Baseball: "Say it ain't so, Joe"
For a dozen years Mark Fuhrman gave away something new about his part in the June 12, 1994 double homicide in Brentwood every time he expressed himself at length. Following his October 2, 1996 perjury conviction he wrote Murder in Brentwood. His current career path appears to begin with the writing and publishing of that book. A closer look at the evidence shows that he laid the groundwork for his success in1989. He did it with his “pattern of abuse” letter to the city attorney involving O.J., Nicole and a baseball bat in 1984.
The trail of evidence leading to O.J. Simpson as a spouse abuser and a murderer also begins with that baseball bat. It paints a picture of O.J. as a possessive spouse abuser using a deadly weapon to intimidate the woman he would later be accused of killing. The bloody leather gloves, distinctive shoeprints and incriminating socks came together eleven years later with Fuhrman’s part in O.J.'s murder trial. He makes a strong case that “the” murder weapon was a Swiss Amy knife
In A Simple Act of Murder: November 22, 1963, Fuhrman mentions playing baseball and “army” around that time as an 11-year-old boy in Los Angeles. Even in California where baseball can be played year-round it takes a special interest in the game to play it in the last third of the 11th month in the year. You’ll see what the “Swiss” has to do with things from Fuhrman’s point of view later with Chick Gandil the first baseman for the 1919 Chicago White Sox.
In Murder in Brentwood Fuhrman cites basketball as his favorite sport. He writes about playing basketball. On page 232 he names two basketball players, Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls and Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics in his top three list of sports heroes. He names former boxing heavyweight champ George Forman as his number one athlete. But the more you study Fuhrman’s allusions to sports the more you see baseball rising to the top. You need to go only to the next paragraph to see him refer to a baseball cap. He does it again in the following paragraph, making a peculiar racial observation about black and white. Forget race for a moment. Think black and white. Think baseball. Then see where race fits in.
A Major League baseball player never takes the field without a cap. It’s as much a part of the uniform that distinguishes him from any other sports figure as his cleated shoes that sometimes draw blood – as Ty Cob often did intentionally with his – and his socks. Overlaying baseball on Fuhrman’s top three athletes creates new patterns with the Murder in Brentwood photos of the leather gloves, the distinctive shoeprints, the socks and the O. Henry connection to the pen and ink larkspur on the Mother’s poem. In O. Henry's "The Last Leaf," the artistic masterpiece is an ivy leaf painted on a wall. Fuhrman was the only witness in the O.J. criminal trial to mention ivy on the south path of the Rockingham estate where he found the glove.
Forman, the boxer, finished many fights with blood on his leather gloves. Orenthal James Simpson twice played a boxer named Joe in a 1979 made-for- television movies he produced through his company Orenthal Productions. Fuhrman's first step that took him over the ivy-covered wall next to the Ashford gate to find the bloody glove was a side trip to the Bronco where he discovered a package in O.J.'s Bronco addressed to Orenthal Productions.
The baseball connection here, in the early hours of June 13, 1994, is Phil Vannatter. Fuhrman called to him out of the three detectives still crowed around the Ashford gate to come to the Bronco. Vannatter also saw the package and recognized the name Orenthal as O.J.'s first name. Vannatter was such an outstanding high school pitcher that the Cleveland Indians -- a Major League baseball team noted for recruiting outstanding pitchers, scouted him. Months before the murders when Vannatter was playing basketball with friends in the Robbery Homicide Division, one of them mentioned a basketball player named Mark Fuhrman.
Jordan, the basketball player sighed a contract to play baseball for the Chicago White Sox three months before the Bundy murders. He gave up baseball one day after Fuhrman testified in O.J.’s murder trial about the baseball bat incident. He left the game with 46 runs batted in and 30 stolen bases. But he struck out a quarter of his times at bat because he couldn't hit the curveball. He made 11 errors as an outfielder and his batting average was an anemic 202. The press followed his progress as a baseball player closely. His impending retirement was sports page news for weeks prior to his announcement.
If he'd stuck it out he might have made it. Two Hall of Fame outfielders, Mickey Mantel and Willie Mays, started as poorly as Jordan did. They couldn't hit the curveball, either. O.J. Simpson knew one of them personally. When O.J. played Little League baseball, his biggest sports hero was Willie Mays, the "Say Hey Kid" who came to see O.J. pay and mentored him. In 1954 Mays made one of the most spectacular catches in World Series history off the bat of Vic Werts of the Cleveland Indians. Mays was famous for his bat, his base running, his throwing arm and his glove. He was voted the most valuable player in the 1963 All Star Game. O.J. said, "Willie Mays was the single biggest influence on my life."
Bird, the basketball player, played his entire pro career with the Boston Celtics. The Celtics logo is an Irish shamrock. The Mothers poem in the photo section of Murder in Brentwood is sometimes called an Irish and sometimes a Celtic proverb. Bird did TV commercials with L.A. Lakers basketball star # 32 Magic Johnson. O.J.’s pro football number was 32.
To put the photos below into perspective, you have to be mindful of a few things.
First, you have to know what Fuhrman said in his March 9 testimony about arriving at Rockingham “During the fall or winter of 1995…” to witness the baseball bat incident that he put in his 1989 “spouse abuse” letter. The incident actually took place in the fall of 1984, closer to the World Series featuring Mark Thurmond as the star pitcher for the San Diego Padres and Steve Garvey the power-hitting first baseman. Thurmond lost the games he started. Garvey did not hit in the clutch. The Padres lost the series in five games. The 1919 Fall Classic was a 9 game series. The Sox lost five games.
Marcia Clark: Where did you go to when you first arrived at the location?
Mark Fuhrman: We drove -- I believe we drove up Rockingham turning onto Ashford which brought us to the Ashford gate which was opened.
This was the first recorded time that Fuhrman was on the portion of the driveway leading in and out of the Ashford gate. The first time the gate was open. The second time he went over the wall and opened it. There was a key baseball link in both instances; one to a bat and the other to a pitcher. It doesn't stop there. There is a third Fuhrman-baseball-Ashford gate link.
First, you need to know that during Marcia Clark's questioning of Fuhrman, he repeatedly misspoke in calling the shoeprints on Bundy “footprints.” You need to know the baseball-related context of footprints vs. shoeprints. The baseball-related context in which he used the word that got him convicted of perjury is on the McKinny tapes where Fuhrman boasts of taking a black man to a baseball diamond and beating him up. This is where he says, "Ever try to find a bruise on a nigger?"
Now you need to know that outfielder “Shoeless Joe Jackson” was named as one of eight players on the 1919 Chicago White Sox team who was banned from baseball for accepting money from gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series. Shoeless Joe got his nickname before he started his professional career from going to bat without his stiff new shoes because they hurt his feet. His career batting average is surpassed only by two other players in history (not counting players in the Negro League), Rogers Hornsby and Ty Cobb. Both of them were virulent racists with violent tempers.
Unlike Joe Jackson and Babe Ruth who were widely respected and loved, Hornsby and Cobb were admired for their baseball prowess but widely despised as human beings. Babe Ruth said that he modeled himself after Jackson and Cobb said that Jackson was "the greatest natural hitter I ever saw." These names go together with Fuhrman because he was a racist, he made a legal issue of the baseball bat incident, he and his partner "discovered" the "black socks" and he wrote in Murder in Brentwood, "Trying to keep Simpson out of the case is like trying to keep Babe Ruth out of baseball." During a June 13, 1924 game between the Yankees and the Tigers, Ty Cobb started a brawl by calling Babe Ruth a "nigger." Yes. Ty Cobb called Babe Ruth a nigger.
In Phil Alden Robinson's Field of Dreams the ghost of Joe Jackson laughingly tells the hero of his story that Ty Cobb was excluded from the "field of dreams" because nobody liked him. The irony of putting those words in Jackson's mouth is that Cobb never lost respect for Jackson when he was excluded from baseball and there is no record of Jackson ever disrespecting Cobb. The colored drawing you see of Joe Jackson in a Whites Sox uniform should look familiar. It was made from the photo of Jackson with Cobb when Jackson played for Cleveland. The drawing gets one thing right that the colorized black and white photo gets wrong: The color of Jackson's hickory wood bat was black. He darkened it with tobacco juice.
Cob, Hornsby, Ruth. This is the level of greatness you have to reach to appreciate how high Joe Jackson stood in the pantheon of professional sports and how far he fell. Racism here is important because the best baseball players in the United States were segregated by race. If O.J. had been born around the turn of the 20th century and played baseball as well as he played football he would not have been allowed to compete with Babe Ruth.
Once you go back to Ruth's time as Fuhrman did you can't take racism out of Major League baseball because it overshadowed the game. There was no place to go in the United States during the regular season to see the best players in the game on the same "Field of Dreams" at the same time. You had to choose between black and white. Baseball did not become fully integrated until the Boston Red Sox put their first black player on the field in 1959, 12 years after Jackie Robinson became the first black baseball player to take the field in a Major League uniform.
You also need to remember that O.J. was in Chicago at the O’Hare Plaza Hotel when Fuhrman found the Rockingham glove (and the ivy) and his supervisor Ron Phillips called the hotel.
The photo section of Murder in Brentwood has a close-up of the Rockingham glove. Above it is a photo of the socks on O.J.’s rug. In the caption below that photo Fuhrman writes, “Simpson’s master bedroom, with black socks clearly visible, which Roberts and Fuhrman observed at 8: 00 A.M. on June 13.” The socks were actually dark blue and Fuhrman knew it.
The 1919 Chicago press dubbed the White Sox team the "Black Sox." Chic Gandil, the first baseman was a former boxer. His parents were Swiss immigrants. The second baseman, Eddied Collins, was a graduate of an Ivy League college who took no part in the fix. Gandil instigated the fix with an Irish gambler from Boston nicknamed “Sport.” In Fuhrman’s Murder in Greenwich movie his character calls a Greenwich policeman “Sport” for no apparent reason. Fuhrman gives a real Skakel lawyer named Jim McKenzie (Scottish) the fictitious Irish name Jackson O’Connor.
The great Joe Jackson, on the advice of his lawyers, confessed to being part of the "Black Sox" scandal. The immortal words, “Say it ain’t so, Joe,” are attributed to a Chicago newsboy crushed to learn that his sports idol had done the unthinkable.
These photos were all taken in front of the Ashford gate. The first one, from the Corbis archives, is dated June 15, 1994. The only person in any photo associated with the sign is Mark Fuhrman. The uneven color of the black letters on the white sign is because they were colored with Magic Marker ink. When and why Fuhrman appeared in the video showing part of the sign under the callbox on the ivy-covered gate post are unknown. The self-promotion value of Fuhrman being photographed next to that sign if using the Mothers poem photo had not been a viable option is self evident.