Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench was examined Saturday after he appeared to make an anti-Semitic joke during the Cincinnati Reds’ Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the late Gabe Paul and other figures.
Bench was with Paul’s daughter Pete Rose, Danny Graves and Bronson Arroyo when the team inducted the former general manager and the final two players into its own Hall of Fame.
Paul was the team’s general manager from 1952 to 1960 and was named the Sporting News Executive of the Year in 1956. He was credited with being the architect of the team’s World Series appearance in 1961.
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Jennie Paul, Gabe’s daughter, represented him at the ceremony. During her speech, Paul noted how his father was Jewish and became a champion of minorities in professional baseball, according to to WCPO-TV. Rose then talked about the general manager, who died in 1998, and recalled a story about his contract.
«I just came out of high school in 1960. Gabe Paul signed me to a contract. For $400 a month,» Rose said.
Paul chimed in: «That’s cheap!»
And, according to the station, Bench added «He was Jewish!»
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Some were heard laughing at the comment, while others were not, according to The Athletic.
Paul told the outlet that he did not hear the comment.
«I never even heard him say that,» he said. «Johnny came up to me and said, ‘Were you offended?’ I was like, ‘What for?’ I didn’t even hear him say that. I guess if I had heard him say that, I might have said something, but I didn’t even hear him say that.»
Bench apologized for the comment Sunday in a statement through the Reds.
«I acknowledge that my comment was insensitive,» Bench’s statement read. «I apologized to Jennie for taking away from her father all the attention she deserves from her.
«Gabe Paul earned his place in the Reds Hall of Fame, just like everyone else who stood on that stage. I’m sorry some of the attention is focused on my inappropriate comment rather than solely on Gabe’s achievement «.
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Paul said that she was not Jewish and that she was raised Episcopalian. She added that Gabe Paul’s parents were from present-day Ukraine, which was part of Russia at the time.