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No, no, Jimbo?



Published: Wed, August 12, 2009 @ 8:16 a.m.

photo

Phil Eckenrode, of Mineral Ridge, Ohio, throws out the first pitch prior to the Mahoning Valley Scrappers game against the Jamestown Jammers, Wednesday, Aug.14, 2002, in Niles, Ohio. Eckenrode was dressed up as James Traficant. The Single-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians made August 14 ``Jim Traficant Night,'' and hairpiece wearers and sons of truck drivers got in free. The former Ohio congressman, serving an eight-year prison sentence for bribery and racketeering, often calls himself ``the son of a truck driver.''

Scrappers ‘leaning toward’ scrapping Traficant event

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

NILES — “Flooded with e-mails and phone calls” opposed to its “Traficant Release Night” promotion, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers are “strongly leaning” toward canceling the Sept. 2 event intended to acknowledge the ex-congressman’s release from federal prison, the team’s general manager said.

The promotion was never meant to “celebrate” the release of James A. Traficant Jr., said Dave Smith, the Class A short-season minor league baseball team’s general manager.

Traficant will be released from prison Sept. 2 after serving seven years for racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion.

The typical call to the Scrappers’ front office about the event, Smith said, is: “I can’t believe you’re doing something to glorify Jim’s release.”

Jordan Taylor, the team’s assistant general manager, added: “We’re getting calls from people thinking we’re doing this huge recognition, which really isn’t our intention. The impression is we’re honoring him, which is hardly what we’re doing. We’re acknowledging his release.”

Because the “Traficant Release Night” was included in a Sunday article in The Vindicator with a Sept. 8 “Jim Traficant Appreciation Dinner” at Mr. Anthony’s in Boardman, there is confusion that the baseball team’s event is a celebration of the ex-congressman, Taylor and Smith said.

A final decision on canceling the event is expected in a few days, Smith said Tuesday, but “we’re strongly leaning against keeping the night.”

The Scrappers didn’t have big plans for the Sept. 2 game against the Jamestown Jammers at Eastwood Field in Niles, Smith said.

The release of Traficant from prison was going to be announced at the game, and there probably was to be a slide show of the former congressman.

“It’s not a huge celebration party with bells and whistles and balloons,” Smith said. “We got flooded with e-mails and phone calls, and that forced us to reconsider it. It’s likely we won’t do anything at this point.”

Traficant is a “polarizing figure” and his Sept. 2 release “will be the talk of the community,” Smith said explaining why the team had planned the event.

On Aug. 14, 2002, the Scrappers held a “Jim Traficant Night,” only days after the former congressman started his prison sentence.

The event received national media attention.

Those wearing a toupee — which Traficant did — or showed proof of being a son of a truck driver — something Traficant repeatedly called himself — didn’t have to pay for a ticket to that game. Of the 4,597 fans at that game, 99 got in for free.

During the game, the team played some of Traficant’s famous phrases over the public address system, had a mock congressional election that Traficant won, and had Traficant impersonators being chased by those dressed in FBI attire.

“The feedback [to the upcoming Sept. 2 event] was much more negative than the 2002 event,” said Smith, who was the team’s assistant general manager in 2002.

Traficant facilitated the relocation of the Scrappers from Erie, Pa., in the late 1990s. Traficant failed to find financial backers to build a minor-league baseball stadium first in Youngstown and then in Niles.

When it appeared as though no deal could be reached, the Cafaro Co., a major property developer based in Youngstown, agreed to build a stadium for the team near its Eastwood Mall. It was one of the last major projects authorized by William M. Cafaro, who founded the company and died April 22, 1998.

The Scrappers played their first home game at Eastwood Field, then known as Cafaro Field, in 1999.

The Scrappers didn’t seek permission from the Cafaro Co. to hold the Traficant night, which is standard operating procedure, said Joe Bell, the Cafaro Company’s spokesman.

“The team does its own promotions, and we don’t get involved with that,” he said.

Asked if there were objections or issues with the Traficant event from those at the Cafaro Co., Bell said, “We hadn’t thought about it. I haven’t heard a word about it.”

skolnick@vindy.com


Comments

1valleyred(1097 comments)posted 5 years ago

Don't Give In!

KEEP THE NIGHT!

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2sugoi(5 comments)posted 5 years ago

For me, Traficant was a breath of fresh air in the stuffy, "same old same old" arena of local politics. He took interest in something I was dealing with and helped me - no one else in Congress or govt did. I respect and honor him for the good things he has done for regular people. He didn't just pander to the lobbyists or focus on greasing the hands of those who have power and prestige. He cared about the little people, too. Keep the night.

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3Stan(9923 comments)posted 5 years ago

Sept. 2 will still be a long awaited event no matter what the scrappers do .

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4Attis(873 comments)posted 5 years ago

Nothing coming from an outfit associated with that crook cafaro could ever honor, only ridicule, The Honorable James Traficant. The same holds true for the Vindicator. Have you forgotten how to blush? How to write a truthful story?

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5Chief178(57 comments)posted 5 years ago

Traficant is a convicted felon, yes its funny the whole country is laughing at the Youngstown area for honoring the crook Traficant. That's why the area will never regain the economic stature it once had, because some of the culture honors and accepts felons. Yes its funny alright.

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6Westsider(222 comments)posted 5 years ago

Thank God common sense is beginning to prevail!!

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7Tugboat(759 comments)posted 5 years ago

2002 General Election(Mahoning County)

Benjamin 27.79 %
Ryan 51.41%
Traficant 20.80%

Close the book.

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8Tugboat(759 comments)posted 5 years ago

2003 General Election(Boardman Township Trustee)

Kovachik 16%
Mancini 51%
Shovlin 32%

Close the book.

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9Attis(873 comments)posted 5 years ago

Jesus Christ was also convicted felon, but his tormentors were the real guilty parties. Seems like Traficant is in good company. Resurrection anyone?

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10leaveusalone(103 comments)posted 5 years ago

It is inappropriate to either honor Trafficant or to ridicule him at this point. Leave him in the past.

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11Mahcntyvoter(30 comments)posted 5 years ago

Jim Trafficant is not only our valley's past but will also be the valley's future.

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12bigeazy(16 comments)posted 5 years ago

Traficant got 20% of the vote even after being convicted...Say Ryan leaves for the governors office or another job, does Traficant have a chance at winning re-election here? I mean 20% were staunch supporters, I'm sure others will say he did his time and brought things to the Valley like the chevy center and the scrappers..I just wonder if anyone thinks he will be congressman again.

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13davemyers(11 comments)posted 5 years ago

Chill Out...........It's just a game with a silly promotion. If you like the guy.....go have fun at the game. If you don't like the guy.......stay home and blog.

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14TAXEDOFF(118 comments)posted 5 years ago

If the Scrappers want to make this Valley, the laughing stock of the country that's all they need to do. It will play in the national media that we have a celebration for a convicted felon, how embarrassing

We already have enough nut job idiots around town promoting Traficant. We don't need to do it nationally Look at this goofball watch this video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q026ip...

This idiot will probably be leading the parade and hosting the party for Jim

Remember JJ paid the bribe and Jimbo did the time!!

Cafaro should have been sitting right along side Jimbo

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15DoctorGonzo(728 comments)posted 5 years ago

Only in Youngstown is this a story. The circle continues.

Here is a great post:
"Jesus Christ was also convicted felon, but his tormentors were the real guilty parties. Seems like Traficant is in good company. Resurrection anyone?"

Wow. Do you come in peace?

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16olepops45(39 comments)posted 5 years ago

Please...give this ex-con a overdue passing. He was found guilty, served his time, now let him quietly go home to die in disgrace, he deserves no acclaim.

I will vote against anyone who betrays a public trust. He just wasn't lucky enough to get away with it or be pardoned like one of the other persons who compared with him. Remember "Dick Nixon".

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