We should probably be past “angry black man,” right?
Here’s what we know about Mariners outfielder Milton Bradley. He’s a talented ball player with thin skin and a penchant for self-destruction. His name is “Milton Bradley,” which is like being the sixth-grader with braces and bad acne for an entire lifetime. He’s smart, articulate, sensitive and outspoken. He’s sensitive. He once sent Peter Gammons a flurry of handwritten get-well letters when he was hospitalized with a burst brain aneurysm in 2006.
We know that Seattle is Bradley’s seventh different team since 2003, and that he’s left a trail of debris and bad blood at almost every stop. He’s sensitive. The Cubs signed him to a 3-year, $30 million contract before the ’09 season. The Cubs decided roughly 90 days later that they’d made a bad decision. Bradley hit .257, with 12 homers and 40 RBI last year.
We know that Lou Piniella called this sensitive guy, “a piece of s***.” Bradley was suspended by the Cubs for “conduct detrimental to the team,” once tried to confront a TV announcer who made the mistake of comparing him to Josh Hamilton and – in a comically sad incident – blew out his knee when his Padres first base coach tried to restrain him from berating an ump.
We know that Milton Bradley is Black, and that many a Black star have thrived in Chicago. We also know that every city in America has its fair share of racists, take-this-too-seriously sports fans and racist, take-this-too-seriously sports fans. We know that this is not a recent development. We know, too, that Milton Bradley is sensitive, but that this doesn’t necessarily correlate with the color of his skin. Many White athletes are sensitive. Many Black athletes are not. Some white stars are more athletic than some black stars. Some are not. Many White ballplayers are not well spoken. Many Blacks are possession receivers. We know these things.
Here’s what we know about Colleen Dominguez. She’s looking for a good story. She’s a reporter – this is what she does. If she gets Milton Bradley to say something, she can pass it off as fact – or at least fact that he said it. She knows going into an interview that ESPN will use the footage whether or not she gets her source to say, “They think you’re a slave,” or “I was a prisoner in my own home.” But Dominguez also knows that if she can coax these phrases out of a sensitive guy, she’s not just a 30-second clip at the tail end of “Baseball Tonight,” she’s a full-fledged story. She’s aware that when we, the public, here “Colleen Dominguez,” we don’t go, “Oooooooh, Colleen Dominguez,” but that this could change should she press a sensitive guy hard enough.
We know that ESPN cogs have her back. Karl Ravech has a platform, and her back. Jay Crawford has a platform, and her back. She’s safe. Especially since Tony Kornheiser’s suspension for badmouthing a colleague – these things don’t fly at the Worldwide Leader. We also know that Colleen Dominguez is attractive, and that if you’re a cold-blooded male, you might be more inclined to tell her what she wants to hear. Especially one-on-one. Especially in a quiet, dark room, with nothing but a handful of cameras looking on.
We know that Dominguez conducted a controversial interview with Bradley this week.
The following is a transcript of the interview’s most important and/or volatile exchanges with SC commentary thrown in. Feel free to just watch the video, but know that the shameless one in this sit-down isn’t necessarily the person Skip Bayless tells you it is.
Colleen Dominguez: Other African Americans such as LaTroy Hawkins received hate mail when he was in Chicago. Do you think Chicago is a tough place for African Americans to play?
(Sports Casualties: This is what we like to call a “leading question.” Not a lot wiggle room here. Am I right?)
Milton Bradley: Well I mean unless you go out there and you’re Superman – you’re Andre Dawson, you’re Ernie Banks, you’re a Hall of Fame – you know, it’s gonna be tough. I got the same mail LaTroy probably got, the same mail Jacques [Jones] got.
CD: You got hate mail?
MB: Every time I got mail, I handed it to the PR guy and said, “Here, it goes.” I was getting it so much, until I didn’t have to even open up the letter to know what it was. I could see it from the envelope.
CD: What could you see?
MB: I could just tell. When you get an envelope, you know no address on it, no postmark – it’s just in your mail – how does that get in your cubbyhole? I don’t know how that happens.
CD: Do you think it was dropped off in person at the stadium?
MB: I don’t know.
CD: Or do you think it was someone inside the organization?
MB: I’ve never gotten hate mail. I’ve gotten it in L.A. I got it in Oakland. I got it in Chicago. And never anywhere else.
CD: So I’m going to ask you again – do you think the mail came from inside the organization?
(SC: Rick Pitino couldn’t teach this kind of full-court press. Bravo, Colleen.)
MB: I mean, I would hope not. But…
CD: Do you think it did?
MB: Who knows? I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I don’t even care to know.
CD: So how does that play into your mindset, when you get mail like that and you have to take the field?
(SC: Just like to point out that Bradley has yet to use the term “hate mail,” nor has he acknowledged a belief that hate mail has come from within the Cubs organization… which seems an absurd notion. Dominguez proceeds, though, as if these were givens.)
MB: Well, I mean, you really think something’s going to take place. You know, I’ve had bottles thrown at me. You know, you really think it’s going to be something worse. You’re kinda on the field not feeling comfortable. I was a prisoner in my own home. I pretty much stayed at home, ordered in every day, never went anywhere. I went out one time when my buddy of mine came out to visit right before the All-Star break, and I go to a restaurant, and I hear a guy badmouthing myself and Soriano, saying how terrible we were and how we didn’t deserve anything, and we should go back to the ghetto where we came from and all that kind of stuff.
I don’t know why. Chicago’s always been one of my most favorite cities to go to. When people ask me what city you like to go to as a visitor, Chicago’s always the No. 1. I just really had a bad experience.
CD: Was Chicago the lowest point for you for your career?
MB: I mean, it was pretty bad. I’d rather have torn my knee up and gone through rehab all over again than have to deal with that.
CD: Did you fear for your life in Chicago?
(SC: Where the hell did this question come from? UF Professor Mike Foley would be proud. He says lead with the easier ones, wear them down, and then nail ’em… Beautiful day, isn’t it? How’s life in office? Did you beat your wife?)
MB: I didn’t really fear for my life, but I wasn’t comfortable.
CD: Did you fear for your safety?
MB: I feared for wellbeing of people around me. I don’t worry about myself too much. I’m gonna be alright.
CD: Were you worried about your family?
(SC: Nice. Another Reporting 101 lesson: find 20 different ways to ask the same question. Keep at it until you get the answer you want.)
MB: I was worried about my family, about my kids. The worst part of it all – where it was the last straw – was when I found out that my kid had been called a derogatory name at school. Three-year-olds shouldn’t be getting called names. That comes straight from the home. And when we confronted the school and had a meeting with the parents, the parents totally deny it, but you know, that comes from the home.
[Dominguez asks when it started to go downhill in Chicago. Bradley describes the first time he got ejected, and says that he wouldn’t have been tossed if he was somebody else.]
CD: The other day you were quoted as saying you won’t be disrespected by anyone. What led you to say that?
(SC: Translation: how have the Chicago Cubs disrespected you?)
MB: I have a painting I have in my house. It’s of a guy in the ‘60s, holding up a sign that says, “I am a man.” And it’s important to me, because when you get into this game, you start playing, people give you a check, then they think you’re a slave – they get to tell you what to do, move, jump, do this, do that – and to an extent, they can’t. But at the same time, I’m a man first, and you’ll respect me like you’ll respect anybody else.
(SC: “Move, jump, do this, do that.” Slavery… or spring training?)
CD: So when Lou Pinella called you a “piece of” fill in the blank, was that the worst disrespect you had heard in your major league baseball career?
(SC: It appears as though Ms. Dominguez already knew the answer to the “how have you been disrespected?” question. Colleen, have you ever been called a “piece of s***”? Me neither. But it’s gotta sting, right?)
MB: You know, I take it all in stride. The next day, he called me into the office and wanted to apologize. I felt – you put me on blast, called me out in front of everybody – you can apologize in front of everybody. He didn’t choose to go that route, but I accepted his apology nonetheless, because as a Christian, that’s what you do. I don’t have time to hold grudges against people. You know, I got enough stuff I gotta deal with.
(SC: Just to reiterate. Milton Bradley’s characterization of Milton Bradley: good Christian man; doesn’t hold grudges.)