Results 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

The Filibuster

The Phoenix Suns gave us the “Los Suns” jerseys. What are the chances we
see “Los Tigres” or “Los D’backs”?

Charles L.
Jeffersonville,
IN

____________________________________

roberto_clemente.jpgExcellent question, Charles.  And very a propos considering all that has been going on down there on the border.  It’s also an interesting question because baseball is a sport dominated by Latin players.  If you’ll forgive me for making a very broad generalization, Hispanic-Americans love baseball and also seem to be unfairly targeted by what has been going on.  So, what do we do?

Well, it’s nice that the Suns made this display of solidarity especially since it’s their state.  And baseball has already been in the business of reaching out to the Latino community since the days of Roberto Clemente.  But it takes more than some slogans on a t-shirt.  Yes, it’s an important gesture but sports are such an integral part of the fabric of America that there’s much more they can do to educate people. 

And when it comes to education, no sport is quite out front of the curve like baseball.  Roberto Clemente paved the way for Latinos in baseball but he also made them more visible in society.  It goes without saying that Jackie Robinson’s impact rippled far beyond the confines of the stadiums in which he played.

In fact, even now baseball has an unprecedented ability to make a huge impact in this situation.  No, they can’t overturn the law.  But they could encourage all the teams that use Arizona as a spring training base to move out and even offer financial incentives to teams who choose to do so.  If they wanted to do something really drastic, why not say that the Diamondbacks will have to play their home games in a neighboring state until the situation is addressed.  No, MLB can’t overturn the law but they can make it mighty painful for those who enacted it.

Baseball is sport but it’s also business. And one of the touchstones for businesses recently is the idea of corporate social responsibility.  Companies give back to the communities in which they operate and attempt to show that they are good citizens.  Well, considering the make up of the league and its most rabid fan base, baseball’s corporate social responsibility would seem to extend directly to this situation.

Sports and particularly baseball have the ability to change society.  Cute translations of teams’ names makes for good press and nice t-shirts but if they really want to take up the mantle once again and make a real difference, more drastic action is needed.  So let’s see it Bud.  Have the D’backs play their home games in Vegas or Albuquerque and let’s see how long this law stays on the books.  Jim Crow didn’t last long after Jackie.  I bet SB1070 wouldn’t either.

-A

The Filibuster

holy+cow.jpgA few weeks ago Milton Bradley very publicly decried the racist
comments hurled at him from the bleachers at Wrigley.  But since he
wouldn’t give specifics the press has been having a field day, claiming
he’s making it all up.  It blows my mind how blind they are.  I’m no
fan of Milton’s, but you can’t walk through Wrigleyville without seeing
someone in a “Pujols Mows My Lawn” shirt, or those famous “Horry Kow!”
Fukudome shirts.  I think in this case he’s absolutely right, and the
press would rather continue to crap all over the guy than grudgingly
admit that he has a point.

Ted
Chicago, IL

____________________________________

As much as soccer is the world’s game, baseball is still America’s game. And as games and culture tend to do, it reflects much about a nation’s character. If you watch soccer you know that the Germans play a very methodical game much like the methodical German people. Same goes for the “beautiful game” played by the Brazilians.

But what does this recent statement from Milton Bradley say about the state of our nation? Well, if you paid attention at all during the Presidential race last year, you know that Ted and Milton definitely have a point.

The state of race relations in this country has not come all that far since the times of the king of the racists, Ty Cobb, or Jackie Robinson’s first foray across the color lines. We may pretty it up these days with Rainbow coalitions and politically correct buzz-words but the fact of the matter is, there has never been an actual, frank discussion about race in this country despite what we’d like to lead ourselves to believe. As much as it pains me to say it, Cubs’ fans are not the problem. They’re nothing more than a symptom of the problem.

It’s not exactly the same thing but this reminds me of being in Wrigleyville a couple years ago late at night. I was walking with a few guys and there had definitely been some drinking going on. As we walked to find a cab, some thin young guy came hurrying down the street toward us and one of the guys in the group jumped at him and then started harassing him, calling him “f@g” this and “f@g” that. This poor guy was scared sh!tless and the rest of us were too stunned to even say anything. Finally someone pulled the guy from our group away and he looked around at us like it was the funniest thing ever. As the guy who had been getting harassed walked away as quickly as possible, the rest of us just stared at this d0uchebag standing there obliviously with a huge grin on his face, all of us still shocked at what had happened.

And again, it’s symptomatic. Racism and homophobia come from the same place and the fact that neither one has ever been dealt with directly in this country means that it will continue to go on. Whether or not someone said what Milton says he heard is not the point. The fact that we really shouldn’t be surprised that it happened is.

-A

Expos Jersey = Instant Notoriety

All Star Weekend 7.13.2009 038.jpgI am not so full of myself that I believe everyone wanted
a piece of me during yesterday’s All-Star festivities; but wearing
throwback gear from a team long dead certainly gave me an edge.  As a
walking memory, representing Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Delino
Deshields with porn ‘stache swagger, I was definitely drawing
attention.  Unfortunately, the security people holding me back at field
level, blocking my attempts at getting a word with Erin Andrews did not
find me as irresistible.

“I need to talk to Erin Andrews.” I told them with confidence.

“Why?”

“Because, it’s my destiny.”

“Get the hell outta here before I throw you the hell outta here.”

‘Nuff said.

Oh
well.  Had to keep my head up.  I was part of the Homerun Derby.  Busch
III was electric.  And despite all the partying, I was somehow still
alive.

The Derby?  Well, it was what I thought it’d be: very
exciting for the first half hour, then pretty boring after that. 
Several balls came close to us in our right field seats, but one guy –
the SAME GUY — caught two balls (one from Ryan Howard and one from Joe
Mauer) and after standing for the three hour event and being
shot down by Erin’s handlers before I even had a chance, I ended up
leaving Busch III ball-less… well, sorta.  Anyway, here are some pics
from Fanfest and the evening’s homerun contest.  Click on them for
closer view.

The ticket:

Thumbnail image for All Star Weekend 7.13.2009 001.jpg
Big Balls:

All Star Weekend 7.13.2009 005.jpg

All Star Weekend 7.13.2009 027.jpg
Three of the ten World Series trophies the Cardinals have brought home.  Read ‘em and weep, sCrUBBIE fans:

All Star Weekend 7.13.2009 008.jpg
Me and Jackie’s duds:

All Star Weekend 7.13.2009 011.jpgMy best impression of an irate Cub:

Thumbnail image for All Star Weekend 7.13.2009 026.jpgThe ‘Lou:

All Star Weekend 7.13.2009 031.jpgSome random guy excited to see me… gee, I wonder why?

All Star Weekend 7.13.2009 043.jpgThe view from our seats:

All Star Weekend 7.13.2009 068.jpgConcentration or solace in my futile attempts at meeting Erin?

All Star Weekend 7.13.2009 053.jpgJ.W. and I… still sober?  What’s wrong with this picture!?!?!

All Star Weekend 7.13.2009 066.jpgOkay, y’all.  I’m gearing
up for the big game tonight, Molina jersey on my back, praying the that
the National League doesn’t embarrass me… again.  This would be as good
a time as any for us to win this thing (not that I really care) and I
have a feeling I’ll have a better shot at meeting President Obama than
I will Ms. Andrews.

She doesn’t know what she’s missing.

Hate me ‘cuz I’m here, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeff

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