Krueger, Alou Both Losers
by Glenn Dickey
Aug 11, 2005

THERE ARE NO winners, only losers, in the flap over Larry Krueger’s remarks on KNBR about “brain-dead Caribbean hitters.” Consider the fallout:

--Krueger himself. Originally, he was suspended for one week, which I thought was a reasonable decision by KNBR. Though some compared it to the John Rocker outburst which was printed in Sports Illustrated, there was really no comparison. Rocker had made similar outbursts before. He was anti-black, anti-gay, anti everything that wasn’t white redneck male, it appeared. His comments in SI were not a one-time indiscretion; they were representative of his mindset.

That’s not true of Krueger. He is not a racist and, to my knowledge, has never made racist comments before, on- or off-air. Even this time, as I wrote in my Tuesday column, he would have had a legitimate criticism if he had talked of Pedro Feliz and Deivi Cruz, as he originally intended, because they are wild swingers. When he broadened it, he maligned an entire racial group. He deserved to be punished, but not fired, as he was this week.

--Felipe Alou. I defended Alou earlier because I’m aware of the insults and injustices, some intentional, some not, that he and other Latinos have suffered since they first started getting into baseball in the ‘50s. I haven’t talked directly to Alou about this but I have talked to others and I know there’s a resentment among minorities that is just below the surface, which is often hard for whites to comprehend.

Alou’s reaction to Krueger’s statement was entirely understandable, as were his original comments. He was right to make a statement about this, to try to make people understand how this type of comment wounds Latinos. Dropping his KNBR radio show also made a statement. His comments over the weekend made everybody but the most knuckle-headed realize how serious this matter was.

But, he couldn’t let it go. His comments about “messenger from Satan” were over the top, and he continued to inflame the situation with his television appearances. He was wrong not to accept Krueger’s apology, and he was wrong to say that a one-week suspension of Krueger was not enough.

If Alou could have backed off a bit, if he could have met directly with Krueger to talk about this and then perhaps hold a press conference that would have talked about the issue, there could have been some positives to come out of this whole mess.

Instead, Alou comes across as a vindictive man who was out to get Krueger’s job. That’s not my reading of Alou, whom I respect as a player, manager and man, but I’ve known him. Most people only know him by reputation, and he has tarnished that reputation.

--KNBR program director Bob Agnew and morning show producer Tony Rhein, who were fired after KNBR played segments from Comedy Central and sound-bites from Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady,” regarding Satan. It was an attempt at humor but it came across as mocking Alou.

My only contact with Rhein has been a couple of phone calls. Agnew, though, I’ve known since he was an assistant program director at KCBS in 1984, when I was doing daily commentaries for that station. He can often be abrasive but he’s an intelligent man and one who has often deflected criticism of station manager Tony Salvadore by taking it himself. He is intensely loyal to the station.

Nonetheless, those sound bites were totally inexcusable. It’s incomprehensible to me that anyone would approve their use at that time. The station should have just laid low until this storm finally blew itself out. Instead, as Gary Radnich said on his Wednesday morning show, it was another “log on the fire.”

I don’t know how much independence a show producer has at KNBR, so I can’t say how much blame goes to Agnew and how much to Rhein. But playing those sound bites escalated the situation and forced Salvadore to fire Krueger, Agnew and Rhein.

--The Giants. It was obvious the Giants were delighted at the start with the opportunity to bash Krueger, who had gotten under the skin of Giants management (not a difficult task) with his criticism, especially since it was usually fact-based.

Nobody could have anticipated, though, how this would escalate, and the Giants are taking a well-deserved PR hit for this, trying very hard to distance themselves from the situation. A press release yesterday said they regretted that three men had lost their jobs, which was partially true. I’m sure they regret it in Agnew’s case, because he had worked closely with the Giants for years, but I’m also sure they’re just as happy that Krueger is gone.

The Giants did not have a direct role in the firings, but what they did not do speaks volumes. Nobody tried to talk to Alou and ask him to moderate his comments. I think management was happy to have this issue, not just to roast Krueger but also to take attention away from the many poor decisions that have resulted in the pathetic team that is wearing Giants uniforms this year.

IN THE END, a very human story took a corporate twist.

Originally, the KNBR plan had been for Krueger to return to the air next Monday. As Radnich noted on his show, he had been in conversation with Krueger and Salvadore about what Krueger would say when he returned. There was even talk that Radnich would appear on the show.

That all changed after the Tuesday morning sound bites. KNBR’s parent company, Susquehanna, is trying to sell all of its radio stations. The company wanted to defuse this controversy as soon as possible, so there had to be a drastic move to convince everybody that KNBR was putting its house in order. So, three men got fired.

It was a sad ending to a sad story.

TOMORROW: A reason for hope for 49ers fans.

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