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Thursday PITCH n’ Bitch: The Ugly Sport Of Black Balling August 27, 2009

Film Still of Negro League Baseball 1946 (American Film Archives)

Film Still of Negro League Baseball 1946 (American Film Archives)

Several days ago, I wrote a post comparing politics to America’s greatest past time – baseball. Particular emphasis was placed upon “the rookie” players as being those in which we place great hope and expectations.  A story today in the Chicago Tribune about Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley and racism made me realize that I neglected to mention that of course we place high expectations on players that are seasoned as well.

Image of negro League baseball catcher Josh Gibson throwing mask into air. Gibson (1911-1947) played professionally for the Homestead Grays and was called the "Black Babe Ruth" (Carnegie Museum)

Image of negro League baseball catcher Josh Gibson throwing mask into air. Gibson (1911-1947) played professionally for the Homestead Grays and was called the "Black Babe Ruth" (Carnegie Museum)

The Chicago Tribune

Milton Bradley accuses some fans of racial taunts

But Chicago Cubs outfielder offers no examples of such abuse

By Paul Sullivan
August 27, 2009

An angry Milton Bradley lashed out at his treatment from Cubs fans Wednesday, suggesting he has been the victim of racial abuse at Wrigley Field.

But Bradley declined to give specifics, saying no one wanted to listen to him.

“America doesn’t believe in racism,” he said sarcastically before repeating the remark.

Speaking to beat writers in the Cubs clubhouse Wednesday before their 9-4 victory over the Nationals, Bradley was asked to clarify his comments from Tuesday night, when he said he faced “hatred” on a daily basis.

To what exactly was Bradley referring?

“I’m talking about hatred, period,” he said. “I’m talking about when I go to eat at a restaurant, I have to listen to the waiters bad-mouthing me at another table, sitting in a restaurant, that’s what I’m talking about — everything.”


In January, Milton Bradley signed a 3 year contract with the Cubs for $30 million dollars.  In Chicago, that comes with a lot of expectations. Baseball fans can be loyal, especially Cubs fans. Things can get a little nasty late in the season. Experiencing harassment from exasperated and intoxicated fans is not something that is endemic to being a baseball player of color. Every sports player experiences it on some level- even the great Babe Ruth.   Which brings me to the seasoned player. Back to politics.  Facing declining poll numbers New York governor David Peterson, an African American alluded to racism as the cause for his woes.

Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder James (“Cool Papa”) Bell and manager “Candy Jim” Taylor, at a Negro league game between the Chicago American Giants and New York Black Yankees, 1942. © Bettmann/Corbis

Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder James (“Cool Papa”) Bell and manager “Candy Jim” Taylor, at a Negro league game between the Chicago American Giants and New York Black Yankees, 1942. © Bettmann/Corbis

Fox News

Efforts to Rein in Gov. Paterson’s Racial Rants

August 25, 2009

By Bret Baier

Prominent African-Americans and officials in the administration of the first black president are trying to rein in what some are calling the racial rants of New York Democratic Governor David Paterson.

Friday in the New York Daily News, the governor blamed his political woes and those of Massachusetts counterpart, Deval Patrick, on race: “We’re not in the post-racial period. The reality is the next victim on the list — and you can see it coming — is President Barack Obama.”

The New York Post reports the White House was quick to send a private and pointed message to the governor to keep the president out of Paterson’s political problems. White House spokesman Bill Burton said publicly: “Whether or not race plays into [criticism] I don’t think it is the case. The president doesn’t think it’s the case.”

Paterson continued the theme Monday saying to that some people are uncomfortable with too many powerful African-Americans: “Part of what I feel is that one very successful minority is permissible, but when you see too many success stories then some people get nervous.”

Satchel Pages ALL STARS 1946

Satchel Pages ALL STARS 1946

I do not feel that any of these comments are productive no matter how valid the claims. Like manic sports fans, political constituents will get critical. Poll numbers go up. Poll numbers go down. Unfortunately that comes with the life of being a politician. It has nothing to do with race.

But then again doesn’t everything have to do with race nowadays in this post-racial America that we are so blessed to live in?

Josh Gibson slides into home base at East-West All-Star Negro league baseball game in Chicago, 1944

Josh Gibson slides into home base at East-West All-Star Negro league baseball game in Chicago, 1944

Again, can someone tell me why in the age of electing an African American to the presidency, have the claims of racism against blacks increased rather than decreased?

I have been to a few Chicago Cubs games. Admittedly, there are more African Americans who are Chicago White Sox fans. The White Sox reside on the city’s South side which is predominately blue collar, African American and has large Irish constituency near what used to be Kominsky Park (now Cellular Field).

The Chicago Cubs play at Wrigley Field on the North side of the city which is predominately Caucasian professionals.

President Barack Obama has openly claimed to be a White Sox fan, as well as Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley- who are black and Irish respectively. Being the trend breaker, I living in the middle of the city, somehow gravitated towards the Cubs.

Quickly, I noticed that I was on wrong side of the bleachers. I was in the minority at the games I attended but I never heard any racists comments hurled at black players or myself.

Cubbies home run king Sammy Sosa was well loved in Chicago. African American shortstop Ernie Banks is known as being “Mr. Cubs.”.

1939 Negro Laegue All Star Team. (Image from Center for Negro League Baseball Research)

1939 Negro Laegue All Star Team. (Image from Center for Negro League Baseball Research)

According to sources on Negro League baseball, Caucasian major league players made $2,000 in 1905. A minor league player made, $500, and Negro League players made $466.

What any typical major league baseball player makes today, such as Milton Bradley’s 3 year $30 million dollar contract with the Chicago Cubs is a far cry from what Satchel Page of Josh Gibson made in 1946. Satchel or Josh would have never imagined the financial success of Sammy Sosa, Daryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Barry Bonds, Reggie Jackson, A-Rod,  Tony Gwynn, Albert Puljols or the many other famous baseball players of color that would follow his career in the Negro league.

I would hope that African American baseball players and politicians alike would experience financial success of today without the racism faced by their ancestors during yester-year. I must explore this further. There are only 40 or so games left in the season but I will attempt to secure a ticket to a Cubs game in order to witness any racism towards Milton Bradley or other black players for myself. I will keep you posted.

Autographed Letter Signed,



“Maybe Next Term”: Portrait of a Presidential Rookie August 25, 2009

Image From Big Fur Hat/I Own The

Image From Big Fur Hat/I Own The

I want to thank my dear reader “Bud White” for drawing to my attention, yesterday’s Wall Street Journal piece entitled, “Obama’s Summer of Discontent”

Such realistic dialogue coming from the media is refreshing is to see as it exposes the tensions between our rookie president and his supporters. Obviously I am using the term “supporters” in a broad sense.

Voters are supporters.

Corporations are supporters as many contributed money to Obama’s presidential campaign fund. Despite what our president promised during his campaign, there is now some proof surfacing that lobbyists (the dreaded “L” word) actually did have a hand in his election.

Unions are supporters and while it is unethical, the various media outlets can be construed as supporters. Only a supporter would describe a “tingling feeling” up his leg while delivering “the news” to a public audience.

In yesterday’s Autographed Letter Signed posting, I highlighted a Washington Examiner article with a somewhat similar title to that of the WSJ piece. Penned, “The thrill is gone for Obama and the media”, as if on cue, we are beginning to the media come to their senses.

With any rookie, we want him to succeed if he is on our team and even if he is not, he is still playing the same game that effects us all.

One misstep on the part of a rookie president could resonate as a tremendous loss for all Americans of all political persuasions.

You may ask why I chose to allude to Obama as a “rookie” ? Isn’t every first term president a rookie? Sure, but some are more wet behind the ears than others as noted in this aforementioned Wall Street Journal opinion piece.

Obama’s Summer of Discontent
The politics of charisma is so Third World. Americans were never going to buy into it for long.


The leader would be different things to different people. The Obama coalition was the coming together of disparate groups: the white professional liberals seeking absolution for the country in the election of an African-American man, the opponents of the Iraq war who grew more strident as the project in Iraq was taking root, the African-American community that had been invested in the Clintons and then came around out of an understandable pride in one of its own.

The last segment of the electorate to flock to the Obama banners were the blue-collar workers who delivered him Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana. He was not their man. They fully knew that he didn’t share their culture. They were, by his portrait, clinging to their guns and religion, but the promise of economic help, and of protectionism, carried the day with them.

The Obama devotees were the victims of their own belief in political magic. The devotees could not make up their minds. In a newly minted U.S. senator from Illinois, they saw the embodiment of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Like Lincoln, Mr. Obama was tall and thin and from Illinois, and the historic campaign was launched out of Springfield. The oath of office was taken on the Lincoln Bible. Like FDR, he had a huge economic challenge, and he better get it done, repair and streamline the economy in his “first hundred days.” Like JFK, he was young and stylish, with a young family.

All this hero-worship before Mr. Obama met his first test of leadership. In reality, he was who he was, a Chicago politician who had done well by his opposition to the Iraq war. He had run a skillful campaign, and had met a Clinton machine that had run out of tricks and a McCain campaign that never understood the nature of the contest of 2008.

Artist Norman Rockwell's "The Rookie"

Artist Norman Rockwell's "The Rookie"

Did you know that my favorite sport is baseball?

My two favorite teams are the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox. Being a Chicagoan makes the Cubs a likely connection for me, the Red Sox not so likely. Graduate school in Boston is what indoctrinated me into the RED SOX NATION.

Red Sox fever was contagious, I lived across the street from Fenway Park. Boston being a walking town, made for nice spring time walks down Boylston Street. On game days, the “T” was crowded, antiquated and slow.

Coming home from Harvard, I would take the red line “T” to Newberry Street and walk the rest of the way home. The sidewalks were filled with families padded with bottled water and Red Sox nation gear.

At the time, Boston had not yet captured a World Series Championship. The fans did not care, they still paid big bucks to see their team beat the “Curse of the Babino”

That year, the Red Sox and the Cubs had a lot in common. Both teams had a large number of devotees despite their comparative losing streaks. If you were either a Cubs or a Red Sox fan you were well acquainted with the “summer of discontent”.

While growing up, not only did I watch every Cubs game faithfully on the television, I also took trips to my local library to read sports magazines about baseball.

To me baseball was life and it was a game that made sense. By comparison, football was just a bunch of guys on a field who liked to pile up on each other but baseball was a mental sport. It was more civilized and a damn good way to pass three hours of time when I wanted to forget about my problems. Given that the first live Cubs game I would ever see in person would be at the old Yankee Stadium in 2005, I was a pretty loyal armchair fan as mother and I could never afford tickets to see the Cubs play at Wrigley.

My loser team was lovable and “Maybe Next Year” became my mantra.

To what extent I actually believed that the Cubs would ever win a World Series was questionable.

However, in baseball is there really distinction between reality and fantasy?

If so, does that distinction extend to the realm of politics? After all we now play fantasy baseball. Is there such a glorious beast as a fantasy president?

Ajami continues:

…He was no FDR, and besides the history of the depression—the real history—bears little resemblance to the received narrative of the nation instantly rescued, in the course of 100 days or 200 days, by an interventionist state. The economic distress had been so deep and relentless that FDR began his second term, in 1937, with the economy still in the grip of recession.

Nor was JFK about style. He had known military service and combat, and familial loss; he had run in 1960 as a hawk committed to the nation’s victory in the Cold War. He and his rival, Richard Nixon, shared a fundamental outlook on American power and its burdens.

Now that realism about Mr. Obama has begun to sink in, these iconic figures of history had best be left alone. They can’t rescue the Obama presidency. Their magic can’t be his. Mr. Obama isn’t Lincoln with a BlackBerry. Those great personages are made by history, in the course of history, and not by the spinners or the smitten talking heads.

In His painting "The Dugout" Norman Rockwell, captures the fate of the Chicago Cubs on May 23, 1948

In His painting "The Dugout" Norman Rockwell, captures the fate of the Chicago Cubs on May 23, 1948

When we are rooting for a losing team, we place much hope in “the rookie”. The rookie will give the seasoned guys a shot in the arm via envy or a renewed sense of enthusiasm for the game. With the Cubs, my favorite rookie was pitcher Greg Maddux. In September of 1986, Maddux started for the Cubs and was the youngest pitcher in the MLB. His first outing resulted in a complete game win for the Cubs. Maddux was my hero as Cubs rookie pitcher Kerry Woods would become nearly a decade later. Is this fair to the rookie, to become the end all and be all for a team? To become the “hope and change” that they hunger for?

…Ronald Reagan, it should be recalled, had been swept into office by a wave of dissatisfaction with Jimmy Carter and his failures. At the core of the Reagan mission was the recovery of the nation’s esteem and self-regard. Reagan was an optimist. He was Hollywood glamour to be sure, but he was also Peoria, Ill. His faith in the country was boundless, and when he said it was “morning in America” he meant it; he believed in America’s miracle and had seen it in his own life, in his rise from a child of the Depression to the summit of political power.

The failure of the Carter years was, in Reagan’s view, the failure of the man at the helm and the policies he had pursued at home and abroad. At no time had Ronald Reagan believed that the American covenant had failed, that America should apologize for itself in the world beyond its shores. There was no narcissism in Reagan. It was stirring that the man who headed into the sunset of his life would bid his country farewell by reminding it that its best days were yet to come.

In contrast, there is joylessness in Mr. Obama. He is a scold, the “Yes we can!” mantra is shallow, and at any rate, it is about the coming to power of a man, and a political class, invested in its own sense of smarts and wisdom, and its right to alter the social contract of the land. In this view, the country had lost its way and the new leader and the political class arrayed around him will bring it back to the right path.

"The Three Umpires" by Norman Rockwell

"The Three Umpires" by Norman Rockwell

That being quoted, I will pose my question again.

Is it fair to the rookie to become the end all and be all for a team (country)?

I suppose the answer depends upon the rookie in question.

Autographed Letter Signed,



Maybe Next YEAR CUBBIES!!!!