One Fan Who Made A Difference

added 03/10/2012 by Bob Hulsey

It started with one man's outrage. A blurb near the bottom of an Alyson Footer blog said the Astros would celebrate their history with throwback uniforms on Fridays but that the April replicas of the Houston Colt .45s jerseys would be missing the historically-accurate pistols on the chest.

A 35-year-old baseball fan from Leander, outside Austin, named James Crabtree sent myself and a few others an e-mail to express his disgust at apparent "political correctness" run amok. I wrote a column about this but, honestly, I had no idea this would be anything more than one more baseball fan's rage against the increasingly indifferent machine.

He sent an e-mail to the Astros which got forwarded to Mike Acosta, the Astros' authentication manager who said removing the guns was Major League Baseball's decision but he defended the ruling. Footer, too, called the pistol jerseys "inappropriate" and "in bad taste". A phone call to Astroline got a quick rebuff from Milo Hamilton.

But Crabtree would not let it rest. While a few national outlets like ESPN.com and Yahoo! Sports picked up the story and were generally sympathetic, Crabtree was not satisfied. He sent letters to Astros owner Jim Crane and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.

"I sent the letter to the commissioner and Messrs. Crane and (Astros GM Jeff) Luhnow because the decision to remove the six-shooter offended me," Crabtree wrote to me. "It was a decision that was so out of touch with common sense that I thought someone should say something."

"As a veteran," he continued, "it also angered me that somehow we can have armed color guards on the field and they can honor veterans and members of the military and yet the pistol was deemed 'inappropriate' and 'in poor taste'. I just thought I should say something."

On March 5th, Crabtree received a letter from Crane which said, in part, that he agreed with Crabtree about the uniforms. However, the matter was out of his hands.

Whether Crane contacted MLB headquarters in New York about this or someone else revisited the issue, the Commissioner's office overturned their edict and put the decision back in the Astros' court. It only took a day of overwhelming public reaction for the Astros to decide to put the pistols back on the jerseys.

Crabtree, who describes himself as "a staunch Astros fan since my family moved to Galveston in 1988", is elated. So are most Astros fans who truly appreciate the history of the franchise and wish for it to be remembered with full accuracy.

The change of policy reminds me of the battle waged on Craig Biggio's behalf in 2007 when MLB told him he could no longer wear the sunshine pin on his cap during spring training games, which was to promote the Sunshine Kids charity that helps children with cancer. MLB took a publicity black eye on that decision, too, before they flipped and told Biggio he could wear the emblem.

That was a bit different, though, because that was about uniform policy on an individual player and nobody accused Biggio of "bad taste." Political correctness was not the issue.

Crabtree is just one fan among millions, the type sports leagues and their members constantly claim they listen to and yet rarely offer them more than lip service. Major League Baseball and Crane deserve credit for choosing to do what was right.

But the real hero in all of this is one man who decided to do more than just gripe then forget about it. He could have done what most of us do - accept our powerlessness, take a deep breath and move on to life's more important battles. Thank goodness James Crabtree decided to fight for the rest of us, no doubt like he was trained to do when he was in the U.S. military.

This may seem like a minor achievement to some. However, it proves how one person with determination can affect change. Yes, many others played a role but would it have come to this without one person taking exception to a minor mention buried deep in a blog?

Crabtree ends his e-mails with the phrase "Semper Fidelis", the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps, which means "Always Faithful". He deserves a salute as well as the thanks of all Astros fans. Well done, sir.