Thursday, June 19, 2003

I have a photograph of Larry Doby and Satchel Paige on my wall at home, taken shortly after Paige had joined Doby on the Cleveland Indians in '48. In it, they both look anxious, hardly smiling for the camera. In fact, the irrepressible Paige looks more like the shy and sensitive Doby. They both look as though they're unsure they were really invited to this party. According to Willie Mays, "From what I hear, Jackie had Pee Wee Reese and Gil Hodges and Ralph Branca, but Larry didn't have anybody." [Thanks to Alex Belth for the quote.] The photo gives every indication that that's true. There are no white players to be seen. The American League was far slower to integrate than the National. It would be four more years until another American League team would add a non-white player, when Minnie Minoso was traded by the Indians to the White Sox (and Minoso was Cuban, so I'm not sure he counts). It was eight years before a black player, the great Elston Howard, was permitted to wear the pinstripes. And, of course, we all know that it would be 12 years before the Red Sox would decide to join the bandwagon, and with typical Red Sox brilliance, made sure it was the unforgettable Pumpsie Green who would be the face of integration in the fens. How hellish was it for Pumpsie? Compare his stats for his four years in Boston with his fifth -- and last -- with the awful '63 Mets, and you get an idea.

Spending so much time on the Baseball-Reference site has been illuminating. Now I'm intrigued by the fact that someone -- I'm thinking a Branch Rickey or a Bill Veeck -- brought Satchel back to pitch a game for the '65 KC Athletics, so that he could be the oldest player (59) to play in a MLB game. Probably involved a rocking chair.

And how can Gil Hodges not be in the Hall of Fame?

But I digress. Larry was one of the greats and deserved more attention in his lifetime. His courage was equally as great as Robinson's. He was incredible in the '48 World Series win over Boston, and played in enormous pain in the '54 loss to the Giants. I wish I'd known he owned a liquor store in Montclaire, NJ. I might have bought a bottle from him and asked him if he'd tell me a few stories.


Well, back to reality. Or should I say, the unreality of the Bush administration. I think it's fitting that Christie Whitman should go back to her Jersey horse farm on such a note. You have to wonder how many drafts the report went through, and how many trees had to die for a report conclusion such as this gem: "The complexity of the Earth system and the interconnections among its components make it a scientific challenge to document change, diagnose its causes, and develop useful projections of how natural variability and human actions may affect the global environment in the future." So let's do nothing. Or rather, cut more taxes. Is this the "No Rich Child Left Behind" initiative we've heard so much about?


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