Roger McDowell, who’s a very good pitching coach, is in deep trouble because he engaged a round of verbal volleying at AT&T Park over the weekend. Four days later, McDowell has been forced to apologize and the Braves have been moved to offer a statement expressing “concern” and even Bud Selig has weighed in.
At the heart of McDowell’s side of the repartee is, according to a family being advised by the famous attorney Gloria Allred, a volley of anti-gay sentiment. The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant was just fined $100,000 by the NBA for directing a gay slur at a referee during a game, but McDowell’s alleged outburst doesn’t seem a heat-of-the-moment thing.
For one thing, it apparently took place before Saturday’s game. For another, it doesn’t appear to have been a one-time salvo. The Quinn family of Fresno, Calif., alleges that McDowell’s side of the dialogue went on for a while and involved physical threats and even the suggestive use of a bat.
Lest we forget, the Braves have been forced to answer for expressed intolerance before — after John Rocker’s infamous Sports Illustrated rant of December 1999. Bad as that was, it was basically just one loudmouth venting. These allegations are worse: At best they involve unprofessional behavior toward paying customers, and at worst they leave this organization open to the charge that its has a homophobe wearing its uniform.
In his apology, McDowell expressed his regret for responding “to the heckling fans” but offered no clue as to what bit of heckling might have served as a trigger. But what could anyone have said to warrant the sort of response the Quinns maintain McDowell offered?
Selig, the commissioner of baseball, released a statement saying “the allegations are very troubling to me.” Also, and ominously, he said: “After I have all the facts, I will make a determination of how to proceed.”
McDowell is alleged to have said: “Kids don’t belong at the [censored] ballpark.” That alone would be enough to make Selig spit out his soda. Hasn’t baseball spent the past century positioning itself as the game for families?
McDowell has done well in following the illustrious Leo Mazzone, and he’s considered a major asset by the Braves. That status is in peril. If these allegations are found to have merit, McDowell will be lucky to keep his job.
By Mark Bradley