The Tides got shelled last night, at the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, affiliate of the Phillies. Well, sort of. The relationship has soured, and next year the 18 year affiliation will end. Guess Pennsylvania is not the state of brotherly love. I haven’t really been able to get engaged in this series, in part because when you can find information on a player, it is usually something like “is nothing more than organization depth for the Phillies”. I’m wondering if the Phillies have basically abandoned the Red Barons, shipping all their prospects to AA Reading. The Red Barons do play in one of my favoritely named ballparks: Lackawanna County Stadium. Unfortunately there’s no lack of want in Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Guess I should speak softly, though: the Red Barons have won three of four in this series.
Next up for the Tides is the Rochester Red Wings, affiliate of the Twins and one of the original teams in the International League via the Eastern League. The International League itself is very old. In 1897 the Rochester ballpark burned and the team, then called the Jingos, finished the season in Montreal, with the understanding the team would return to Rochester the following season. Montreal decided possession was nine-tenths of the law, and Rochester had to buy the Scranton membership to stay in the league. The International League gets its name from its historical connections to Canadian teams.
The Jackie Robinson story really begins with the Montreal Royals of the International League in 1946, where Robinson was positioned to prepare him for what was to come. On this date, April 18, Robinson went 4-for-5 with four runs, a dinger, 4 RBIs, 2 stolen bases and forced 2 balks. MiLB.com is chronicling Jackie’s exploits in the International League this season in its series, Remembering Jackie.
On the weekend baseball celebrated the triumph of Jackie Robinson. It is ironic that fewer and fewer blacks are participating in our national pastime. I heard on the radio that only 9% of baseball players are black, which is astonishingly lower than the percentage of blacks in the general population. This is down almost twenty percent since the mid-seventies. Compare this percentage to football (80%) or basketball (85%) and it is obvious something is wrong.
Or is there? Right and wrong aren’t always black and white. One of the reasons for the declining number of black baseball players is the rising number of Hispanic and Asian players. This should not be surprising. The Latino and Oriental cultures revere baseball in a way the black culture in America simply does not. Albeit for different reasons, as demonstrated in the wonderful World Baseball Classic, they get it. It is well known that athletes today, both white and black, dream of draining that game winning three pointer or catching that bomb rather than striking out the New York Yankees. In this sense baseball has a problem.
But the problem may be bigger than baseball. There are those who argue that the golden age of the black athlete is over, albeit for different reasons. Some argue the phenomena is the product of racism: whites jail potential athletes along with doctors and lawyers. Others argue the allure of athletics to blacks has become a thing of the past, i.e. black culture is starting to get it: the odds of being a success are much greater outside of the highly competitive world of athletics. Maybe more blacks are become doctors and lawyers and teachers and businessmen.
Maybe. I don’t know. Is the glass full, or half empty? Unfortunately things are never quite so black or white. I like to hope. — Michael Norton
Ken Burns had it right: more than any other sport, baseball reflects America. It may be debatable whether it is the national pastime anymore, but it still mirrors America more than any other sport, a justification I use for the time I devote to baseball.
Today is Jackie Robinson day in baseball, and over a half century later there is still racism. Case in point: McGwire is not vilified to the degree Bonds is, although the book that renewed the inevitable steroid controversy this season makes it clear that Bonds stepped across the line when he saw that “white boy” receive a nation’s adulation in pursuit of the single season home run record. I am not in any form or fashion a Bonds simpatico, but imagine being the very best at what you do, only to watch your status compromised by a cheater—and yes, lily white Big Mac is every bit the cheat Bonds is excoriated for being. The fact we don’t loathe McGwire even more than Bonds is proof that, almost sixty years after Robinson crossed those white lines to become the first black player in the majors, we are still racist.
Racism works both ways, however. From the excerpts I read, it particularly incensed Bonds that McGwire was white. Bonds’ supporters are as willing to excuse his misdeeds as they were of OJ’s murder of two whites. Racism becomes the ultimate sin which trumps all civil behavior. Morality pivots on principles, which are too often trivialized by brands like racism, capitalism, even the name of God. Did Lincoln make something of a deal with the devil making freedom the objective of a war as justification for an unpopular war? That it sounds so familiar should cause us all to reflect on the meaning of the events of the last century and a half.
Harbor Park is a wonderful place to ruminate on such things. The battle of the Monitor and Merrimac occurred not far from here, fed by the same waters that flow just over the right field fence. The railroad runs across a bridge parallel to left field–one can almost envision men and materials being transported to the battlefields which are commemorated throughout Virginia. Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, is just up the road and is the Tides arch rival. What a wonderful place for baseball. — Michael Norton
Kellia, sorry I missed your earlier, as usual interesting, comments. I forgot you were a displaced Mets fan–we’ve kinda swapped coasts 8).
Where Are They Now?
Angel Pagan, an outfielder for the Tides last year, made it with the Cubs. Unfortunately he is headed for the DL.