Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Reflections on the start of the World Serious.

It’s hard to look at America, at our world today and know if we are a good country or a bad one, if our people are good or bad.

One presidential candidate is haunted by allegations of serial corruption. The other is a pussy groping, racist, sexist, cheating cad.

But the World Series starts tonight, pitting the Cleveland Indians against the Chicago Cubs. And it might be time to consider, to breathe, to reflect on the progress we have made as a nation.

The last time the Cubs were in the World Series in 1945, there were no African-American players in the major leagues. The last time the Cleveland Indians won the World Series, their roster featured just two African-American players: Larry Doby, the second black man in the big leagues, and the legendary pitcher, Satchel Paige.
Paige and Doby in 1948. The last year Cleveland won a World Series.

The Cubs—the lovable Cubs—didn’t sign Ernie Banks until the 1953 season.
Hall-of-Famer Ernie Banks' rookie card.
Only two years after Banks lit up Wrigley Field, the mutilated and bullet-riddled body of a 14-year-old boy, Emmett Till, was pulled from the Tallahatchie River. He was accused of whistling at a white woman.

Till’s mother requested an open-casket funeral so the world could see her son’s body. He was beaten beyond recognition and shot in the head.

For decades, no sign marked the place from which Till’s body was dragged from the river. And since a sign was placed by the Tallahatchie River it’s been repeatedly defaced with graffiti like “KKK” or been shot through with bullet holes. 
The sign marking the place on the Tallahatchie River that Emmett Till was pulled from has been repeatedly vandalized.

Two of the men who admitted to killing Till were never arrested based on a legal technicality. In fact, the defense's primary strategy was arguing that the body pulled from the river could not be positively identified, and they questioned whether Till was dead at all. When the jury finally acquitted the defendants, it took just 67 minutes. “It would have taken less time, but we stopped and had a bottle of pop,” one jury member said.

Things have changed in America. We have an African-American President, and with any luck at all, will soon elect a woman.

I was one before the Detroit Tigers signed their first African-American ballplayer, Ozzie Virgil, Sr., and two before the Red Sox signed theirs, Pumpsie Green.

We live in a world of great hope and great meanness. A world of hardship, hatred and even cruelty. We live in a world of inequality and discrimination. Where a sign memorializing a young boy who was beaten to death and shot in the face is repeatedly vandalized.

There’s no doubt about that.

But if you ever want to listen to the singing of the better angels of our natures, there’s baseball.

Where despite all the hardships in the world, the historically woeful Cubs will play the historically woeful Indians.

And someone will win.

Maybe Satchel Paige, the Sage of the Hill, said it best.

“I use my single windup, my double windup, my triple windup, my hesitation windup, my no windup. I also use my step-n-pitch, my submariner, my sidearmer and my bat dodger.

“Man’s got to do what he’s got to do.”

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