South Philadelphia Youth Baseball Team Barnstorms to MLB All Star Game

image

Here’s something that I really think is neat and should be a once in a lifetime experience. An under 12 all star baseball team based out of the Marian Anderson Recreation Center in South Philadelphia is going to reenact a Negro League barnstorming tour to honor the memory of the League and Jackie Robinson. The Anderson Monarchs will travel from Brooklyn, NY (Jackie Robinson’s gravesite) to Kansas City, MO for Major League Baseball’s All Star and back across the country to Philadelphia for a homecoming party and a short trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

The team has set up ways people can get involved, from volunteering or picking out a few things the team might need on tour via a wishlist. The Anderson Monarchs are on Facebook and Twitter so there’s easy ways to follow their tour and hopefully I can catch the team once they get back into the Philly area. I wish the team and the parents the best of luck and safe travels.

Posted in Negro League Baseball Museum, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

50 Years Ago Today Buck O’Neill Broke A Huge Barrier

This is a short blog entry but it has to with one of baseball’s greatest ambassadors, former Negro Leaguer Joe “Buck” O’Neal. Though not celebrated as much as Jackie Robinson’s 1st game as a Brooklyn Dodger, breaking baseball’s color barrier, 50 years ago on this date, Buck O’Neal became the 1st black to be named a coach of a Major League team, a Chicago Cubs scout that helped brlng among others, Lou Brock and George Altman to the Northsiders. More about Buck’s time as a Cubs scout can be found here and here

image

The only downside in Buck being a Cubs scout was that he never was promoted to a base coach position let alone getting a shot as a manager and this reminds of this classic column written by Chicago Tribune Sports Columnist Mike Royko. Mike brings up some good points about the the post World War II Cubs inability to get in quicker on signing black baseball players and drain it too on the organization for years to come. I wonder Wwhat he’d thought of Buck O’Neil’s time as a Cubs scout. Probably along the lines of its a positive start but Buck should have a bigger role on the team.

But again today is Buck’s day where he made history and every time I think of him, not only his baseball knowledge comes to mind, his fun and witty thoughts come to mind:

“Never pass a girl in a red dress.”
  -Joe “Buck” O’Neal

Best way to end a story about Buck right? Congrats sir on breaking the color line Major League coaching.

Posted in Negro League Baseball Museum, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rawlings and the Negro Baseball League Museum to pick 9 Gold Glovers from the Negro Leagues

Short entry but this is pretty exciting to me. Rawlings and the Negro League Museum are going to pick the 9 best fielders in the history of the Negro Leagues. That’s over 2600 players to go from and while some of the big names like Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Ernie Banks show be on the list, hopefully some names you don’t hear about may make the list. I’m going to make some predictions and see how close I come

Pitcher: Satchel Paige

image

Catcher: Roy Campenella

image

1st Base: Josh Gibson

image

2nd Base: Jackie Robinson

image

Shortstop: Ernie Banks

image

3rd Base: Judy Johnson

image

Left Field: Hank Aaron
image

Center Field: Willie Mays image

Right Field: Cool Papa Bell image

Here’s a nice link with video explaining the effort that Rawlings and the NLM is under taking to bring back some buzz and money their coffers.

Posted in Negro League Baseball Museum | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Jackie Robinson and His Political Activism

So much has been said and written about Jackie Robinson’s impact during his playing days but what did he do with all the capital he’d built up as being a civil rights icon. Calling Jackie an icon while he was still playing and living really isn’t a stretch because his mere presence brought lasting change. But back to the question; what was Jackie’s impact after he was finished with the Dodgers?

One of the cool things that I’m running into with this blog is the delightful tangents you go through trying to find information on topics that most would assume are cut and dry. This is no different because I was over at MLB.com’s Jackie Robinson’s timeline and what I saw in 1960 was shocking to me; Jackie Robinson campaigning for Richard Nixon? Jackie and tricky Dick Nixon together? Now comes the tangent because just Jackie campaigned Nixon you just don’t throw a link on your blog and call it a day. I was curious on how they became associated with each another.

What few people seem to remember is Richard Nixon during his first run for President in 1960 it was that back in 1957 as Vice President he helped push through passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957. While the passage of the act would lead up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and would cause our country to make a sizable shift in how we treat and respect each other,  it really opened up a not so hidden secret that conservatives where voting republican to reflect their views. But back to Jackie and Nixon. After talking to both Kennedy and Nixon on the campaign trail he thought that his best chances of getting more civil rights legislation passed would be with Nixon.

Jackie did go out and campaign for Nixon, to the confusion and later disappointment of blacks all over the country. He gave up his bi-weekly column with the New York Post and took leave of his job to campaign for Nixon. 2 incidents made Jackie think he was on the wrong side for the 1960 election. The 1st was Nixon’s running mate, Henry Cabot Lodge, announced that if he and Nixon were elected, they would put a black man in the cabinet. The press hounded Nixon about Lodge’s statement til he released a tepid statement that said Lodge spoke for himself and Nixon wouldn’t be held to that promise. The 2nd incident was when Martin Luther King was sent to prison over a traffic violation and Jackie asked Nixon to ask for MLK’s release, he balked stating that he didn’t want to rock the racial boat. John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby ran with the opportunity to demand asking for MLK’s release, which made them very popular in the black community. Also Nixon never campaigned in Harlem, but Kennedy did. Jackie wanted to leave Nixon’s campaign but was too far committed in his mind to change.

Nixon didn’t want upset the conservative wing of the GOP. It was obvious to Jackie he wasn’t going to held to any promises to the black community to get votes during the election. Jackie’s idea was that blacks should be entrenched in both parties but he started to see the all white shift in the GOP start with Nixon in ’60 and finish in ’64 with the GOP nomination Barry Goldwater.

Jackie did find a politician that he could work with and get things done in the form of republican Nelson Rockerfeller. Nelson’s political stances could be consider to be liberal progressive. He was for improving the Civil Rights Act and was a strong advocate of giving minorities more opportunities getting state government jobs and assistance. Jackie had written a strongly worded letter to Rockerfeller demanding action on hiring more minorities in New York State. An ad hoc committee was formed and all the suggestions were enacted. Jackie decided to become on of his 6 national election co chairs for the 1964 republican primary. Rockerfeller preached a more aggressive stance with civil rights while Goldwater embraced the John Birch Society. Goldwater easily won and Jackie’s political influence took a big hit. He didn’t endorse Barry but he still stayed working the GOP side till the ’64 presidential election in which Johnson cruised past Goldwater to win re-election.

What was especially chilling from Jackie’s autobiography was how he and other blacks where treated on the GOP convention floor in San Francisco. It’s hard to imagine anyone trying to come at Jackie Robinson but they sure tried (excerpt from his autobiography). The hard right change to the GOP was complete.

Jackie for the most part devoted his energy to trying to start a bank and insurance agency that catered to blacks. He wanted to see black income being invested in businesses that created self reliance. In 1964 he created Freeman’s Bank and the Jackie Robinson Construction Company that primarily dealt with black and low income clients.

One final note is that while Jackie did spend a great deal of time with republicans, he didn’t consider himself a republican. He was stated as saying “I’m fiercely independent and I’m just look for who can deliver blacks real civil rights and real progress” And up til the day he died he did that and fought for respect and inclusion for the African-American

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Harry Kalas remembered 3 Years Later

Yesterday 3 years ago Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas passed out in the broadcast booth before an afternoon game in Washington DC against the Nationals. He never woke up.

I remember driving  around working for the US Census and it was about 1:30pm and I was listening to WMMR and the midday guy Pierre Robbeire had interrupted his show to announce that Harry was on his way to the hospital but efforts to revive him were unsuccessful at that point. I knew it was bad but I had hope that he’d pull through. To me as.long as I am a baseball fan I expected Harry to be there, a conductor to narrate the long season of baseball only the way he could. Even though current Phillies fans are enjoying these past years of winning, there were some long suffering years mixed in. Harry, Whitey (Richie Ashburn), PA announcer Dan Baker (try making the name Mickey Morandini sound smooth) and the Phillies Phanatic were the only constants of excellence during parts of the late 70s, late 80s, and the 90s sans 1993. Baseball’s journey will go on but it won’t be the same without Harry Kalas.

If there was one thing that I always thought would be great if I ever made it to the majors is that one day when I hit my 500th home run, Harry would call it like he did for Michael Jack Schmidt. If anyone wants to know why I’m a baseball, I let them listen to that.

Take care Harry. Say hi to my father even though he’s a Dodgers fan ;)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Los Angeles declares April 11th 2012 as Jackie Robinson Day

I’m a day late with this but the LA city council dedicated April 11th for Jackie Robinson in part cause this was the day 47 years ago he was signed by the Dodgers. A nice little write up on the day is here from the LA Daily News. Worth noting is that Jerry Hairston’s granddad Sam played against Jackie in the Negro Leagues.

As for the Dodgers they’re off to a hot start, 5-1, and looking to sweep the the improving but still young Pirates. With the new group of owners lead by Magic and the team being lead by Matt Kemp, (check out his custom made play station)
the Dodgers are looking like the real deal early in this season.

Oh yeah one more thing cause this post mainly focuses on Jackie and since we know he played his minor league ball in Montreal, there’s a group called the Montreal Baseball Project that wants to bring a minor league team to the city. The group is being lead by former Expos great Warren Cromartie and they have a few corporate sponsors onboard so hopefully they’ll be successful. Montreal is a nice city and I think the low stress persona is great for a minor league team to put down roots. I don’t think anyone liked how it ended for the Expos so maybe a new team will wipe that bad memory away.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Jackie Robinson and America’s big day

Today back in 1947 a second baseman playing Montreal Royals named Jackie Robinson was signed by Brooklyn Dodgers scout/general manager Branch Rickey. This turned out to be a quantum leap moment in the history of the United States. The pivot that this country made is almost unrivaled and while we still have a ways to go, and sometimes the earth may swallow us whole cause we can’t get past our differences, it was Branch Rickey’s faith and Jackie Robinson’s courage that proved if we all can work together and can achieve so much.

Along with Jackie’s story being introduced to a new generation, a movie is currently being shot in and around Birmingham, Alabama. “42″, which will star Harrison Ford and Chadwick Boseman, had a casting call the other day in downtown Birmingham Jackie Robinson movie casting calls so I’ll keep an eye on this project as it goes forward. And yes I kind of wish Spike Lee was directing it cause he really wanted to do a movie on Jackie but the timing and probably the money wasn’t there.

Every now and then I want to highlight a former Negro League player that had a interesting story as to how they got to there. Today I give you Theodore “Bubbles” Anderson, a kid that grew up in Denver and started playing in the  Negro League at age 15. I have to admit that Denver isn’t the first place you think of when you’re looking for baseball player but Bubbles turned out to be a good one.

Finally I just want to mention that new Dodgers part owner Magic Johnson couldn’t attend his team’s home opener (Dodgers beat the Pirates 2-1). But threat not cause he was in New York City attend the opening of his play Magic/Bird. It really sounds like a winner and also to a point Magic and Bird’s rivalry and then friendship was another quantum leap for race relating in this country. Two different people from different backgrounds but share one interest, basketball, come together to create one of the greatest moments for unity in this country. Hope the play does very well and it goes off Broadway so we all can get a chance to see it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment