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USA Today

Baker Stands By Heat Comments

Chuck Johnson

July 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003
Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved. 

Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker, dismissing suggestions he made a racist assertion when speaking with reporters about day baseball, stands by his comments that black and Hispanic players are better suited to playing in the sun and heat than white players.

"I'm not playing the race card. I'm telling it like it is," Baker said by telephone Monday.

"What I meant is that blacks and Latins take the heat better than most whites, and whites take the cold better than most blacks and Latins. That's it, pure and simple. Nothing deeper than that."

Harry Edwards, a sports sociologist who served on the faculty at the University of California for 30 years, called the comments "unfortunate and not totally informed" but said they weren't malicious.

"Dusty and I go back a long way, and Dusty by no means is enamored with ethnic or racial stereotypes," Edwards said. "If we didn't have a race issue in this country, that statement would have little or no consequence. But we do have a race issue."

Baker, whose Cubs play a majority of their home games in the daytime, made his comments Saturday.

"It's easier for most Latin guys and it's easier for most minority people because most of us come from heat," Baker said. "You don't find too many brothers in New Hampshire and Maine and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. . . . We were brought over here for the heat, right? Isn't that history? Weren't we brought over because we could take the heat?"

Tony Bernazard, a former major leaguer from Puerto Rico who is special assistant for the players union, didn't think anything was wrong with the comments.

"It's somebody's opinion," Bernazard said. "I don't think anybody can accuse Dusty Baker of being a racist because Dusty Baker is not a racist."

Baker's comments were ripe fodder for the talk shows Monday. Some charged that a white manager would be under fire if he made similar statements.

"If a white manager made those statements, there's no question he would find himself in a group that includes Al Campanis and Jimmy 'The Greek' Snyder," Edwards said.

Baker, one of four African-Americans among seven minority managers in the major leagues, agrees. "But as a black manager, I can say things about blacks that a white manager can't say, and whites can say things about whites that blacks can't say."

Baker said he won't address the issue any further. "People have accused me of being sensitive, but maybe they're too sensitive," he said. "I'm not elaborating on it any more. End of topic. I said what I mean."

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