Radio host on Giants' flagship station makes racial remarks
SAN FRANCISCO -- A talk-show host for the San Francisco Giants' longtime flagship radio station was suspended for a week without pay Friday for racial remarks he made about the team's Latino players -- though a high-ranking station executive said he would not be fired.
On the air late Wednesday after the Giants lost 3-2 to the Colorado Rockies, Larry Krueger of KNBR went off about the struggling club and its "brain-dead Caribbean hitters hacking at slop nightly."
Later, he said, "You have a manager in Felipe (Alou) whose mind has turned to Cream of Wheat."
Krueger apologized, but that meant little to the Giants. He will not be on air again until Aug. 15.
"I haven't heard anything like that since John Rocker," Venezuelan shortstop Omar Vizquel said Friday, referring to the former Atlanta Braves pitcher's remarks in a 1999 interview with Sports Illustrated in which he bashed gays, minorities and foreigners. "I think an apology is not going to be enough for that type of comment. I've said things I've regretted, too, and I wish I could take them back. I would give a guy a second chance if I knew him better, but I don't know him."
The 70-year-old Alou, shocked and saddened to hear about the comments in a city as diverse as San Francisco, called a meeting with all of the Latin players before the Giants opened a three-game series against the Houston Astros.
Alou vowed to make everyone aware in his native Dominican Republic -- taking it as high as the country's president, Leonel Fernandez, who attended a statue tribute for Hall of Famer Juan Marichal here in May.
"It really made me sad to know that 40, almost 50 years later I could hear comments like that," said Alou, who faced racism as a black Dominican minor leaguer in the South nearly five decades ago. "Especially in San Francisco ... I never heard anything like that here. I heard it in the South and in some other cities, but not here. A man like me and the Latin guys out there, we have to be aware now that it's not over yet. It is coming back.
"I don't have harsh feelings. I'm sad to hear that. I'm really shocked to hear that in San Francisco, California -- I can't believe that. I've been coming to this city for 50 years, when I was either managing or playing for the other team. I cannot believe that here I could read or hear something like that. It's not my problem. It's some other people's problem to address."
Tony Salvadore, KNBR's senior vice president, said the station went back and reviewed the transcript. KNBR owns approximately 1.5 percent of the team.
"Larry was wrong," Salvadore said. "It was clearly inappropriate."
Krueger's self-described rant also criticized Giants' management.
"I just cannot watch this brand of baseball any longer," Krueger said. "A truly awful, pathetic, old team that only promises to be worse two years from now. It's just awful. It really is bad to watch. Brain-dead Caribbean hitters hacking at slop nightly."
Said Salvadore: "The Caribbean ballplayer thing was clearly out of line," though he noted Krueger will not lose his job.
Krueger's verbal bashing of the Giants' players and Alou was still available in an audio download from KNBR's Web site Friday, but the word "Caribbean" had been edited out.
"It was offensive and we took it out," Salvadore said. There was no apology for the attack on Alou.
The Cream of Wheat box -- and old advertisements for the product -- have traditionally shown a black man named Rastus wearing a chef's hat and serving a steaming bowl of the hot cereal to a group of white children.
"I think that Cream of Wheat thing was taken out of context," Salvadore said.
The Giants issued a statement shortly before game time.
"The San Francisco Giants take offense to the racially charged comments made by local radio personality Larry Krueger on his Wednesday evening show, during which he defamed our Latin players with an ethnic slur," the team said.
"We have enjoyed a long relationship with KNBR, and believe that these are the views of one on-air personality and no one else associated with the station."
Krueger showed up at the ballpark Friday and said he apologized on the air Thursday and would do the same to Alou and the players if that's what they wanted.
"If they would like to hear it, I would definitely like to," Krueger said, declining to say anything more.
But the damage was already done.
Giants general manager Brian Sabean called it "deplorable" and said everyone is accountable for their actions and knowing the right way to phrase things.
"I'm swallowing hard," Sabean said. "I'm really trying to fathom how in this day in age it can even be said. This is not something we're going to take lightly. It's a very emotional subject. It's a blow below the belt. I know it deeply affected Felipe. I'm disappointed and disheartened we have to react to it. We stand by our manager and stand by his comments and feelings on the subject."
Many of the seven Latin players were discussing the issue in the clubhouse.
"It's a free country," Venezuelan third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo said. "You can say anything you want. True baseball fans don't say stuff like that. What can you do?"
Luis Torres, a native of Colombia who works for the club, received about 25 calls Friday from citizens concerned with the comments.
Associated Press Writer Ron Harris in San Francisco contributed to this story.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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