Tag Archives: ProPublica

Marvin Miller, a titanic figure in baseball history, FINALLY voted into Hall of Fame. A father takes over his teen daughter’s social media accounts for two weeks, and it’s glorious. And an extraordinary investigation into the power of jailhouse snitches

There are sports injustices everywhere, and have been throughout history.

Some are huge, international sports injustices, like the way the 1972 U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team was robbed of a gold medal, after a controversial finish against the U.S.S.R.

Some are smaller injustices, like Dan Marino, one of the greatest QBs of all time, never winning a Super Bowl.

I’m not 100 percent sure where this one I’m about to talk about ranks in the pantheon, but it’s pretty damn high up there.

There have been no more than eight or nine people in the history of baseball more important than Marvin Miller. Off the top of my head, Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Branch Rickey, Hank Aaron, Curt Flood, but not too many others.

Marvin Miller was a little-known economist and labor leader in the 1960s who eventually turned baseball and its business model on its head. Throughout intensive persuasion, negotiation and legal challenges, he broke MLB’s draconian rules restricting player movement and ushered in the beginning of free agency, which led to an explosion of salaries.

Literally every baseball player in the past 40 years who made millions playing baseball owes a debt to Marvin Miller. Players were treated like disposable parts, with no rights, and were told over and over again they were lucky just to be playing, and to be grateful they got played at all.

Miller changed all that.

And yet he was never elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame while he was alive. Decade after decade went by, and the committees that choose such things never saw fit to put him in Cooperstown.

Miller always said that if he wasn’t elected while he was still alive, he never wanted to be inducted. But finally, way, way too late, Miller is going in.

Sunday night it was announced he’d be elected by a special committee, and next summer a seminal figure in the game’s history will finally be rightfully honored.

It is a disgrace that it took this long. But at least future generations will be aware of the Babe Ruth-sized mark Miller left on the game.

 

**Next up today, this is one of those times when I wish, as much as I love my two sons, I wish I had a daughter as well. Because I would soooo love to one day do what this father did.

Madelynn Sumpter is a teenage girl who apparently tried to sneak boys into a sleepover party she was having, and she got caught. Her parents gave her a choice of punishments:  She could either give up her phone for an entire month, or let her parents use it to post to all of her social media accounts for two weeks.

As I think most 15-year-olds would, Maddi chose the latter, and the results are spectacular.

Her Dad Larry took over Maddi’s Instagram and TikTok accounts, and it’s fabulous. He posted funny cooking videos, dressed up (above) in weird outfits, and basically humiliated his daughter in the best ways possible.

When her punishment ended, Maddi’s first post was awesome. It’s a pic of her as a toddler with the caption: “I’m back sweeter than ever and ready to make good choices.”

Well done all around, Sumpter family.

**Finally today, wanted to highlight an extraordinary piece of journalism just published by the New York Times Magazine and ProPublica, by the woman who I think is the best investigative reporter in America, Pamela Colloff.

I’ve highlighted her work here in the past, but Colloff truly is incredible. She spends months and months digging into a criminal-justice topic (usually that of a person serving decades in prison for a crime they didn’t commit) and excavates so much truth, and generates so much outrage, that as a journalist I sort of stand in awe.

This new piece looks at the amazing weight the legal system gives to jailhouse snitches, and how so often their false, coerced information leads to death sentences for innocent men.

Colloff uses the story of Paul Skalnik, one of the most prolific snitches of all time, and how many people he helped convict on non-existent evidence.

It’s a long, long read, but gripping and well worth it. This is why I donate to ProPublica as much as I can, because they do such important work.

 

The Minnesota town overrun with drunk birds. “This American Life” with an amazing episode about police indifference in a Long Island town. And a transgender student left alone in active shooter drill is disgraceful

A moment of silence before we begin for the 2018 New York Yankees season. I don’t follow baseball much anymore but I do get into the playoffs, and that 9th inning of Red Sox-Yanks last night was crazy exciting and tense. Ah well, great season by the men in Pinstripes…

Sometimes, you see a headline on a story and you know there’s no possible way you won’t be reading the whole thing.

Such was the case last week when I came across this doozy, in the Washington Post:
“Drunk birds are causing havoc in a Minnesota town. Police say they’ll sober up soon.”

I mean… you gotta stop and read that, right? So here’s the deal: In the small burg of Gilbert, Minn., the local police are receiving reports from locals about birds that are “under the influence” flying into windows, cars and acting confused,” according to Police Chief Ty Techar.

So what’s going on? Have some college kids been bring their Stroh’s Lights over to the birds and pouring them down their gullets? 2-for-1 night if you can fly over at the old local tavern? Are the birds just high on life? (Thank you, I got a million of these, I’ll be here all week. Try the veal).

Nope. Apparently an early Minnesota frost meant that berries had fermented earlier than usual, Techar explained, and birds were eating them and getting drunk. (Please, make your own jokes here about a spinoff to the wildly successful game, maybe called “Angry Drunk Birds.”

Incidents around town involving intoxicated birds appear to be more prevalent than in past years, Techar added, because many have not yet migrated south. “It appears that some birds are getting a little more ‘tipsy’ than normal,” he wrote. “Generally, younger birds’ livers cannot handle the toxins as efficiently as more mature birds.” (Well sure, that’s true of humans, too!)

Turns out the birds should sober up soon, and I love the Gilbert police department’s press release about this, ending with the statements that locals should call police if the see:
— Woodstock pushing Snoopy off the doghouse for no apparent reason
— Big Bird operating a vehicle in an unsafe manner,
— The Roadrunner jumping in and out of traffic on Main St.

Too funny. Be careful out there, our flying feathered friends.

**Next up, on a much more serious note, I’ve raved often in this space about the incredible journalism done each week on the NPR show “This American Life,” which has millions of devoted listeners like me.

The show has been on a fantastic streak of great episodes lately, none better (in my opinion) than last week’s show, No. 657, called “The Runaways.” It’s about what happened in a Long Island town when MS-13 gang activity picked up dramatically, and the Suffolk County police department’s woefully inadequate, downright callous and insensitive way of handling it. The episode tells the story of three Latino immigrant teenage boys, what happens to them, and the way the Suffolk PD “investigates” their disappearance.

Now, this one maybe hit close to home for me because I grew up in Suffolk, and the town this all happened in, Brentwood, was 15 minutes from my hometown of Commack.
But I don’t think you have to be from there to be outraged by the actions of the Suffolk PD, and to have your heartbreak for families like those of Miguel Garcia (above.).

Done in conjunction with the outstanding journalism think tank ProPublica, this episode is astoundingly good. Take an hour on your next commute to listen and download it; it’s devastating and great.

Made me so mad, how much some lives are valued, and how little others are.

**Speaking of that, this story made me shake my head, and honestly, I don’t know what to say about it.

A middle school in Virginia left a transgender student alone during an active shooter practice drill last week,  because they didn’t know where to shelter them.

Students were shepherded into the boys and girls locker rooms during the drill at Stafford County Middle School in Stafford, Va., while administrators and teachers debated where to put the transgender student.

From this story, according to Equality Stafford, an LGBTQ organization: The student was forced to watch the adults charged with her care, debate the safest place (for the other students) to have her shelter,” Equality Stafford claimed. “During this debate, she was instructed to sit in the gym with a teacher until the drill was complete, away from her peers and identified as different.”

The student was eventually told to sit in the locker room hallway, away from other students, for the remainder of the drill.

My goodness, what is wrong with people???