Sports used to be a thing over which people of different political and social backgrounds could join in support of their local team. No longer. The trend of politicizing everything infected professional sports years ago but now has even started creeping into sports history. This week, the San Francisco Giants cast Aubrey Huff’s legacy down the memory hole because he made the mistake of backing the wrong political party.
Ten years ago, Giants players and fans celebrated their first world championship since 1954. It was the only one they had won to that point, since moving from New York to California, despite nine playoff appearances in that span. The World Series win ended an incredible drought for such a storied franchise, and the jubilation in the Bay Area was apparent immediately. They have won twice since, in 2012 and 2014.
The team visited President Barack Obama at the White House, as is traditional for winners of championships, and the experience was low-key and non-political. Various California politicians joined them there, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, newly appointed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. These people are all Democrats, and many baseball players are Republicans, but it didn’t matter. They all had a good time at the joyous, lighthearted event.
Now Aubrey Huff Is an Outcast
How times have changed in the decade since. Many of the politicians are the same, but the new occupant of the White House — and people’s extreme reactions to him — have changed even normal events such as these into political contests. Aubrey Huff, a first baseman and outfielder for the 2010 Giants, was recently informed by the team that he is not welcome at an upcoming celebration of the 10th anniversary of the World Series win. His crime: publicly supporting Donald Trump.
In an interview with Steve Berman and Dan Brown of The Athletic, Huff discussed the snub from his former employers. Asked for his opinion, Huff said he was “quite frankly, shocked. Disappointed. If it wasn’t for me, they wouldn’t be having a reunion.”
Huff, who hit .290 with 26 home runs and slugged .506 that year, was not exaggerating. He was the most valuable player on the team that year, as measured by Baseball Reference’s wins against replacement stat, and finished seventh in the National League’s MVP voting. He was also known as a great presence in the clubhouse, a team leader who had an unusual sense of humor. Huff was no bit player; he was the heart of a winning team.
The Athletic’s story confirmed it was Huff’s social media support for the president that made the Giants management declare him persona non grata. According to a team statement, “Aubrey has made multiple comments on social media that are unacceptable and run counter to the values of our organization.”
Corporate America has long been ruled by men who fear nothing more than being unpopular with the in-crowd, and baseball is no different. In most times, these people have been divided fairly equally between the major parties, but the unending furor against Trump on the left has scared big business into kowtowing to the wokesters, lest they lose the business of online socialists who don’t watch sports anyway.
Huff Reveals the Giants’ Hypocrisy
Far from being cowed at being made into an unperson, Huff used social media to tell his story. He tweeted, “My locker room humor on Twitter is meant to be satirical, and sarcastic. And it was that type of humor that loosened up the clubhouse in 2010 for our charge at a World Series title. They loved it then, and it hasn’t changed. That’s not the issue. It’s politics.”
Huff also took aim at the Giants owner, Larry Baer. “I find this whole thing very hypocritical coming from a man who has had his share of real controversy for pushing his wife, for which he had to take a break from the Giants and issue a formal apology. All I did was tweet.” Huff was referring to a 2019 incident in which Baer was seen and filmed arguing with his wife in a park, an argument that left her sprawled on the ground after Baer wrestled a cell phone from her. Major League Baseball, under the pusillanimous leadership of Rob Manfred, suspended Baer for three months.
It’s a good thing Baer didn’t vote the wrong way, or else he’d be out in the cold for good. Huff is right to be outraged, and not just at the Giants’ ownership’s hypocrisy. Extremists in politics have always wanted their preferred ideology to overshadow everything, but that monomania has been gaining in popularity even among once-normal people on the political left. When radicals in the ’60s proclaimed that “the personal is political,” most Americans were quite certain they were wrong. Politics had a place — it is the way a free people governs itself — but that place was not every place.
Politics Shouldn’t Destroy Monoculture
Americans are a political people. We have to be. We elect our leaders, and that requires thinking about — and talking about — politics. That means politics isn’t a dirty word. But it also includes a temptation to let it take over everything. Our political opinions need not be a secret, but neither should a difference of political opinion mean we can no longer associate with each other.
Politics is important, but it can tear us apart, too. People need a break from it all, and there is no better escape from fractiousness than the unity that sports brings to a city. When you attend a baseball game, you have no idea how the fan sitting next to you voted in the last election. You don’t know if he wants socialized health care or tax cuts or entitlement reform or school vouchers. More importantly, you don’t care. You’re there to cheer on your team and have a nice time at the ballpark.
Sports, like music, art, and theater, can get political. But it really doesn’t have to. People who differ in worldviews about government can be perfectly in agreement about baseball, jazz, impressionism, and many other cultural items. The Giants do all baseball fans a disservice by turning their back on Huff, a player who helped them bring home their first championship in 66 years. In doing so, they also chip away at one of the few remaining institutions that unites people of all political stripes.