Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2018 — No. 19: Chief Wahoo’s last hurrah
We’re a few short days away from 2019 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2018. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were more akin to tabloid drama. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.
After years of pressure from indigenous groups, fans and the media, it was announced in January that the Cleveland Indians -- at the behest of Major League Baseball -- would cease wearing Chief Wahoo on their uniforms and displaying him in the ballpark beginning in 2019.
It was a welcome move, but make no mistake, it was motivated by money, not by principle.
One bit of evidence for that was that the club was allowed to continue to wear the logo in 2018 rather than cease wearing it immediately. There was really no practical reason why the Indians couldn’t have made the change for 2018. Clubs roll out playoff and World Series merchandise on a moment’s notice. The 1970 Milwaukee Brewers weren’t even IN Milwaukee or CALLED the Brewers until seven days before Opening Day and they got their block-M caps and “Brewers” jerseys made in time. The Indians new uniform changes announced for 2019 show minimal difference from their Wahoo versions. The changes could’ve been made before the first spring training game if they had wanted to. They just didn’t want to, likely to goose final year sales of Wahoo merchandise.
Likewise, the club will continue to sell Wahoo merchandise to fans indefinitely. If getting rid of Wahoo was “the right thing to do,” as the league and the club said at the time the change was announced, he would be totally eliminated, not allowed a season’s farewell tour and continued financial viability. There are some who say that the Indians have to sell Wahoo merchandise to keep their intellectual property rights over him, but if the club and the league thought he was truly inappropriate -- as opposed to just unpopular and a bad look -- they’d have no problem with it. Why profit off of racism? The answer is that the Indians are agnostic enough about what Wahoo means in an ethical sense but are not gonna let anyone else make a buck off of him as long as they might be able to.
Oh, and then there’s this:
No one has ever confirmed that Wahoo was the price for the Indians getting the All-Star Game, bit it’s a pretty plausible story.
In the end, though, I suppose all that matters is that Wahoo is gone. It took long enough and it may have been a case of the right thing being done for the wrong reasons, but at least the right thing was done.