Monday, March 29, 2010

Lincoln Option Awaits Indians Shin-Soo Choo?

Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo -- a South Korean citizen obligated to submit to two years service in his nation's army -- may be able to take advantage of an Abraham Lincoln option to escape the draft, if all else fails.

President Lincoln -- who in the spring of 1861 attended a baseball game between the Brooklyn Eagles and the old Washington Nationals in the nation's capital -- opted to pay a "commutation fee" enabling Lincoln's son Robert to avoid conscription through the use of a mercenary.

Thus Robert, 21, attending Harvard Law School at the time, remained out of the war until its waning days, when he was given the rank of captain and assigned to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's staff as a glorified greeter. The commutation fee was so disdained by Lincoln's public that eventually it was outlawed in favor of compulsory military service for all otherwise eligible, able-bodied men.

In 1950, however, Allied Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur reinstated the practice for the sons of wealthy, influential Korean families, authorizing stand-ins to take their place as a KATUSAs (Korean Augmentee to United States Army).

Today the practice continues, but in South Korea is no less disdained than in Lincoln's time. It remains a possible but loathsome alternative to keep Shin-Soo playing in the major leagues, though a more palatable choice would be the granting of an exemption in exchange for his playing for the national baseball team in November's Asian games.

In any event, it's an absolutely safe bet Shin-Soo Choo won't be missing any Major League playing time in an army uniform.