50 years ago today:
Over at The Atlantic, Jemele Hill wonders why the Red Sox players who will soon visit the White House are not supporting their black and brown teammates who refuse to go to Washington because of Trump’s racial politics. Here is a taste:
So far, the conversation about the upcoming Boston Red Sox visit to Donald Trump’s White House has centered around the people of color who are skipping the event. The manager Alex Cora, a critic of the Trump administration’s inexcusable treatment of Puerto Rico amid the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017, cited his home island’s continuing troubles as his reason for opting out.
“Unfortunately, we are still struggling, still fighting,” Cora said in a statement. “Some people still lack basic necessities, others remain without electricity and many homes and schools are in pretty bad shape almost a year and a half after Hurricane Maria struck. I’ve used my voice on many occasions so that Puerto Ricans are not forgotten, and my absence is no different. As such, at this moment, I don’t feel comfortable celebrating in the White House.”
The majority of the Hispanic and African American players on the Red Sox—including the pitcher David Price and the 2018 American League MVP, Mookie Betts—have also declined to attend. Not all have explained their reasons, but the Mexican-born relief pitcher Hector Velázquez has been honest. “I made the choice not to go because, as we know, the president has said a lot of stuff about Mexico,” he told MassLive. “And I have a lot of people in Mexico that are fans of me, that follow me. And I’m from there. So I would rather not offend anyone over there.”
And here is Hill on the Baylor University women’s basketball team’s recent visit to the White House:
Recently, Trump hosted the NCAA champion Baylor women’s-basketball team at the White House, making the Bears the first women’s championship teamTrump has held a private ceremony for since he became president. That the Baylor coach, Kim Mulkey, had publicly campaigned for an invitation to the White House helped bring about the visit. Trump has shown that he can be petulant about extending invites to championship teams if his overture won’t be warmly received. After the Golden State Warriors won the NBA championship in 2017, Trump rescinded his invitation to them on Twitterbecause several players had been critical of the president, and many of them made it known that they had no interest in attending a White House reception.
When photos of Baylor’s visit circulated on social media, the internet had its fun making note of how some of the players didn’t look thrilled to be there. As of now, no one outside the team knows if Mulkey ever considered how some of her players might feel about being in the presence of someone who has insulted not just people of color, but also women—and women athletes in particular.
Read the entire piece here.
Baseball season is here. Today Jacob deGrom, the reigning National League Cy Young Award-winner, scattered five hits and struck-out twelve Washington Nationals in the 2-0 opening day victory. Needless to say, I am happy he just signed a long-term contract extension. Robinson Cano homered in his first at-bat as a Met.
It is also worth noting that this season is the fiftieth anniversary of the New York Mets’ 1969 World Series victory over the Baltimore Orioles. Jay Schreiber has it covered at The New York Times. Check out his multi-part special report, “The Year the Mets Jumped Over the Moon.”
Here is a taste of the first installment:
Just how had this happened? Yes, the Mets had excellent pitching, solid defense at key positions and some very good young players, but their lineup was hardly overwhelming. And yet, that didn’t matter in the regular season, when the Mets won a whopping 100 games and, in the process, beat out a Chicago Cubs team that played three future Hall of Famers every day.
Nor did it matter in the National League Championship Series, when the Mets swept an Atlanta Braves club led by Henry Aaron, one of the best players in the sport’s history. Or in the World Series, when the Mets went up against a mighty Orioles team anchored by the two Robinsons, Frank and Brooks. The Orioles, winners of 109 games in the regular season, seemed unbeatable until the Mets quickly proved otherwise.
Making this all the more remarkable is that the 1969 Mets did not represent the beginning of a dynasty. In the seasons that followed, the Mets won considerably fewer games and while they did make it back to the World Series in 1973, they did so almost by accident, having finished the regular season with a thoroughly mediocre 82-79 record.
But none of that diminishes what occurred in 1969. Here was a group of players who stumbled all over the place in 1962, with fans who embraced them almost in defiance. A team that slowly improved in the years that followed, but only slowly. And yet a team that proceeded to figure it all out for one intensely memorable season.
I was a preschooler when the Mets won in 1969, but I feel like I re-lived the season through WWOR-TV (Channel 9 in NYC) highlights during Met rain delays in the 1970s.
Congrats Red Sox fans!
Game 1 of the World Series:
On the day that the Philadelphia Eagles were supposed to visit the White House, Yoni Appelbaum of The Atlantic writes about the first time a championship sports team visited the White House. It happened in the Johnson Administration–that’s Andrew Johnson.
Here is a taste of his piece:
Here’s the thing about the pilgrimages that championship sports teams make to the White House each year. It’s a tradition rooted in efforts to achieve national unity. Like the broader American project, at their best these visits promote an expansive vision of America, a diverse society finding commonality in shared symbols and common rituals.
But the first such visit was rooted in a very different vision of American society—uniting white Americans by excluding blacks from sports, from civic rituals, and from political equality. As President Trump disinvited the Philadelphia Eagles from the White House on Monday, he loudly insisted that he still wished “to honor our great country” and “celebrate America.” His statement did not specify, though, which version of America he intended to celebrate.
In 1865, the United States was engaged in the project of Reconstruction, building a new society in the wake of the Civil War. It was also engaged in playing ball. Union soldiers brought home with them a passion for the American game, and fans flocked to ballfields to enjoy the pleasures of peacetime.
Read the rest here.
If you are a New York Mets fan, a general baseball fan, a poet (it’s National Poetry Month), or a student of the African-American experience you must read Gettysburg College historian Tim Shannon‘s recent Penn Live (Harrisburg Patriot-News) piece on Ed Charles. (I should also add that Shannon will be our guest on Episode 36 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast. It drops tonight).
I was too young to see Ed Charles play third base for the Mets (1967-69), but I have fond memories watching him play in the “Miracle Mets” highlight footage that WWOR (Channel 9) used to show during Mets rain delays in the 1970s.
Tim Shannon is one of the few writers who can connect Ed Charles’s poetry to Phillis Wheatley and the Atlantic slave trade.
Here is a taste of his op-ed:
Ed Charles, the third baseman for the “Miracle Mets” team of 1969, died last month at the age of 84.
When the New York Times ran his obituary, it included several photos, including two shots of Charles on the field. One showed him diving for a ball with the agility that earned him his nickname, “The Glider.”
Another showed him leaping with joy along with pitcher Jerry Koosman and catcher Jerry Grote after the Mets recorded the final out of the ’69 World Series.
These two shots of Charles in action on the diamond were accompanied by a very different one of him taken in the Shea Stadium locker room in 1967, not long after he had been traded to the Mets by the Kansas City A’s.
Charles sits on stool by his locker, dressed in his uniform, with a pad of paper on his knee and a pen in his hand He looks away from the camera, his eyes raised above the horizon. The photographer, it would seem, has caught “The Glider” in a different kind of action.
Rather than being in mid-air, he is in mid-thought.
Charles was a locker room poet.
Read the entire piece here. Here is Charles the poet:
It’s a sad, sad day for Mets fans (and baseball fans) everywhere. Obit here.
I have been listening to this song for a long time, but it has never been so relevant than it is today:
Rich Cohen, the author of Chicago Cubs: The Story of a Curse, makes his case at The New York Times:
I don’t know how closely Mr. Trump even follows baseball, but if he does, he’s probably a Yankees fan — because that franchise, with its pinstripes and nonstop talk of winning, is Donald Trump all over. It’s good for fans but bad for humans, as it teaches the wrong lessons. What we want for a president is a person who grew up in the bleachers of Wrigley Field, learning humility and loss, the fleeting nature of glory.
Though the Cubs have clinched the National League Central and are poised to make another playoff run, our character, that old Cubs thing, has not gone away. We are what happened to us, and what happened to us was decades of losing. The team won the World Series in 1908 and did not win it again until last fall. Generations came of age in the 107 years in between, grew up, grew old and were still waiting when they died. The dry spell was said to result from a curse placed on the team by the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, and we did feel cursed, but blessed too.
The wilderness formed our character, turned us into the sort of fans who make the best of a bad afternoon. Even now, with the championship so close behind us, I find myself wondering just how the wheels will come off this time. A Cubs fan will always be a kind of Buddhist. She knows how to enjoy a typical August afternoon, as for her there is hardly ever such a thing as October — only here and now.
Read the entire piece here.
It’s that time of year again—Opening Day. Once again, host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling make their way to the ballpark and get ready to discuss Americas’1 pastime. This time around, they tackle race and ethnicity in baseball while also discussing this year’s prospects for their favorite teams. They are joined by University of Illinois historian and La Vida Baseball (@lavidabaseball) editor-in-chief Adrian Burgos, Jr. (@adburgosjr).
1No, that is not a typo. For an explanation, listen to the episode!
Yadier Molina to Javy Baez in 2017 World Baseball Classic.
When the Chicago Cubs finally ended the “Curse of the Billy Goat,” they demonstrated just how historic “America’s Pastime” truly is. When Michael Phelps won his 28th Olympic medal in Rio de Janeiro, he furthered his case for being known as the greatest Olympian history has ever known. Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling once again tackle the history of sports, and are joined by Emmy award-winning sports historian, Amy Bass (@bassab1).
Not a Cubs fan, but this is great.
Here is the latest “Coffee with Jesus“:
Tim Lacy is one of several scholars responsible for the resurgence of the field of intellectual history and the establishment of the Society for United States Intellectual History. Lacy is also a Chicago Cubs fan.
I was not cheering for the Cubs in the World Series. I have a hard time rooting for National League teams other than the New York Mets (unless those teams are playing the Yankees). But as a baseball fan who has written more than a few posts about the Mets at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, I have great respect for the kind of fan loyalty Lacy shows in this post at the blog of SUIH.
Here is a taste of Tim’s post:
The loveliness of the Cubs was wrapped in its futility. That record included no World Series championships since 1908, no World Series appearance since 1945, and major regular season and post-season disappointments in 1969, 1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007, 2008, and even 2015. I include 2015 despite winning the wildcard and division-series games because of the heartbreaking nature of being swept by the New York Mets, who had been instrumental in dashing the Cubs hopes and playoff aspirations in 1969. History had, heretofore, offered empirical evidence of disappointment. Agony and heartbreak were real. The baggage was as much of a reality as the loveliness of Cubs culture.
What is most interesting to me, about that baggage, is how it had been embraced, historically, by the team’s fans. Per “The Lovable Losers,” a sizable segment of Cubs fans almost wanted failure. They relished in having a cultural touchstone for life’s curve balls. Being a loser was a kind of badge of honor. You could be a Cubs fan with pride, even if you didn’t appreciate being known as a loser in your personal or professional life.
What will those fans do, now that the Cubs on-the-field team has shed one of its core identity markers? Will a softer form of “The Lovable Losers” persist? It could, given that this is only one championship over the past 108 years. And next year’s team, and future teams, could slip back into their historically futile ways. That seems improbable, however, given this team’s youth, competency, and the overall management of the franchise. Indeed, the franchise seems poised for kind 1920s Yankees run. Contingency is specter in sports and athletics, but especially in baseball. Injuries are the great unknown, and have ruined many good baseball teams over the years. My own Kansas City Royals, who won last year’s World Series and played in the same in 2014, barely reached .500 this season as a result of injuries. The same fate might await the Cubs.
For now, however—for today—the Cubs are losers no more. The reigning world champions for Major League Baseball reside at 1060 West Addison, the home of “The Lovely Confines” (my term). This team and its youthful players overcame their history of “Cubbie occurrences” (Lou Piniella’s term), mishaps, curses, and general baggage. They put behind them the franchise’s tradition of losing, and have become, in reality, winners. Today’s reality is different for older Cubs fans. For my part, I will relish this new frontier until Opening Day for the 2017 season. – TL
Read the entire post here.
Vin Scully called his last game on Sunday and ended a 67-year career of broadcasting Dodger baseball:
But Scully’s greatest call did not involve the Dodgers. It came at Shea Stadium on October 6, 2016. Watch and listen: