Ethics Corner

Article excerpt

OFF THE RECORD ...

Batting averages, home runs, runs batted in, heaven, and hell: Reflections on baseball coverage via a Judeo-Christian prism

Chad Curtis always has been a baseball player possessed. He does a forward flip after throwing a baseball, slides into people, and runs bases with abandon. And Curtis also prays as hard as he plays. He organizes team chapel meetings, cleans raunchy magazines out of clubhouses, and lectures teammates against playing rap songs with lewd lyrics.

When he was with the New York Yankees, he was a magnet for beat writers, a literate guy you always went to for a quote. And his religious fervor was duly noted. But one aspect of his behavior -- a desire to save Jewish writers from going to hell -- was not published until this year, after he had been traded to the Texas Rangers.

Jon Heyman, a Long Island, N.Y., Newsday columnist, mentioned it matter-of-factly in an April 16 column that described Curtis' attempts to persuade Yankee players to attend his Sunday chapel sessions: "Curtis also tried to convince some Jewish writers that they were making a big mistake and needed to rethink their beliefs."

It's the kind of stuff that gave John Rocker a place on New York's most- wanted list. Politicians have been crushed for less. What took so long for people to read about it -- especially in New York, with the largest Jewish opulation outside Israel?

"Chad was telling the writers that they might be damned, that they might go to hell," said Heyman, who is Jewish and who added that he never engaged Curtis in any religious discussions. "He was telling them why his religious beliefs were correct and why they were taking a chance. I don't know how they felt deep down about what he was saying."

Suzyn Waldman, the Yankees' beat reporter for WFAN radio and a play-by- play broadcaster for the Madison Square Garden (MSG) cable TV network, argued that Curtis was not an anti-Semitic ranter. "I understand why some people might have been offended, but I wasn't one of them," Waldman said. "Chad wants to save people. He looks [at Jews] as if they are in a building about to blow."

Heyman said he held back his story on Curtis for the day when he could write a comprehensive piece on his behavior. "There are a lot of things that go on that we don't write about," said Heyman. "The clubhouse is a second home to the players. And we are guests there, to some degree. …