Friday, September 30, 2011

Sacco and Vanzetti and Sports

My knowledge of historical events is limited. In high school I was adept at learning what needed to be known to pass the State wide Regent's examination. In college I was adept at going to the library, but spent more time dwelling on peripheral matters than whatever it was I was supposed to be studying. For this reason while I had a general idea of who Sacco and Vanzetti were I really did not know more than the skeletal outline.

So recently I picked up a book about Sacco and Vanzetti and--until I forget what I just read--(and the over under is about 8 months)I will know a good deal about the details of their alleged crimes and their trials in both the literal and figurative sense.

Sacco and Vanzetti were anarchists and, many feel, they were convicted of a crime and sentenced to death not because of any evidence linking them to the crime, but because they were anarchists. So the trial and the jury and the judge were determined to find them guilty and kill them in the electric chair while many throughout the world protested the unfairness of the trial. The most stunning example of the lack of due process was when an appeal was made for a retrial on the basis of the prejudices of the judge. And the judge assigned to the appeal to determine if the trial judge had been prejudiced was, incredibly, the trial judge.

And guess what? The appeal Judge Thayer, found that the trial Judge Thayer, was not prejudiced. Go figure.

I was on a plane on September 28th, the night that is being called the most exciting night of baseball ever. A night when three games with playoff implications were decided with walk off wins. The games were on tv on the JETBLUE plane. And to my left and right were fans cheering wildly for their teams. This was one bumpy flight and not because of the cheering. There was some weather and we were bouncing all over the air. Yet the zealots on either side of me paid no attention.

Sacco and Vanzetti were executed on 8/22/27; the rules that governed the verdict were flexible and flawed. The Red Sox lost 4-3 on Wednesday, and the verdict was based on the rules of the game.

What kept spectators riveted on a very bumpy plane ride was the certainty that nobody could get robbed because of caprice and hidden agendas. If the umpire thought the batter was a Communist a ball hit out of the park would still be a home run.

There are a lot of people with broken hearts in Boston and Atlanta. The Red Sox and Braves were eliminated on the last night of the season. But the fans will be back next year, because they know the games are relatively and essentially fair. Had Sacco and Vanzetti enjoyed similar protection the world would not have been rocked by injustice in the 1920s.