PHOENIX — The Rev. Jesse Jackson is urging baseball’s All-Stars to speak out against the Arizona immigration law, saying they should follow the example set by Jackie Robinson when he broke the game’s color barrier more than a half-century ago.
The sport’s national spotlight returned this week to the Sonoran Desert for the first time since Luis Gonzalez’s ninth-inning single off Mariano Rivera won Game 7 of the 2001 World Series for the Diamondbacks, landing the All-Stars — those who didn’t drop out — in the hot debate over the law known as SB 1070.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig ignored calls by some to move Tuesday’s game.
“It’s obviously too late for them to withdraw from the scene,” Jackson said Monday during a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “I think they should play, and they should speak out, which would be of value.”
As players got ready to gather on the air-conditioned diamond under the Chase Field roof, most of them declined to discuss the law. Enacted last year, it requires immigrants to obtain or carry registration papers and calls for police, while enforcing other laws, to question people’s immigration status if there is a reasonable suspicion they’re in the country illegally.
Major provisions were blocked last July by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, a decision upheld in April in a 2-1 vote by the 9th U.S. Circuit court of Appeals. Gov. Jan Brewer intends to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the injunction.
Boston slugger David Ortiz was one of the few players willing to talk about the law.
“I’m an immigrant. I definitely would never agree with any treating of immigrants bad — the wrong way,” said Ortiz, who is from the Dominican Republic.
Still, he won’t get involved with protests.
“I’m not here for that,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz captained the AL team in Monday night’s Home Run Derby. Sharon Robinson, daughter of the late Jackie Robinson, was on the field before the event for a “Breaking Barriers” presentation.
More typical during player availabilities at the cactus-filled Arizona Biltmore grounds was the response from New York Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran, who will be the National League’s designated hitter.
“It’s something that doesn’t have to do anything with sport,” he said. “It’s something that affects a certain part of the population.”
Somos America, a Phoenix-based Hispanic civil rights group, asked fans, players and coaches to wear a white ribbon showing solidarity against the law.
“Baseball was on the cutting edge of changing the culture with the admission of Jackie Robinson to the game. It changed the American culture in fundamental ways beyond the baseball field,” Jackson said. “Some players or some players’ families could be disadvantaged or apprehended by that law in Arizona, so it’s very risky. I would hope now that they are there, they would at least speak out clearly that that law is in conflict with national law on immigration. States don’t set immigration policy.
“Baseball players cannot negotiate away their dignity. I’m glad Jackie Robinson spoke up for dignity beyond the baseball field, and I’d glad Ortiz has spoken up for dignity.”
Sixteen players picked as All-Stars dropped out: four are on the disabled list, Alex Rodriguez had knee surgery Monday, and Ryan Braun and Placido Polanco missed a half-dozen games or more heading into the break. Six pitchers were knocked off the rosters because they started for their clubs Sunday, and Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and David Price said their bodies needed the rest following minor injuries.
“I think it’s too bad that Jeter in particular is not here, because of what he accomplished over the weekend,” said Philadelphia Phillies chairman Bill Giles, referring to Jeter’s 3,000th hit Saturday. “I think it is a bit of a problem and baseball should study it.”
Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay will start for the National League, following Vida Blue, Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson as the fourth pitcher to make an All-Star start for both leagues. Halladay, 11-3 with a 2.45 ERA, started the 2009 All-Star game while with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Los Angeles Angels’ Jered Weaver, 11-4 with a 1.86 ERA, starts for AL.
While the temperature outside Chase Field has been as high as 118 this month, an 8,000-ton cooling system keeps it in the 70s inside the ballpark. It was 99 outside and 73 inside for the start of the Home Run Derby, where left-handed hitters hoped to make a splash — in the right-field swimming pool.
With the roof closed, as it’s been for all games since June 17, there’s no fear of haboobs. Those are the massive dust storms, such as the mile-high wall of brown that blew through Phoenix last week.
The AL won 12 straight All-Star games played to a decision before Brian McCann’s three-run double in the seventh off Matt Thornton boosted the NL to a 3-1 victory last year in Anaheim. It was the first time the NL won since the All-Star game started determining home-field advantage for the World Series in 2003, and the San Francisco Giants went on to beat the Texas Rangers in five games for the title.
“Home field can be a very important component in winning the world championship,” Weaver said. “So I think it’s a great thing for the best players in the world to go out there and compete and work for that home-field advantage.”