Tagged: Jackie Robinson

Not Just a Punter

The closer we get to the election, the more the rhetoric heats up.  Both sides fling out unbelievable claims trying to sway the “undecided” voter who somehow gets to decide every election.  Both parties try to get propositions and amendments on the ballot as well in an effort to get normally apathetic voters out to vote and hopefully, by extension, then also vote for that party’s guy.  It’s a cynical tactic, especially when you realize that these “tactics” affect real people.

I think that’s why I appreciated the letter Minnesota Viking’s punter Chris Kluwe recently wrote in support of Baltimore Raven, Brendon Ayanbadejo.  His second point is particularly important as it brings up something that should hit close to home for any baseball fan.  Yes, while we generally prefer that our sporting heroes don’t remind us of the difficult realities faced by many people and while many of us prefer to use sports as a means of escape, sports and the athletes who play them have a unique ability to reach a mass audience and to change social norms.  Jackie Robinson wasn’t just a baseball player.  He was the death knell of Jim Crow.  Hopefully guys like Kluwe and Ayanbadejo can do the same to this insane war on human rights being waged right now in the US.

-A

P.S. I can’t wait to hear Baseball Serendipity’s response to this one.  If it’s anything like last time, we’ll all be in for a treat.

A Tradition that Can’t End Soon Enough

Barack Obama finally came out in support of gay marriage.  I’m not exactly sure why this is news since a majority of the country holds the same position.  By definition, our elected leaders are our representatives and should represent the views that we hold.  Obama’s change of position (which isn’t really all that much of a change if you really think about it) merely puts him on the right side of history and firmly with the majority.

How did we get to this point anyway?  There’s the easy answer that it’s the fault of religion and the myth of “traditional” marriage (which conveniently ignores the other acceptable definitions of marriage laid out by their holy books):

I think it’s simpler than that, though.  People are just afraid of what they don’t know.  Plenty of baseball fans hated Jackie Robinson when he first started playing but 60 years later, the biggest stars in the game are a veritable rainbow coalition.  25 years from now, we’ll be telling similar stories about gay marriage.

Here’s the thing.  Marriage is supposed to be about two people who love each other committing to live and work together.  Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t but the sexuality of the person has nothing to do with their ability to love or make a commitment.  If you want to simplify things even further, here are two examples.  Kim Kardashian had a “traditional” marriage.  This gentleman’s two mothers did not.

Now, would you rather have his two moms as parents or Kim Kardashian?

-A

Notes from a Semi-Regular Tradition

Sunday was my first opportunity to get to the ballpark in 2012, so I grabbed a friend, put on some summery clothes and headed to Sox Park for Jackie Robinson Day!

I’ve seen some great baseball on Jackie Robinson Days past, all of which were pitchers duels (my drug of choice), but with a Rick Porcello v. Chris Sale matchup looming, I wasn’t expecting much.  The pair would end up surprising me, but that wasn’t all:

  • This was the FIRST April baseball game in Chicago I have ever attended where a hat, gloves and scarf were not needed. No joke. I was in a t-shirt. Sweating at times.
  • Miggy can play D. I hung two stars on my scorecard for him, including a barehanded grab-and-throw that nailed a speedy Alexei Ramirez at first.
  • I understand the importance of Jackie Robinson Day and all, but is it necessary that EVERY player and EVERY coach wears the same number 42? It is a scorecard junkie’s worst nightmare! Every time I looked up I had no idea who was doing what.
  • And those ugly throwback ’72 Sunday home game red-pinstriped White Sox unis didn’t last past the 70s for a reason. They are HIDEOUS. Throw them out! Along with Alex Rios!
  • It was a day game. Sure it was a bit overcast, but there was sunlight. Plenty of it. But that didn’t stop the White Sox personnel from turning ALL the stadium lights on like it was a night game! There was WAAAAY too much light. WASTED light! I know ‘Merica is a nation of excess, but good grief.
  • Despite the new uniform, Prince Fielder is still fat.

Hate me ‘cuz I take tedious notes, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right!

Peace,

Jeff

Only You can Prevent the Hipster-pocalypse

It used to be that when people heard the word “Brooklyn,” they thought of the Dodgers and Jackie Robinson.  The Bronx has the Yankees and all their history but there was something magical about the Brooklyn Dodgers.  However, when Walter O’Malley uprooted and replanted the team about as far away from Brooklyn as you could probably get, it left a vacuum in the borough that had to be filled by something.  Unfortunately, that void has been filled by something even more nefarious than the Mets or Yankees.  Brooklyn has now become synonymous with “hipster.”

I’d like to see Brooklyn reclaim its past glory.  This is the land of Robinson and Koufax but now it has become more associated with this:

No matter how you feel about New York and its boroughs, as a baseball fan that has to make you angry.

So I’m proposing that Jay-Z bring the Dodgers back to Brooklyn.  He has already been working on getting the Nets out there so why not the Dodgers as well?  Sure, I realize that it will mess up the divisions just as some sense of order has finally been restored.  And combining a Brooklyn team with the Mets in Queens and the Yankees in the Bronx would make ESPN just that much more NYC/East Coast focused.  But it’s not like LA has done much for the Dodgers.

So, how about it Mr. Z?  Will you save Brooklyn (and all of us) from the hipster-pocalypse?

-A

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THE FILIBUSTER settles back into the Sunday slot at RSBS in one week!   No matter what the query, send it to RSBSBlog@gmail.com and we’ll let you know what we think.

Putting Aside the Smarminess

Young_John_Donaldson.jpgWe tend towards the smarmy and irreverent over here.  Actually, “tend” probably isn’t a strong enough word.  We “tend” towards smarmy like Kyle Farnsworth “tends” towards being a cry-baby pansy.  If you had any doubts about our smarminess, that last sentence should have erased them.

Every once in a while, though, we run into a story that softens even our jaded hearts.  Don’t worry, I’m not about to get all Mitch Albom here.  In fact, I’ll probably go punch a baby polar bear as soon as I’m done writing this just to prove I’m not going soft.  That being said, the story of John Donaldson might just get to you, too.

John Klima recently wrote a moving tribute to Peter Gorton and his search for John Donaldson.  However, what got me most in the story was that beyond his ability as a ballplayer, Donaldson was way ahead of his time when it came to professionalism.  During Curtis Granderson’s tenure with the Tigers, he wrote a blog for ESPN and I liked to check it out from time to time because he always had an interesting take on events. Donaldson did the same thing 100 years earlier and his criticism of early 20th century racism still hits home today: “If I act the part of a gentleman, am I not entitled to a little respect?”

Unfortunately for Donaldson, it took another 30 years for Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier and only now are his exploits coming to light.  From an apparent 18-inning, 31 strikeout game to suggesting a name for the most famous Negro League team, the Kansas City Monarchs, Donaldson seems to be a legend come to life.  But once again his exploits on the field pale in comparison to the person he seems to have been off of it.  Can you imagine any current major leaguer recounting this story?:

“One prominent baseball man in fact offered me a nice sum if I would go
to Cuba, change my name and let him take me into this country as a
Cuban.  It would mean renouncing my family. One of the
agreements was that I was never again to visit my mother or have
anything to do with colored people. I refused. I am not ashamed of my
color.”

Don’t worry, we’ll get back to the smarminess and irreverence tomorrow.  Every once in a while, though, it’s nice to pay tribute to a hero of the game.  Even if only half the stories are true, John Donaldson makes it in my book.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a baby polar bear to punch.

-A

We All Lose

terry_jones.jpg

Special days historically fall prey to those who use them for their own gain.  Like when god decided to send Jesus to earth on Christmas and then have him die on Easter.  Seriously, you’re god and that’s the best you could do?

It’s no different now.  From simple and relatively justified things like MLB putting players in pink for Breast Cancer awareness or having everyone wear number 42 to commemorate Jackie Robinson to things that don’t quite feel right like Glenn Beck marching on the National Mall and claiming the mantle of MLK on the anniversary of the “I have a Dream” speech, these days give both demagogues and dissenters context for their issues.

Sadly, most of the time it’s the demagogues who get the coverage.  I have spent a bit of time in Muslim countries and most of the people I have met are nice people who want to make a living and provide for their families.  Yes, they’re serious about their religion but they don’t use it as an excuse for violence. 

So what’s the point in getting them riled up by staging a Quran burning?  I know the event has been canceled and I know that the pastor of a small church in Florida does not deserve as much coverage as he has been given.  But when David Petraeus, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama and the Southern Baptist convention all agree that what you’re doing is a bad idea, maybe it’s time to stop and rethink.

As odious as the planned act may be, even worse is the day on which it falls.  Sometimes a Saturday
is more than just a Saturday.  Like when it’s September 11th.  Using a day like today that should be reserved for contemplation and mourning as a vehicle for the same kind of bilious beliefs that fueled the hijackers nine years ago means we all lose.

I preferred it when September 11th had no meaning, when it wasn’t a special day.  But that is no longer possible.  So maybe it’s time that people stop grandstanding and allow this day to have one simple message.  Hate kills.  That goes for Terry Jones, Glenn Beck and Michael Moore just as much as it does for Bin Laden.

-A

The Filibuster

On The Heirloom (my blog), I pondered out loud about the potential
of an out gay/bi ballplayer in today’s game. Your thoughts?

Randy S.
Robbinsdale,
MN
http://heirloom.mlblogs.com
____________________________________

billy_bean.jpgThat’s a great question, Randy, especially in today’s climate of suspense surrounding “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and the California ballot initiative.  In the past few years we’ve seen a couple football players come out of the closet along with a basketball player or two.  Baseball, of course, has Billy Bean.  But the one thing that all of these guys have in common is that they didn’t come out until after their careers were over.  I think that says a lot about the continued repressive climate in professional sports.

However, I don’t think this really comes as a surprise.  Sports have the power to do good but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  When Jackie Robinson finally broke into the major leagues, the Civil War had been over for 80 years and the 13th Amendment had been around nearly as long.  But that didn’t mean baseball felt any need to allow black players into the league and it definitely didn’t mean the fans immediately accepted it.

The difference here is that skin color is something immediately apparent, something you can’t necessarily hide.  That made the conflict much more apparent as well.  But sexuality you can hide and many gay athletes choose to take that route because it’s simpler.  Why confront the issue and suffer the very real consequences when you can choose to step around it?

That’s one reason why baseball is still looking for its gay trailblazer, a guy who can step up and proudly say that he’s out before heading to the ballpark to do his job, ignoring the slurs and comments. 

But there’s another aspect to this that we need to remember.  Jackie wasn’t just any ballplayer.  He was an All-Star, a guy who played on a winning team and who was one of the leaders of that team.  If a Ryan Howard, an Albert Pujols or a Tim Lincecum were to come out and then continue to perform at the same level, it could have the same effect as Robinson.  But some ordinary Joe, a roleplayer who has to grind it out, sadly, that just doesn’t mean the same thing.

This is an important distinction.  The only reason that anyone still talks about Billy Bean is because of his coming out story.  He was an adequate ballplayer but that’s it.  Yes, Jackie was black but he also was the Rookie of the Year, won an MVP and was elected into the Hall of Fame.  He didn’t let himself be defined as a black ballplayer; he was a great ballplayer who happened to be black. 

In order to truly overcome the stigma of being gay, an out ballplayer would have to transcend his sexuality.  That’s the point when he truly becomes accepted and that’s the point when it becomes easier for other ballplayers to come out and join him.  But until that time, it’s going to be a difficult road.

Statistically, it’s nearly impossible that there are no gay or bi baseball players in the game today.  And like you pointed out in your post, when respected guys like Ken Griffey, Jr. and Joe Torre say they would welcome out ballplayers on their team, you would like to think that a change is coming.  But I’m afraid we still have a ways to go.

-A