What a swell time the World Series had in Atlanta, especially commissioner Rob Manfred, architect of so many twists and turns that baseball as we once knew it is hardly recognizable anymore.
Manfred was grinning from ear to ear as the Astros and Braves went at the new version of his sport. Awaiting the winner was the treasured Commissioner’s Trophy, baseball’s version of hockey’s Stanley Cup, football’s Vince Lombardi trophy and basketball’s Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. Manfred once dismissed the World Series award as “a piece of metal.”
He walked that remark back when it was suggested to him that it might make sense to do so. Nobody, however, was around to prevent or correct his latest foot-in-mouth moment about the Braves nickname and the charming tomahawk chop practiced by the local fans.
The Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians have set aside team names that might offend Native Americans. The Braves have not seen fit to do that and double down on the name with the tomahawk chop accompanied by a war chant right out of some John Wayne Western movie.
That’s perfectly OK with Manfred, who announced that “The Native American community in that region is wholly supportive of Atlanta’s program, including the chop.” It should be noted that there are no federally recognized tribes in the whole state of Georgia which, at last report, is Atlanta’s region.
The Braves do have a relationship with the Eastern Band of Cherokees, a tribe based in North Carolina, and issued a statement declaring that the team “proudly elevates Native American culture and language on a continuous basis.”
The tomahawk chop notwithstanding.
To the Braves credit, the team did do away with the cartoonish Chief Nok-A-Homa, who occupied a teepee in the left field bleachers and every so often would do a war dance. The Chief was portrayed by Levi Walker, a Native American, and was paid $60 a game for his services.
The chop, accompanied for a while by foam tomahawks selling for $5 each, remained part of the Braves culture, despite criticism that it might be in bad taste, that it might offend some folks, that it might best be stored away in mothballs.
That meant that baseball’s October showcase, the culmination of its season, matched Houston, a team that carries a cloud from a sign-stealing scandal around like an anchor, and Atlanta, treading on a tradition that some saw as racist.
And Rob Manfred smiled through it all.