“It’s a wonderful feeling to be a bridge to the past and to unite generations. The sport of baseball does that, and I am just a part of it.” – Vin Scully
Baseball is finally addressing its racist past, despite what the esteemed Mr. Scully said above a few decades ago. For far too long, we ignored the fact that people of all races and colors played the game, and that many were excluded because of a bigoted hatred that lasted four score beyond the end of the Civil War. The game itself is considered by many to be the national pastime, yet the narrative will forever be tainted by a large handful of men who refused to desegregate the sport until Jackie Robinson shredded that barrier in 1947.
If you’ve seen the grandiose mini-series Baseball by Ken Burns, you are probably familiar with the following passage attributed to Michael Aubrecht, author of the book Baseball in Blue and Gray: The National Pastime During the Civil War.
“It is considered America’s National Pastime, but far more than just a mere sporting event, baseball has become a major part of the American consciousness. In their book The Pictorial History of Baseball, John S. Bowman and Joel Zoss stated, ‘As part of the fabric of American culture, baseball is the common social ground between strangers, a world of possibilities and of chance, where it’s never over till it’s over.’ Rooted in the American Spirit, rich in legends, folklore and history, it is ultimately a timeless tradition where every game is a new nine-inning chapter and every participant has the chance to be a hero.”
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) December 17, 2020
After yesterday’s announcement by MLB, which corrects the game’s biggest oversight, approximately 3,400 men who played in seven Negro Leagues between 1920 and 1948 will stand on equal footing with the long supposed greats of the game, with their statistics folded into those of their white contemporaries. It is both appropriate and, as the league stated, “long overdue.”
Now every home run hit by Josh Gibson counts, as does every pitch Satchel Paige ever threw. The inclusion of nearly three decades of statistics doesn’t diminish what Robinson did for the game when he first donned a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform in the spring of ’47, nor does it completely erase the stain left on professional baseball by every general manager or team owner before Branch Rickey. It does, however, end the notion that the biggest stars in professional baseball, a game whose formative years coincided with America’s’ Civil War, were white men only.
“Modern baseball had been born in the brain of an American soldier. It received its baptism in the bloody days of our Nation’s [most dire] danger. It had its early evolution when soldiers, North and South, were striving to forget their foes by cultivating, through this grand game, fraternal friendship with comrades in arms.” – Albert Spalding
In 1865, soldiers from the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, unaware of Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, temporarily put their differences aside to play a game of baseball during what they believed to be a still-active war.
By distancing itself from its prejudiced past, baseball finally did the right thing. Let’s hope the game continues to honor those players in ways that go beyond just recognizing 28 years of statistics. I certainly hope it won’t be long before Baseball-Reference adds all of those players to its database.
Cubs News & Notes
- David Ross met with members of the media Wednesday and admitted that he failed in some instances during his first year as a manager.
- The sophomore manager also said that outfielder Ian Happ will bat leadoff in 2021 unless the Cubs acquire a better candidate this winter.
- Ross also said it wasn’t a big surprise when Theo Epstein stepped aside last month and general manager Jed Hoyer took over as president of baseball operations.
- MLB has told league managers that they can expect to start Spring Training on time, but Ross believes nothing is set in stone.
- Echoing what Hoyer said earlier this week, the Cubs skipper admitted he hopes the team will find a way to bring back Jon Lester, though isn’t as hopeful about slugger Kyle Schwarber returning after being non-tendered two weeks ago.
- It was strictly procedural, but the team announced that it has finalized its coaching staff for the upcoming season.
Odds & Sods
No overload of analytics, no preponderance of graphics, and no mention of Statcast. Once upon a time, my friends, baseball was just a game and Cal Ripken Jr. facing Mike Witt was the perfect excuse for Scully to entertain us.
Random 80s at bat (Mike Witt vs Cal Ripken Jr. in 1987). pic.twitter.com/USw6xpegOm
— Stirrups Now! (@uniformcritic) December 17, 2020
Despite having coveted Schwarber for years, the Yankees don’t sound very interested in the free agent slugger.
To sleep, perchance to dream…
No masks or social distancing in Sydney for the start of the @ABL ⚾️ season…
…they have just 12 new covid cases in the whole country, well played, Australia! pic.twitter.com/D84wihv5QE
— Baseball Brit (@BaseballBrit) December 17, 2020
They Said It
- “I remember one game I got five hits and stole five bases, but none of it was written down because they didn’t bring the scorebook to the game that day. They used to say, ‘If we find a good black player, we’ll sign him.’ They was lying.” – Cool Papa Bell
- “We in the Negro leagues felt like we were contributing something to baseball, too, when we were playing. We played with a round ball, and we played with a round bat. And we wore baseball uniforms, and we thought that we were making a contribution to baseball. We loved the game, and we liked to play it, and in the Negro Leagues, I played every day.” – Buck Leonard.
Thursday Walk Up Song
Say it Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud) by James Brown.