The “boys of summer” who are at present hangin’ out at various locations in the “Sunshine State” are putting the final touches on their traveling trunks because the time to get to the train station is fast approaching. If they want to arrive at designated points north then they had better “git to gittin’” as my grandpap used to say snuff cup firmly in hand, snuff juice flying everywhere. As “Jackie Robinson” day approaches, my thoughts dwell on how Major League Baseball can create a lasting memorial to a great “American” athlete.
That living and eternal tribute would be a little thing called ownership. There are not any Black owners, only a couple of Black managers, and dwindling numbers of Black players. The impact that Jackie Robinson had on MLB faded long ago. My father used to say “the log that we placed in the fireplace last week will not keep the ‘hawk’ away tonight.”
An April 15 Bleacher Report article by Tim Fitzgerald quotes Tori Hunter as saying, “Some Black players feel they are still unfairly discriminated against and he felt MLB GMs weren’t making an effort to sign Black players because Latino players were easier to control.” Fitzgerald goes on to say that, “The basic socioeconomic issues that affect African-Americans play a major factor. There are a lot of empty lots and fields in most urban areas with high Black populations. If you have a group of friends and a football, game on. Same with a park, with a hoop. Baseball, however, requires gloves, bats, and balls to be played properly—with enough players to cover at least half a field. It’s not as easy to put together a baseball game for poor Black kids.”
I hear the same lame excuses about sports such as hockey. You need tons of equipment in order to pursue a career in hockey. OK, I hear all of the spinsters. The economy is bad, cities cannot afford to build and maintain baseball fields, they just do not have the money. Oh, but there is loot available, right? Non-profit organizations whose primary purpose is to stop the violence have sprung up like weeds all across America but violent Black on Black crime continues at a genocidal type rate. It seems to me that there might be some pocket padding going on because the only impact that many of these organizations are having is stopping violent knocks on their doors from bill collectors.
Take some of that stop the violence money and restore some of those weed filled neighborhood baseball fields. Get out of the bright lights, quit “cheesin’” for every TV camera in the vicinity and stop swallowing every microphone with a signal. Get down in the trenches, low down and dirty. Break a sweat so that this curse may be broken.
The world of pro sports is guilty for the systematic exclusion of Blacks as managers and owners. Black America is twice as guilty as the most astute “house Negro” for gleaning what they can off of the backs of those positioned a bit lower on the food chain.
The “house that Jackie built” has long since been abandoned and demolished. In its place sits an empty lot. There must be a new house built. A new foundation must be put in place. We can no longer rest on the laurels of Jackie Robinson, Frank Robinson, Ernie Banks, Roberto Clemente or any of our iconic performers of the past. Don’t you get it boys and girls? When we constantly focus on the past, the present and the future fly by as a perverted blur. We miss it and don’t even realize what we miss. Erase all of the problems from the blackboard and begin to list some of the solutions.
If you haven’t noticed by now, this communiqué is not about what MLB, NFL, NHL or the NBA can do for us; this is about what we can do for ourselves.
Popcorn here, get your popcorn and peanuts. No, we are not at PNC Park. These sounds must be heard at neighborhood ball fields, everywhere. Unplug the video games. Demand that our children go outside and play. When you, me, no us, take ownership the world will notice and respond. Why should anyone take us seriously when Black America in its zombie-like state doesn’t seem to take itself seriously, oh except when we are watching BET or a Tyler Perry movie?
Fitzgerald said, “It’s not as easy to put together a baseball game for poor Black kids.” I happen to look at that statement as a “crock” my friends.
Don’t wait for MLB to build baseball academies in urban neighborhoods, get up off your “rusty dusty’s” and build them yourselves. If we want ownership then we should pool enough of our resources to buy a team. When we have the money we can demand legal remedies if we are not afforded the same ownership opportunities given to others. Jackie Robinson day should be renamed “get up off your butt day.” Excuse yourself from the “class of excuses.” It is time to “get to gettin’,” ciao.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)