By SCOTT MANDEL
So, I’m watching the White Sox vs. Astros American League Division Series game this afternoon. It was Game 2 of the best-of-five series. I was even complimenting (in my own head) how great this MLB Network broadcast team was handling the play-by-play and the color commentary.
In the booth today were three great professionals who not only know what they’re doing, they have unparalelled passions for the game of baseball.
The play-by-play man was the veteran Bob Costas, among the most knowledgeable and erudite of broadcasters in the country. Alongside Costas was Buck Showalter, long-time major league manager and Jim Kaat, former star pitcher in the big leagues and a veteran behind the mic since his retirement 38 years ago at age 44 from a near-Hall of Fame career during which he won 283 games.
In the very first inning, White Sox third baseman Yoán Moncada, a Cuban native, was up to bat when Showalter recalled knowing Moncada had the potential to be a superstar when he first scouted him, as the manager of the Baltimore Orioles. Moncada eventually signed with the Red Sox and was later traded to Chicago. Showalter said, “After the first time I saw him in the big leagues against us, I looked around the Oriole dugout, like, ‘Do we have one of those?'” said Showalter.
Kaat replied: “Get a 40-acre field full of them,” a remark that reminded some viewers of the unfilled promise by the U.S. government that the newly freed slaves would receive parcels of land as recompense for serving as slaves, an offer that was later rescinded by the acknowledged racist president in the post-Civil War era, Andrew Johnson.
At that moment, I took a deep gulp, convinced I had certainly mis-heard Kaat’s comment.
“Kitty,” who has been one of the most respected and well-liked members of the baseball community for 60 years, could not possibly have said what I thought he said in comparing the muscular physique of Moncada to the slaves of the 1860s in America.
As it turned out, Kaat had said what I thought I heard. In the fifth inning, he read an apology, on air, saying, “I want to add a little break here. In fact, I need to read this right now, because earlier in the game when Yoán Moncada was at the plate in an attempt to compliment the great player, I used a poor choice of words that resulted in a sensitive, hurtful remark. And I’m sorry.”
And that was the end of that.
But, in this era of cancel culture, I have a suspicion Jim Kaat will be paying a deeper price for his mistake. Will the MLB Network fire him in the next day or two or chalk it up to human error, a simple mistake from a professional who has never been known to make racist references.
My guess is, it’s bye bye, Jim “Kitty” Kaat. He will be sent out, cancelled into retirement. And that would be sad. Even if we are living in an era of cancel culture. Sometimes, even decent people make big and small mistakes.