Former Oakland A’s general manager Sandy Alderson took to the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday with an op-ed in which he argued that it’s essential to keep the military out of politics.
He wrote it in response to the buildup to the June 1 photo of President Donald Trump posing in front of Washington D.C.’s St. John’s Church, which is near the White House.
Alderson said he was “appalled by the images” of General Mark Miller, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Mark Esper, the Secretary of Defense, accompanying Trump on the walk from the White House to the church, which only happened after peaceful protesters were hit by tear gas and were forcibly cleared out of the way for the Trump photo op.
“The latter reminded me of the Russian “little green men” fighting by proxy in the Ukraine,” Alderson wrote. “Is this what our own country has come to?”
For those who only know Alderson as the man whose turn toward analytics as the A’s general manager foreshadowed Moneyball or who remember him as the New York Mets’ GM before stepping down during a battle with cancer, seeing Alderson come out so forcefully on the military might come as a shock.
It shouldn’t. Before baseball, before he got a law degree from Harvard, Alderson was a Marine. He has said on numerous occasions his four years in the Marines, 1969-73 including a tour of duty in Vietnam, were life shaping. Not just career shaping, but life shaping.
It’s not that he ran the A’s like a Marine outfit. Baseball doesn’t work like that. What he did do was bring his Marine’s sense of discipline, initiative, creativity, duty and the need to see the job done right to his work. And those working for him who did the same got support and found advancement.
He’s also said that being in the Marines was his greatest exposure to diversity in America.
Alderson got much of that from his father, John, who spent World War II flying bombers in Europe and then came back for the U.S.’s war in Korea. John Alderson spend 30 years in the Air Force and some of Alderson more enjoyable days with the A’s were when his father would come by before games at the Oakland Coliseum, spending the pregame on the field during batting practice.
Sandy wanted to fly jets, too, but didn’t have the eyes for it, opting instead to volunteer for the Marines. After basic training he was assigned to Okinawa, but he fought for assignment to Vietnam. He’d already taken classes in speaking Vietnamese; he didn’t want to be shuttled off to some quiet sinecure.
He’s always been proud of his service, so when he pens an op-ed challenging the actions of military leaders, it’s worth noting.
“When I returned from overseas, I was assigned to Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.,” Alderson wrote. “Among our duties were participating in military ceremonies and funerals and providing security at Camp David. When President Lyndon B. Johnson died and lay in state, my men and I, along with members of other services, stood watch in the Capitol Rotunda in dress blues.
“I took over my unit at the barracks from Pete Pace, who was named chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 2005. My company commander there, Jim Jones, was appointed Marine commandant in 1999 and later became the supreme allied commander of NATO. I served with and under some extraordinary military leaders. Where have they all gone?”
Alderson keeps in touch with his military roots. Just last year he was part of a leadership conference with cadets at West Point. He made reference to that in his op-ed.
“I hope the lessons of the last two weeks are part of the future curriculum,” he wrote. “They are too important not to be.”
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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