Can’t we all just get along? (The ‘people’ versus Murray Chass)

January 5, 2016

The Baseball Hall of Fame will shortly announce who, if any, of the gents on the current ballot will be measured for a new plaque. Forget the animus towards the players — I have never witnessed the bad feelings that have been expressed recently between the writers. of the latest comes towards Murray Chass, the former New York Times baseball writer and HoF Spink Award winner in 2003. From the Hall’s page:

Murray Chass was a pioneer in the coverage of business and labor issues within baseball. A former New York Yankees beat writer who helped set the standard in print journalism for the position of national baseball writer, he has covered baseball for more than 43 years.

Chass left the Times in 2008, one of the victims of contract buyouts which plagued the paper and the newspaper industry at large.

One of his pet peeves has always been bloggers. I believe he believes most, if not all, of us (them?) are not true journalists, but merely parrots, jumping on scraps and regurgitating them without doing any actually investigative work.

He has also come down against sabermetrics, for the most part, suggesting the obsession with new-fangled numbers takes some of the joy away from the game. Needless to say, those who are of that ilk consider Chass a dinosaur. And that’s not a casual usage here; much of this is a generational thing. Some younger writers have taken him to task in humiliating and hurtful fashion. Others, like Jesse Spector in this Sporting News piece, are a bit more respectful. Author Allen Barra wrote in the Village Voice in 2011

For nearly 40 years, Chass was one of the best — arguably the best — writers and reporters on baseball in the country. In 2003, he was award the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, the highest honor the Baseball Writers Association of America can give. It was richly deserved.

Let me say now that I don’t like Chass. I find him rude and abrasive, and every time I have contacted him on a professional matter I found him to be difficult and truculent.

But if I’d had a vote in the Spink Award, I would have voted for him. I’ve never ceased to read him, even when I think he’s wrong — and when you’ve written as long as Chass had, you’re simply going to be wrong about some things.

I have had a number of conversations with Chass and he’s been nothing but cordial to me so it’s difficult not to want to come to his defense even when I agree with the “anti-” people that his opinions can also be a bit mean-spirited, as when he compared critics of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to ISIS which prompted this tweet from ESPN writer Dan SzymborskiDan_Szymborski_on_Twitter_Murray_Chass_is_the_Donald_Trump_of_baseball_journalism._That_may_actually_be_too_unfair_to_Trump_._-_2016-01-05_12.26.43which in turn prompted this piece from Chass, which includes the following:

Is anyone here familiar with the name Dan Szymborski? Does anybody know Dan Szymborski? Has anyone ever spoken to or communicated in any way with Dan Szymborski? Does anyone know why Dan Szymborski hates me?

Good question. Chass goes on

I had not seen his comments about me because unlike Szymborski, I do not use Twitter. I leave tweeting to the twits. But my grandson researched Szymborski’s comments and came up with these:

* That he was *ever employed as a journalist is just embarrassing.

* Murray Chass hired to be on next ‘Survivor’ but it turns out to be just a ruse to leave him on an abandoned Pacific island. #2014hopes

* And yes, Murray Chass was given a Spink award. Which is like Jenny McCarthy getting the Nobel Prize for Medicine

* Some of the bad sportswriters can at least claim to be decent *writers*. Chass writes like a third-grader.

* Every spink award winner except chass should get a second one. insulting to tell writers they are of equal honor to murray chass.

Such rants invite continuous rebuttals, which are similarly uncivil. (That’s how the Hatfields and McCoys got started with their famous feud.)

Supporters for both men seem to fall, again, along generational/professional lines, with bloggers and younger folk siding with the 38-year-old Szymborski and more veteran (read, older) writers aligning with Chass, at least when it comes to such personal attacks.

Come on, boys. It’s a new year. Can’t well all just get along?



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