April 25, 2011

Awkward Moments in History that Almost Happened: Klan Night at Redland Baseball Field

Who doesn't get excited when there is a promotional day at the ballpark? It is better than the toy at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks. Bat Day. Back-to-school Trapper Keeper Day. Old Timer's Day, Hat Day, Visor Night, Yogi Berra Bobble Head Day, Lunch Box Day (June 25, 2011 at Yankee Stadium, write it down bitches). And...Klan Day?
Well, the Ku Klux Klan wanted such a day on July 20, 1924 at Redland Field in Cincinnati.  On May 31, 1924, O.W. Baylor, a Klan leader, wrote a letter to the President of the Reds, August Hermann, requesting that the KKK be allowed to make a special presentation before the game on July 20th.  Specifically, the Klan wanted to:
Yes, bouquets of flowers.  They also wanted to “furnish our organization band of fifty pieces.” Roses and an orchestra – it is like a romantic dinner gone bad.  Maybe they were just trying to get some of the players to put out, who knows? As the letter states, the “greater majority” of “Klaverns,” or self-entitled local KKK organizations, were loyal Reds’ fans who simply wanted to eat some peanuts, wave a white hood, and rock out at the ball field with their non-minority friends.

What is funny about the letter is its sheer arrogance and bravado. It is written as if the Reds would be ridiculously stupid NOT to invite the thousands of bigots to the stadium. In the letter, Baylor reminds Mr. Hermann that membership in the local Klaverns “exceeds 100,000,” and is the fastest growing organization in Ohio.  I mean, the Klan just wanted to give some pretty flowers to their favorite baseball players and share their mutual discrimination and hatred of others with the city of Cincinnati.  What is so wrong with that?!  In fact, Mr. Baylor’s manners are rather impeccable, including the veiled threat found at the end of the letter:
I shall appreciate an early reply to this request and I trust that I shall be able to report to the organization you [sic] favorable acceptance. I am sure that you will readily appreciate the fact that this request comes from thousands of your loyal supporters.
It may as well just say “You will agree to our forced invitation to your baseball field, or else our thousands of loyal supporters will burn that motherf--ker to the ground.”  Fortunately, the Reds declined the KKK’s request; however, they did not decline because of civil rights or peace or equality.  Please. They declined because, “under no consideration could we designate a Sunday for any organization of any kind and particularly where the New York Giants are concerned.”  So, yes, they were worried about ticket sales.  The Reds responded to the KKK letter by stating that “Sunday tickets for the New York games are always sold several weeks in advance.”  It is sad because the early invention of Stubhub really could have salvaged this historic moment.

While the KKK was ultimately rejected from Redland Field, they can take solace in the fact that their bigotry had seemingly nothing to do with it. Now, their ancestors wait patiently for John Rocker Jersey Day to be scheduled accordingly. 

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