lot. Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, master of the touchdown celebration. Mark Gastineau, sack dance for virtuoso. Ricky Henderson, Hall of Fame hot dog. Now we can see that they were trailblazers, from whom today's showboats are directly descended.

Was Frias paying homage to Babe Ruth who, legend has it, called his shot at 1932 World Series? Or are today's young athletes simply emulating the stars they see on highlight shows such as "SportsCenter?" After all, a generation weaned on images of "Neon Deion" and the Barry Bonds home run jaunt, will naturally imitate those images.

GWYNN- Well, they learn it on TV. You know, we see guys hitting balls out of ballparks, posing. I think there is no doubt, when you watch them play, they've watched the big leaguers do it. You know, and they kind of come to their own conclusions of how they're supposed to do it. And for a lot of them, they think that's the right way to play the game.

SCHAAP- Then there are those who believe that certain societal ills, such as showboating, can be traced to the dark genius of one man, Vince McMahon.

Most of the conspicuous hot dogs happen to be black, which, for some, has made this a racial issue. But Gastineau was a showboating pioneer. And when Barry Sanders scored, his celebrations were more than subdued, they were non-existent.

GWYNN- No, I don't think it's a culture -- I just think it's bad -- we're not teaching kids how to play the game of baseball. That's not baseball. You know, you celebrate after you win a game. You don't celebrate after you have individual success. That's not baseball to me.

SCHAAP- The question is really this- "To strut or not to strut?" The Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, Jimmy Breslin once wrote- "If you don't blow your own horn, there is no music."

Fernando Frias and his generation have clearly taken note. Winning is still important, but perhaps not so important as winning attention.

For Outside The Lines, I'm Jeremy Schaap.

LEY- And we welcome to our program, Rick Wolff, the chairman of the Center for Sports Parenting and an author and a talk show host. He's in New York City.

And before Harold Reynolds became an ESPN baseball analyst, he played 12 seasons in the big leagues. He called that game in which Fernando Frias called the shot. He is in Williamsport this morning.

Good morning to you both.

Rick, you were watching that game live. When you saw the shot called, what went through your mind?

RICK WOLFF, CHAIRMAN OF THE CENTER FOR SPORTS PARENTING- I'm watching this, and I'm thinking, I don't believe this. You know, the Little League World Series is supposed to be about sportsmanship, and teaching kids all the right things. And I'm wondering, as I'm watching this young kid do this -- on one hand, he's blameless. He's a 12-year-old. He needs the freedom to go out and do the things he wants to do in a ball field.

But then I'm thinking, there are a lot of grownups there. There are like six umpires on the field, there were coaches, there were officials from Little League there. You would have thought somebody would have grabbed the kid and said, you know, Fernando, appreciate the fact you were happy about being here and hitting a double, but you've got to understand the rules of baseball and the rules of sportsmanship, as Tony Gwynn pointed out, you got to play by the rules here and do the right thing.

And what disturbed me is, he came up again later in the game, did the same thing ...

LEY- And made out.

WOLFF- ... and made out. And the point is, nobody got to the kid and said, look, that's not how you play baseball.

LEY- Harold?

REYNOLDS- Well, I agree with what he's saying right there. That's not how you play baseball. But, you got to understand too, he's a 12-year-old. He's expressing what he's seeing.

The one thing nobody's talked about is the hop he did after he hit the ball. He's imitating Sammy Sosa. His nickname is Sosa. He thinks he's Sammy Sosa.

I think if you go back 50 years ago, and you say the same thing, you're going to see kids doing stuff they saw big leaguers do back then. It just wasn't what is expressed today.

A couple things on my mind, since that moment, I've thought about. Number one, I think a lot of it is culture. I mean, to me, you got a kid growing up in Harlem, New York, where his art form is the expression of who he is. That's what he did. That what he knows.

I grew up in Corvallis, Oregon -- a community of all white people, except for my family and a couple of others. I do that in Corvallis, I get chewed out. I dribble the ball behind my back, I'm a hot dog. In Harlem, they were doing that years before that.

I just think we're missing the point here. He's a 12-year-old kid expressing what society he lives in.

LEY- Rick, you're a New Yorker. Do you buy the fact that there's a cultural component to this?

WOLFF- No, I really don't. As Jeremy Schaap pointed out in his piece, it's not a cultural thing. Tony Gwynn said the same thing. It's just a matter of playing the game the right way.

Now again, the youngster is 12-years-old. He needs the freedom to go out and do his thing. However, somebody has to say to the youngster, that's how you do that ...

REYNOLDS- Rick, I disagree. I totally disagree with you. We got kids ...

WOLFF- Harold ...

REYNOLDS- ... we got kids from all over the world. And everywhere they come from, they're expressing where they're from. Kids from Japan, they hit a batter, they tip their cap. That's the last thing I want is somebody tipping their cap to me when they hit me with a baseball. And that's their culture.

WOLFF- Harold, in the culture -- in the culture of baseball, in the culture of baseball, you do something like that, the next pitch is going to be aimed at your head. You know that.

REYNOLDS- I totally -- hey, I'm not, I'm not saying that's how you play the game of baseball. That's not right. They talked to the kid here. He will not do it again.

WOLFF- Well, that's ...

REYNOLDS- But I think we're missing the point with the fact that, that's the way the kid expressed himself. Now, it's up to the adults to go ahead and curtail somebody to what they should do, how they're supposed to handle themselves ...

WOLFF- And, Harold, that's what I just said. Somebody should have grabbed the kid after that, and said we're thrilled he hit a double, but next time don't do that. He did do that, which means nobody did talk to the youngster. And quite frankly, you and Jack Edwards were making light of it on the air. And that's why yesterday, Jack came back on the game and said, you know, folks, we shouldn't have made light of the fact that Fernando Frias called his shot.

REYNOLDS- That was Jack's opinion. I still did not apologize for that. I wouldn't apologize. I think ...

WOLFF- You wouldn't want --you would --you think that kid was right in doing what he did?

REYNOLDS- Was Babe Ruth right doing what he did in the World Series? In the World Series, Babe Ruth did that, and he was a hero.

WOLFF- Nobody knows -- the truth is, nobody knows whether Babe Ruth called his shot or not.

REYNOLDS- Well, you know what though? We've made it -- we don't know if Babe Ruth was actually existing and do all the things he did. We can go back and talk about all the Hall of Famers that we never saw. But now they've become part of culture. Right?

LEY- Let's move it beyond -- let's move it beyond the culture discussion at this point, Harold. I was fascinated yesterday when you made the observation on the air that the -- it's not all about the Bronx team. But it just happened to be the Bronx team. I think the catcher said, "Gee, I told you, I like to catch because that position, you're always on TV."

What role, if any, does television have in this?

REYNOLDS- I think television has a huge role. Very big role. And not just here at the Little League World Series, but also Major League Baseball, ESPN, "SportsCenter," everything else. The kids emulate who they see.

I mean, I loved "Pistol Pete" Maravich growing up as a kid. So what did I do? I wore floppy gray socks, because that's the way Pete Maravich wore. That's what he did. Gus Williams was another hero of mine. He wore one wristband tied his shoe behind his -- behind his heel. That's what I did. That's what kids do. I don't know why we're so surprised.

Kids are just doing what kids have done throughout history -- imitating the people that they look up to.

WOLFF- Harold, I agree with you. Kids do obviously emulate the stars they see on television. Our generation of kids today, that's all they watch is TV. But ...

REYNOLDS- Well, the sad thing is ...

WOLFF- But somebody has to then go to the youngsters and say, look, you understand that's not within the rules of sportsmanship, that's not the right thing to do. And Harold, I'm sure you agree with that.

REYNOLDS- I totally agree with that. I totally agree that it was not sportsmanship-like to have done it.

WOLFF- So then why didn't somebody from Little League go to the youngster and say, son, don't do that?

REYNOLDS- They did. They did do that. But you got to also understand, Rick, that all summer long, on the same team, we got two twins. We got twins, a set of twins playing on the same team. They face each other, and they're sitting there going, "I'm the man, you can't hit me. I'm coming right after you." That's the way they play the game.

And I think a lot of times, adults come in and take away the -- they get to Williamsport and all of a sudden we sit here and try to make a kid something that he's not. And now, that's something that he did his whole life.

I have not seen, yet, a 12-year-old or an 11-year-old complain about the kid pointing a bat, or another kid talking trash. That's just the way they play their thing right now.

LEY- How have the Harlem kids, Harold, taken it? They've been through enough with the entire eligibility question early in the week. Are they aware into what the extent, have they reacted to...

REYNOLDS- I think they're oblivious to this. But I did ...

LEY- They're not aware of all the columnists and discussion? People talking about it around the country ...

REYNOLDS- I think so. Now the coach, Mr. McWilliams, sat down with Frias and explained to him what was wrong about that. I think also you saw yesterday a kid take off his helmet, yell at an umpire, and run him back. He chastised him on national TV. That's disrespectful. He talked to them -- he's teaching lessons all the time.

I think it's -- we live in a society with kids who have thick heads. They didn't grow up watching "Leave it to Beaver." You know, this is not the same society that I grew up in.

WOLFF- You think -- Harold, it's not the kids' responsibility to be educated about sportsmanship, it's the parents'. And if you're going to have a tournament that goes not only nationwide, but around the world, you'd hope the parents, the adults, the grown-ups, the officials that run it would say, look, let's do the right thing here. Teach the kids the right way to play the game ...

REYNOLDS- Well, I ...

LEY- And on that note, now Rick and Harold, I have to jump in. We are sorely out of time. But it's been a marvelous discussion.

Rick Wolff, Harold Reynolds, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

REYNOLDS- All right.

LEY- And we'll be back for a final word heading up toward "SportsCenter" at the top of the hour, on Outside The Lines.

Check ESPN's Outside The Lines online at ESPN.com, keyword OTL Weekly, for a library of transcripts and streaming video.

We look forward to your e-mailed thoughts on kids striking a pose, and Bud Selig's leadership. Our address, otlweekly@espn.com.