‘Say it ain’t so’


“Say it ain’t so, Joe.”

It is a classic line from baseball lore. A young fan first posed the indirect, leading question to Shoeless Joe Jackson of the Chicago White Sox.

In 1920, the boy waited outside a courtroom. A grand jury was investigating charges against Shoeless Joe and seven teammates, who became known as the Black Sox.

They were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. When the court recessed, the young man saw his hero leaving the courtroom.

He approached Joe with the question that suggested its answer. In a plaintive tone, the boy asked Joe to “say it ain’t so,” to tell him that the Black Sox Scandal was simply a set of false accusations. Joe never responded to the boy’s question.

Perhaps his silence betrayed his guilt. Through the years, “Say it ain’t so” has been used in a variety of contexts.

When I taught high school, “Say it ain’t so” became my standard response to the student who admitted she had not done her homework. The line sometimes drew applause from my students who were baseball fans.

It always drew criticism from my students who did pay attention in English class.

In this letter, I am employing that line in a different context: Ohio agriculture. It is a context filled with controversy, as Ohio livestock farmers find themselves on a battleground.

They are at the forefront of what may well be the Fight of the Century between animal-rights activists and animal-welfare supporters.

The activists appear to be winning the battle. Of course, that appearance may be yet another example of virtual reality merely “passing” for reality.

To determine if the activists are marching their way to a genuine victory, I have to ask Ohio farmers, including myself, three timely questions: 1) Are Ohio farmers more willing to support an issue campaign than they are to support each other? 2) Are Ohio farmers too divided by the commodities they produce, the organizations they support, and the “best practices” they adopt to defend each other against unfounded claims of wrongdoing? 3) Do Ohio farmers regard the successes and failures of other Ohio farmers as seriously as they regard the wins and losses of a football team?

I have to hope that other farmers find those questions easier to answer than I do. I have to hope that other Ohio farmers can “say it ain’t so” in reply. Sadly, silence is the only response I have to offer.

Mary Anne Higgins
Canal Fulton, Ohio


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