It’s the dawn of a new era for Twitter’s famed (or infamous) blue checkmark, which long verified the authenticity of accounts, primarily those of celebrities, public figures and journalists.
The blue checkmark is now available to anyone who wants to pay an $8 monthly subscription and meet other requirements, although some celebrities claim their accounts have remained verified without the fee.
The new process has some worried that it will lead to imposter accounts, which is why the verification process was initially created. The specific imposter account that triggered the birth of the checkmark was connected to an Ybor City baseball icon and Hall of Fame manager.
In 2009, Tony La Russa, then the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, sued Twitter for trademark infringement, trademark dilution and misappropriation of name and likeness after an imposter account tweeted under his name.
According to ESPN.com’s coverage of the lawsuit, the posts included one that said, “Lost 2 out of 3, but we made it out of Chicago without one drunk driving incident or dead pitcher.”
ESPN reported that the tweet was in reference to Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile dying of a heart attack in his Chicago hotel room in 2002 and Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock dying in a DUI accident in St. Louis in 2007.
La Russa dropped the lawsuit but, later that year and in response to the incident, the blue checkmark was introduced.
The 78-year-old La Russa was raised in Ybor City and spent much of his free time playing ball at the Latin District’s Cuscaden Park.
He later starred for Jefferson High School and signed with the Kansas City A’s, the Major League Baseball team that later moved to Oakland.
La Russa’s professional career as a player did not have many highlights. But, as a manager, he won three World Series titles.
Now retired and residing in California, La Russa once told the Tampa Bay Times that his Tampa upbringing was crucial to his baseball success.
“The dominant sport to the point of being a religion was baseball — especially with my Italian and Spanish background,” he said. “Baseball was by far the sport that we were exposed to the most.”