In World Series Game 3, Houston Astro Yuri Gurriel hit a home run off Dodgers pitcher, Yu Darvish. Darvish is Japanese, and although that shouldn’t matter in a baseball game, Gurriel decided to make a cheap, racist swipe part of his home run celebration.
Upon returning to the dugout, Gurriel pulled his eyes back to elongate them, and mouthed something that included referring to Darvish as a “chino” or “chinito”. His behavior was picked up by cameras and broadcast around the world on one of the international television broadcast feeds. What Gurriel thought hilarious was rightfully seen as an ignorant and ugly gesture grounded in stereotype and racism.
The imagery went viral, and in a move designed to appear “on top of things”, Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred met with Gurriel the very next morning, with Game 4 scheduled to take place in Houston later that evening. Speculation ran along the lines that Gurriel would face swift discipline, particularly since the offense was blatant, seen by an international audience, and baseball had previously suspended two players for using homophobic slurs.
After the meeting, Manfred held a press conference to announce that Gurriel will be suspended, without pay, for five games. The catch was, the discipline would not be immediate; the suspension was suspended until next season. Manfred explained his decision to put everything off until later with hollow rationalizations such as, suspending Gurriel that day would penalize all of his teammates, and Darvish, the victim, expressed a desire to move forward from the event.
Crass, unabashed racism reared its head, and because all of that beautiful World Series cash was involved, Manfred blinked. MLB is trying to expand its brand internationally, and despite the fact at least a third of its world-wide audience was directly mocked by Gurriel’s actions, Big Baseball cowered, coughed, and hoped all would be forgotten until next year.
Manfred must have forgotten the series would return to Los Angeles. He also forgot Darvish’s teammates would consider such a slur to be an act against all of them as well. It all came home to roost as Game 6 opened at Chavez Ravine last night.
Dodgers starter Rich Hill was personally upset that Gurriel escaped any blowback from his actions, and he knew, unlike the fans in Houston who gave Gurriel a standing ovation and mimicked his antics, the fans in Los Angeles would not be so tolerant of open racism.
When Gurriel stepped to the plate for his first at bat, Dodger Stadium erupted into the largest and loudest chorus of boos ever heard there. Juan Marichal never heard such boos. Barry Bonds never suffered such withering disapproval. Rich Hill took his time, walked out beyond the mound, and he let the crowd continue.
“I think the one thing was just to let the crowd speak their mind. I didn’t think anything else would be as loud as that. The people spoke. I left it to that, and that was it. – Rich Hill
Both times Gurriel came to bat with Hill on the mound, Hill repeated the formula. He would throw a pitch, and then take his sweet time, allowing the loud criticism from 54,000 fans to shower down.
“That was the best way to go about it, not hitting him or doing anything like that, but making sure that things like this shouldn’t happen.” – Rich Hill
There’s a story in Dodgers lore that on May 13, 1947, during Jackie Robinson‘s first major league season, the fans in Cincinnati were giving Robinson a particularly hard time. As legend has it, Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese left his shortstop position and jogged over to first base, where he put his arm around Jackie in a show of solidarity and brotherhood. There remains to this day, some debate over whether or not that actually happened.
Last night, October 31, 2017, Rich Hill symbolically embraced his teammate in a show of solidarity against racism. That really happened – and we all saw it.