The Baltimore Sun and Babe Ruth Museum teamed up to name the four most important athletes in Maryland’s history for a “Mount Rushmore” of sports in the Old Line State. But then they included six.
According to the Sun, “after a group of local sports experts and online voting helped winnow a group of about 250 contenders to 10 finalists, the Mount Rushmore committee could not settle on just four athletes. So it went with six: Ray Lewis, Michael Phelps, Cal Ripken Jr., Brooks Robinson, Babe Ruth and Johnny Unitas.” [ Introducing the Mount Rushmore of Maryland sports, by Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Sun, April 18, 2018]
Anyone see a problem? Most likely, your average liberal in the liberal state will say the list comprises five whites and one black. But that’s not the problem. Just one of the six has been collared for murder, then cut a deal to finger to others for the crime. That would be Ray Lewis. (Lewis is pictured right, wearing a "best dad" t-shirt—he has five illegitimate children by multiple mothers.) As Wikipedia reports it:
Following a Super Bowl XXXIV party in Atlanta on January 31, 2000, a fight broke out between Lewis and his companions and another group of people, resulting in the stabbing deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. Lewis and two companions, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, were questioned by Atlanta police, and 11 days later the three men were indicted on murder and aggravated-assault charges. The fight occurred about 200 yards from the Cobalt Lounge at 265 East Paces Ferry Road in the Buckhead Village neighborhood about two miles north of downtown Atlanta where Lewis had been celebrating. The white suit Lewis was wearing the night of the killings has never been found. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard alleged the blood-stained suit was dumped in a garbage bin outside a fast food restaurant. A knife found at the scene did not have any fingerprints or DNA. Lewis subsequently testified that Oakley and Sweeting had bought knives earlier in Super Bowl week from a Sports Authority where Lewis had been signing autographs. Baker's blood was found inside of Lewis's limousine.
Two weeks into the trial Lewis's attorneys, Don Samuel and Ed Garland, negotiated a plea agreement with the District Attorney where the murder charges against Lewis were dismissed in exchange for his testimony against Oakley and Sweeting, and his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice. Lewis admitted he gave a misleading statement to police on the morning after the killings (initially telling them that he was not at the scene). Superior Court Judge Alice D. Bonner sentenced Lewis to 12 months' probation. One year in prison is the maximum sentence for a first-time offender, and the immediate probation was the judge's decision. He was also fined $250,000 by the NFL, which was believed to be the highest fine levied against an NFL player for an infraction not involving substance abuse. Under the terms of the sentence, Lewis could not use drugs or alcohol during the duration of the probation.
Oakley and Sweeting were acquitted of the charges in June 2000. No other suspects have ever been arrested for the incident.
Not that one of the white guys hasn’t had problems. Phelps isn’t just a nonpareil swimmer. He’s a veteran drunk driver and giggle weed consumer. As bad as Phelps is, and, for that matter, as wild as Babe Ruth was with the wine, women and song, neither of them were ever charged with murder.
Johnny Unitas, Cal Ripken and Brooks Robinson were squeaky clean.
The four names that would have appeared on anyone’s list are obvious: Unitas, and Ruth, Ripken and Robinson. Phelps is remarkable, but he’s not the sports hero the others are.
Did the panel who picked these men feel compelled to add a black athlete to the list? If so, why Lewis? Why not Sugar Ray Leonard, the champion boxer who grew up in Maryland? Or Frank Robinson?
These lists don’t lend themselves to objective truth, and generally occasion bickering among sports aficionados. Who was the greatest boxer: Ali, Louis or Maricano? The greatest racehorse: Secretariat or Man-o-War? The greatest quarterback: Unitas, Tom Brady or Joe Montana? The greatest third baseman: Robinson or Mike Schmidt?
Whatever the answers, you’d think we’d forget nominating athletes accused of murder, even if they weren’t convicted. Would O.J. Simpson be nominated for such an honor?
Thought experiment: What would happen if someone nominated John Rocker for enshrinement on the Mount Rushmore of Georgia Sports. Or Ty Cobb, whose storied racism, dirty play and violent temperament were mendacious inventions.