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Home » July 2009 Game CommentsJuly 2009 » Race


Game 92: July 20, 2009
Red Sox3
L: John Smoltz (1-3)
55-37, 3 game losing streak
W: Kevin Millwood (9-7)
S: C.J. Wilson (8)
50-41, 2 game winning streak
Highlights: Last night In the race for the lead in the AL East the Yankees caught up with the Red Sox. But there is another kind of race to be discussed. Today is the 50th anniversary of the day the last segregated major league team in baseball integrated. Pumpsie Green was called up from the Minneapolis Millers to the Boston Red Sox more than 12 years after Jackie Robinson debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

I watched NESN’s documentary on Jim Rice that featured a surprisingly forthright segment on the anti-busing riots in Boston, which exploded around the time of Rice’s major league debut. Rice had already experienced integration in his hometown of Anderson, South Carolina in his senior year of high school. When the boundaries were drawn to desegregate the school district, Rice’s residence was placed such that he had to transfer from Westside High School to formerly all-white T.L. Hanna High School.

Who drew those lines, I wonder? Clearly it was white school district officials who wanted the best athlete the town had ever produced playing for Hanna High. Since that they had to sully their pristine hallways with “those kinds of people,” might as well get the two-sport standout in the bargain.

So Rice saw the cynical side of desegregation, the side where the powers-that-be gerrymandered the playing field not to ensure equal educational opportunities or to encourage the intermingling of peoples but to enrich their already privileged position.

It wasn’t likely that a 21-year old rookie would put his neck on the line for such an incendiary issue. He saw how Boston treated all-time great Bill Russell, who as recently as a few days ago stated that there has been no reconciliation between him and the city.

Rice witnessed Tommy Harper get fired from the Red Sox in 1985 and then successfully file a discrimination suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Red Sox tacitly supported a segregated organization, the Winter Haven Elks Club, by passing out guest passes to white players, coaches, and officials only.

Twenty-five years later, however, such bigotry against African-Americans has greatly abated. Americans elected its first minority president with Barack Obama. But we still have a long, long way to go.

Just ask Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who was arrested by a Cambridge police officer for “loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space.” I would be loud and tumultuous too if I had just showed a law enforcement official my state-issued driver’s license and a Harvard University identification card and was still questioned in my own home.

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