CELEBRATING THE 51st: My Annual Birthday Post

While my birthday plans do not include going here, being that I’m about to become this age I thought this would be a cool pic to put on this post. Photo courtesy of komando.com

 

THOUGH MY ACTUAL BIRTHDAY IS NOT FOR FIVE MORE DAYS (as of this writing), I’M GOING AHEAD AND  POSTING MY THOUGHTS ABOUT IT NOW

 

Fifty-one is not fifty.

I’m fully aware of that and the fact that I’m not celebrating a milestone birthday like I did last year.

But that’s OK, because I reckon when one reaches their forties and fifties – and as the years advance, actually – one feels more and more grateful that another year has passed and they are still on this planet.

I certainly feel that way as my 51st birthday approaches this coming Monday; as always, I’m making it an extra special point to give thanks to God for allowing me to see 51 years on this Earth as an African-American male on the Autism Spectrum Disorder as soon as I wake up that morning.

Especially considering the times we are living in right now, with the leader of the free world who-must-not-be-named – remember, I vowed to never write the name of this country’s president on this blog when he was elected – and his “Make America Great Again” cap-wearing worshipers, I mean followers, intentionally trying to induce misery upon anyone who’s not exactly like them (Read: white, male, straight, wealthy, conservative, Christian, or any combination of those six attributes).

All right, enough about you-know-who!

The biggest thought about this upcoming birthday of mine is that on that day in 1978,

Exactly forty years ago to the day,

I undertook something significant that was a big event of my childhood and served as an influence on my life…

I went to Dodger Stadium for the very first time.

Yep, I spent the day I turned eleven watching my very first Major League Baseball game in the form of the Los Angeles Dodgers playing the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals).

However, if you want details about that noteworthy day, sorry. I won’t share those details right here and now.

 

 

A poster detailing all the stuff that happened fifty-one years ago. Image courtesy of flickback.com

 

 

A complete description about spending my 11th birthday at that flagship baseball park will appear on this blog on Monday, my actual birthday, which I think is only appropriate to do.

In other words, I promise to tell all in five days.

For the time being, as far as birthday plans…

I’m definitely NOT planning any kind of big party; last year’s soiree, while enjoyable, was a one-time milestone thing that I have no plans of doing again until I turn 70 or 75 (God Willing).

To be honest, outside of writing about my first Dodger Stadium experience in the morning on this blog and SoCal Sports Annals, my sports fan blog (Here’s the link to that: http://www.socalsportsannals.wordpress.com ),

And eating Mexican food from a place where I have eaten since the mid-1970s along with birthday cake, I am not 100% sure what I’m going to do as of this moment.

But I do plan to enjoy the day, as anyone in that age group and beyond needs to do.

Ii will feel good to be above to celebrate another year living as a black man in America with Asperger’s, as it gives me a feeling of gratitude and survival.

While I’m definitely not trying to tell anyone what to do, anyone in their forties and up who’s on the autism spectrum in particular should feel glad  and thankful every time their birthday approaches.

Why? Because despite any struggles, social or otherwise, that someone on the spectrum may have suffered through, the fact that they’re still here is something to be quite thankful for.

I know I’ll be sure to mention that to God in my prayers.

I also guess that the only thing left to say here is…

Happy Birthday To Me (five days early).

I hope it’s a good one.

And it goes without saying that I hope and pray to have many more birthdays before I’m through.

 

 

I don’t think I’m a limited edition, but I do like this picture. Image courtesy of teepublic.com

 

 

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THE ALL TIME, ALL AFRICAN-AMERICAN BASEBALL TEAM (According To Me)

(From left) Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, and Jackie Robinson, a trio of great Dodgers who are also three of my choices for this all-time team. Photo courtesy of si.com

 

LISTING SOME OF THE GREATEST PEOPLE WHO EVER PLAYED BASEBALL

This is a conjuring of an all-time team that I have wanted to do for a while.

As Major League Baseball is still struggling to increase the number of African-Americans among its 30 teams – the percentage is currently at 8% (which is an improvement from last season),

And as an African-American for whom baseball has been my favorite sport for pretty much my entire life,

I thought it was only appropriate, and a long time coming, for me to list my all-time African-American baseball team.

There will inevitably be some outstanding legends who will be left off my 25-man roster, which consists of Negro League stars who never got the opportunity to play in the Majors as well as big league legends whose names are all over the record books.

But that’s OK; I welcome the debate.

So here it is, my list of the 25 greatest black men who ever played baseball, by position – including a ten-man pitching staff and reserves as well as starters (listed below)…

 

  • Catcher:   JOSH GIBSON.   The Greatest Catcher Ever.  A lifetime batting average of over .350. Hit nearly 800 home runs in his career according to his Hall of Fame plaque (though with all the barnstorming I’ll bet it was well over 800),  while playing for the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords.  I would personally take him over Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, or anyone else behind the plate.
  • First Baseman:   BUCK LEONARD.   Called “The Black Lou Gehrig”. Played for the Homestead Grays for 17 years, with a lifetime average of .320.
  • Second Baseman:  JACKIE ROBINSON.   For reasons that are SO obvious, if I have to explain…
  • Shortstop:  JOHN HENRY “POP” LLOYD.   Considered the first black baseball star, started with the Negro League’s Cuban X Giants in 1906 and played on various teams for 27 years. Was called “The Black Honus Wagner”, which Wagner stated he was honored by. None other than Babe Ruth said that he was the greatest ballplayer ever.
  • Third Baseman:   JUDY JOHNSON.  Played SO well in the Negro Leagues for 17 years, mostly for the Philadelphia Hilldales. The Philadelphia A’s’ legendary manager Connie Mack stated that he would have gladly signed him up if not for his skin color.
  • Left Field:   RICKEY HENDERSON.  The Greatest Lead-Off Hitter Ever.  Stole more bases (1,406), hit more lead off home runs (81), and scored more runs (2,295) than anyone who ever played the game. How could I possibly NOT include him in this all-time starting lineup?
  • Center Fielder:  WILLIE MAYS.  My choice for the greatest baseball player who ever lived. In the top ten in almost every hitting category. The reason why, as a longtime Los Angeles Dodgers fan, I don’t hate the San Francisco Giants – and considering the big Dodger-Giant rivalry, I’m probably the only Dodger fan who feels that way, because this legend was THAT great!
  • Right Fielder:   HENRY AARON.  MLB’s all-time RBI leader (2,297), and still in the eyes of many baseball fans the true all time home run leader. I personally consider Hank Aaron the classiest ballplayer of all time, for all the racist hell he went through in breaking Babe Ruth’s record of 714 homers.
  • Starting Pitcher:  SATCHEL PAIGE.   The Greatest Pitcher Ever.  His fastball was said to reach 105 miles an hour in his prime. Was SO extraordinary, he was able to win Rookie of the Year honors as a 42-year old with the Cleveland Indians in 1948 after having such an epic run with (mostly) the Kansas City Monarchs.

 

“The Father of Black Baseball”, Andrew Rube Foster. Photo courtesy of espnfrontrow.com

 

All right, having listed my starting nine of this all-time black baseball team, here’s the rest of my 25-man roster, starting with the rest of the pitching staff…

Starting Rotation:

  • BOB GIBSON – The St. Louis Cardinals’ best pitcher ever. Recorded the lowest earned run average in a season with his 1.12 in 1968. Was arguably one of the meanest pitchers for how he intimidated batters. Was so tough, he once continued to pitch after a line drive broke his leg.
  • DON NEWCOMBE – The best pitcher from the Dodgers’ Brooklyn days, and along with former manager Tommy Lasorda the Dodgers’ last links to that era; I had the honor to meet this man and get his autograph a few years ago. It’s an utter outrage that he’s not in the Hall of Fame!
  • VIDA BLUE – Arguably the biggest pitching star of the early 1970’s. Was one of the leaders of the Oakland Athletics’ dynasty of that period when they won back-to-back-to-back World Series.
  • FERGUSON JENKINS – One of only four pitchers to ever record over 3,000 strikeouts and less than 1,000 walks, this Hall of Famer for (mostly) the Chicago Cubs and the Texas Rangers is perhaps the best ballplayer to come out of Canada, and certainly the best pitcher.

Relievers (yes, I know they were starters, but this is to fill out the staff):

  • Closer:  LEE SMITH – One of the dominant closers of the 1980’s for mostly the Cubs, he had the all-time save record (478) until first Trevor Hoffman and then Mariano Rivera broke it.
  • JIM “MUDCAT” GRANT – The first African-American pitcher in the American League to win twenty games and to win a World Series game, done with the Minnesota Twins in 1965.
  • DOCK ELLIS – The Pittsburgh Pirates’ best pitcher in the early 70s, an essential part of their 1971 championship. Was particularly famous for pitching a no-hitter while on LSD against the San Diego Padres in 1970.
  • JAMES RODNEY (J.R.) RICHARD – One of my favorite pitchers as a kid! One of the guys that put the Houston Astros on the map in the 70s; imposing at 6′ 8″, threw blazing heat to the tune of being the first National League right hander to strike out 300 batters in a season. His career-ending, life-threatening stroke, suffered in 1980, was tragic.
  • “CYCLONE/SMOKEY” JOE WILLIAMS – Next to Satchel Paige, Williams was the greatest Negro League hurler, mostly for the New York Lincoln Giants in the 1910s and early 20s, and the Homestead Grays from the mid-20s to the early 1930s. SIGNIFICANT FACT: The only time Williams and Paige faced each other, in 1930, he beat Paige 1-0.

 

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Matt Kemp playing on Jackie Robinson Day, wearing his number. Photo courtesy of likrot.com

 

These seven guys make up the rest of my all-time black baseball team.

Most regretfully, there were plenty of players that I was forced to leave off as if I listed every deserving star, there would be at least fifty men on this team.

I do have an “honorable mention” list;  guys that, though there was no room on my 25-man team, it would have been a crime to not give them a shout-out.

They will be mentioned after I list the remaining players on this all-time black baseball roster…

  • Catcher:  ROY CAMPANELLA – A true legendary Dodger along with Jackie Robinson, winning three National League MVP awards in a five-year span from 1951-55 and, along with Jackie and Don Newcombe, was a leader of those “Boys of Summer” in Brooklyn.
  • First Baseman/Shortstop:  ERNIE BANKS – “Mr. Cub”. “Let’s Play Two!” The greatest Chicago Cub of all time, starring at two positions. A Hall of Famer, hitting 512 home runs, it was a shame that he passed away before his Cubs broke that 108-year drought and won that unforgettable World Series in 2016.
  • Second Baseman:  JOE MORGAN – Along with Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez, the Cincinnati Reds would not have been the “Big Red Machine” of the 1970s without this two-time MVP. Bill James, in his Historical Baseball Abstract, named him the greatest second baseman of all time ahead of legends like Eddie Collins and Rogers Hornsby.
  • Shortstop:  OZZIE SMITH – “The Wizard”. The greatest fielding shortstop ever. Wowed St. Louis Cardinal fans in particular with his incredibly acrobatic plays in the 1980s. His work with the leather – 13 Gold Gloves won between 1980 and 1992 – alone puts him on this all-time team.
  • Outfield:  FRANK ROBINSON – No way I could leave this Hall of Famer out; The only man to win the Most Valuable Player award in both leagues. The last man to win the Triple Crown, leading the American League in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in while a Baltimore Oriole in 1966. The majors’ first African-American manager, making history with the Cleveland Indians in 1975. Enough said.
  • Outfield:  JAMES “COOL PAPA” BELL – The fastest baseball player of all time. Playing with (mostly) the Negro League’s St. Louis Stars over a 26-year career, it was famously said that Bell was so fast, he could turn off the light and be in the bed before the room got dark. And it was also reported that he once scored from first base on a sacrifice bunt.
  • Outfield:  OSCAR CHARLESTON – Was widely considered the best all-around player in Negro League history with a lifetime batting average of .357 over 28 years, including a .326 average against white major leaguers in exhibition play. Charleston was a center fielder and had a reputation as a most intense player who didn’t take any mess. He was listed as the fourth best ballplayer of all time by Bill James, behind Mays, Honus Wagner and Babe Ruth, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1976.

 

 

A nice pic of (IMO) the greatest baseball player ever. Photo courtesy of biography.com

 

 

Manager:  ANDREW “RUBE” FOSTER

“The Father of Black Baseball”. Not only was a standout player and manager for the Chicago American Giants in the first couple of decades of the 20th century, he started the Negro National League, the first real black professional league, in 1920.

 

HONORABLE MENTION – Four more players and one player/coach/manager/ambassador that I regretfully had no room for on this 25-man roster…

CURT FLOOD – It’s impossible to not include this center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinal teams of the 1960s.

And not just because of his seven Gold Gloves, as his stand against the indentured servant-like reserve clause, when he refused to be traded to the Philadelphia Phillies and asked to be a free agent in 1970, eventually taking Major League Baseball to the Supreme Court, more than opened the door for players, like every other worker, to choose where they want to work and ultimately make millions.

In essence, he sacrificed his career for player freedom.

KEN GRIFFEY, JR – 630 home runs. A ten time Gold Glove award winner, with his Spiderman-like acrobatic catches. Basically saved baseball in Seattle. One of the newest Hall of Famers, elected in 2016. How can I possibly not mention him?

TONY GWYNN – ” Mr. Padre”. The greatest player in San Diego Padres history. The greatest pure hitter in the past 35 years. An eight-time batting champ. Came the closest to being the first man to bat .400 since 1941, hitting .394 in 1994. Had over 3,100 hits in a 20-year career with a lifetime batting average of .338. I don’t think I need to say anything else.

WILLIE STARGELL – “Pops”. The leader of the Pittsburgh Pirates throughout the 1970s, particularly during their “We Are Family” championship run in 1979. Also one of my favorite players and a true class act along with being a tremendous slugger.

BUCK O’NEILL – After watching him spin so many wonderful stories about his playing and managing days with the Kansas City Monarchs on Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary miniseries, he simply had to be given a special mention on this team; he was also the first African-American on a coaching staff, joining the Chicago Cubs in 1962. The fact that he has not been elected to the Hall of Fame despite being baseball’s ambassador and starting the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City is very upsetting.

OK, there you have it – my all-time African-American baseball club.

Though I know that there will be disputes over players that I left out a and gave honorable mention instead of putting them on the team outright – believe me, there were some very tough decisions involved – I hope this is enjoyed by those who read this as much as I enjoyed writing it.

 

 

One of the greatest Negro League teams ever assembled, the 1932 Pittsburgh Crawfords, featuring three members of my all-time team: Satchel Paige (top row, 3rd from left), Josh Gibson (top row, 4th from left), and Oscar Charleston (top row, far right). Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

 

 

 

PREJUDICES: Everybody Has Them

Photo courtesy of realprogressivesusa.com

 

MUSINGS ABOUT AN UNFORTUNATE PART OF HUMAN NATURE

Back in the mid-1990s, a friend and I took a trip to the well-known Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, CA, the museum that famously focuses on issues dealing with racism and antisemitism, particularly focusing on the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement.

One part of that museum that I remember was that when you entered the place, there were two doors for you to go through; one said prejudiced, while the other door said non-prejudiced, and you were instructed to enter the door of what thought you were.

Most everyone tried to enter the door that said non-prejudiced, and guess what?

That door was always locked, which forced everyone to use the prejudiced door and gave a crystal clear message:

 

EVERYONE has prejudices – there’s no such thing as a person who has no prejudices whatsoever, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or unaware.

 

I reckon some people are saying this with incredulity right about now…

“What?! How can this be?! I don’t have a prejudiced bone in my body, and I’m certainly not a racist! I don’t have anything against anyone, so how dare you accuse me of being prejudiced?!”

I think that those who are reacting like this are assuming that I’m accusing them of being Ku Klux Klan or Alt-Right-style bigots, which is definitely not the case as there is a significant difference between being prejudiced and being a bigot.

Let me explain this difference as straight forward as I possibly can…

Unlike flat-out bigotry, being prejudiced does not mean that you are going around calling African-Americans the “N” word, or calling Muslims, LGBTQs, and other people of color vicious epithets, as that is merely an extreme version; it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with race, nationality, sexual orientation, or religion.

Here’s an example:

Imagine someone who’s going out on the town for the night. He’s walking down a busy street when he sees some young ladies who are dressed in rather skimpy outfits; micro-miniskirts that barely cover their butts, tight tops that push up their breasts, and wearing more makeup than they should.

That someone may think, “Those girls sure look like prostitutes (or, as I prefer to call them, ‘working girls’)“, when in actuality they are just out and about for the same reason as he – to have a good time – and are not “Ladies of the evening” in the slightest.

 

A very good message.  Photo courtesy of steemit.com

 

In other words, he is prejudging those ladies.

While he wasn’t outwardly calling them sluts, his brain was telling him that they looked like such, and he was making a prejudgment without getting to know them; for all he knew, they could have been going to a costume party.

A more obvious example of prejudice – which led to an outright racist incident – happened recently at that Starbucks in Philadelphia with those two African-American men who were arrested after the manager (who was white) called the police on them partly because he felt they were loitering and may cause trouble.

Along with the other countless incidents of blacks, gays, Latinos and Muslims in this era of our President-Who-I-Refuse-To-Name on this blog being attacked, bullied, harassed, and blatantly discriminated against due to them not being white, Christian, conservative, and straight during this past year and a half in particular, ever since You-Know-Who (to coin a Harry Potter term) was elected.

I want to give one more example of this notion of all of us having prejudices, which is a personal one and though I’m not proud of it, I freely admit I have…

As I don’t have a car and use buses and rail lines to get around, I spend quite a bit of time at bus stops and train platforms.

Every so often, when I sit on a bus bench or wait on a platform, a young person looking like they are in their late teens or early twenties, would stand or sit near me and light a cigarette, not purposely trying to make me ill with that foulest of odors, but which causes me to cover my nose and mouth and move away from such smoker.

I also find myself covering my nose and mouth whenever I walk past someone smoking.

Being that that young smoker has undoubtedly been indoctrinated in the evils of those nastiest of legal habits and should more than know better than to start partaking of that most obnoxious of weeds, I often can’t help but have these thoughts go through my mind:

“There’s a most ignorant type of kid – not to mention stupid.”

Now as I don’t know the circumstances of said smoker – perhaps he/she has mental issues and/or is regretful of starting that habit, but is finding it too difficult to quit – I know that I shouldn’t judge him/her, but my brain finds it hard to do so as it’s following a part of human nature which although it is taught rather than innate at birth serves as evidence that it is flawed; the challenge of being aware of prejudging people and to look beyond the surfaces.

Which is not easy to do, and because of human nature never will be.

Anyhow, as far as my feelings regarding young smokers, I’ll end this post by stating this:

 

That’s my prejudice – what’s yours?

 

 

An excellent quote from the man who wrote “Charlotte’s Web”.  Photo courtesy of brainyquote.com

 

 

Why Are There So Few African-Americans In Baseball – My Thoughts On This Issue

KANSAS CITY, MO – JULY 10: National League All-Stars Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Matt Kemp #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Michael Bourn #24 of the Atlanta Braves pose for a photo during batting practice before the 83rd MLB All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium against the American League on Tuesday July 10, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Kyle Rivas/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

 

ONE AFRICAN-AMERICAN’S OPINION AS TO WHY THE NUMBER OF BLACKS IN BASEBALL HAS DRASTICALLY DROPPED OVER THE PAST THIRTY YEARS

I’m something of an anomaly in the sports fan universe.

I’m an African-American who prefers baseball over football and basketball as his favorite sport, not only to play but also – with college football and women’s college gymnastics in second place – to watch.

Granted, I’m in my fifties and from a generation where baseball was more popular among blacks.

But considering the fact that the percentage of Black Americans playing Major League Baseball was at 7.73% last season compared to 19% in 1986,

I sometimes feel like a pink poodle in the African-American sports world.

TONS of stuff has been written and said regarding the factors contributing the number of blacks in America’s pastime falling; the talking heads on ESPN and the MLB Network has covered this issue to death at around this time every year, but,

After noticing this trend and listening to the talking heads, I reckon it’s high time for this longtime baseball/softball guy to officially offer my one-and-a-half cents as to why black kids are poo-poohing baseball for football and (particularly) basketball…

 

  • Lack of Interest

Contrary to what some may be thinking, there’s definitely no color line being redrawn, in the majors or at any other level.

If that were the case, the significant number of Latinos, especially from the Dominican Republic, wouldn’t ever see the diamond; indeed, there were and are plenty of players from the Caribbean whose skin is darker than mine!

Rather, I agree with the notion of African-American kids largely losing interest in baseball the past few decades, much preferring to be like LeBron James or Stephen Curry than Ken Griffey, Jr. or Tony Gwynn.

It also seems to me that baseball is seen as a “white” thing in the inner city communities in particular, a sport that’s “goofy” and not “cool”, too slow and “boring” for them due to the constant standing around and slower pace compared to football and basketball.

I think such would be the case even if there were an abundance of leagues and programs like RBI (Reviving Baseball In The Inner Cities) and the MLB’s Urban Youth Academy in Compton, CA, entities that are striving to increase interest and participation in baseball among black youngsters.

 

 

INSPIRING: Mo’ne Davis mowing down batters during the Little league World Series. Photo courtesy of variety.com

 

 

  • $$$$$

Not only has the oftentimes lack of necessary funds – gloves, bats and cleats as well as registering in Little League and travel ball programs are not cheap – stopped many African-Americans in the inner city from getting involved in baseball,

For the athlete who sees sports as a way out of a struggling life and into prosperity, a way to make his fortune and take care of his family, football and basketball are much more attractive.

Even though a successful career in “The Show” is safer and twice as long as an NFL or NBA career, the fact that aspiring football and basketball players can make big money right away out of high school or after one to three years in college,

And unlike their baseball counterparts not have to ride the buses in the minor leagues for an average of three years making next to no money –  with a minuscule chance of making the big leagues on top of that,

Is a significant incentive, as in the minds of I reckon many young African-Americans from the “hood”, why should they play in rinky-dink ballparks in teeny little towns in (oftentimes) the reddest of states full of folks who may not necessarily see them as equal human beings,  making peanuts and eating McDonald’s food when they can make HUGE bank playing in gigantic paradises like Jerry Jones’ AT&T Palace (I mean, Stadium) in Dallas?

Or at Los Angeles’ Staples Center with those three rows of luxury boxes?

Or that new state-of-the-art Heaven being built for L. A.’s Rams and Chargers in nearby Inglewood, CA right now?

Until MLB changes the way things are done in their farm systems in that context, this mindset will continue.

 

 

Hunter Greene (5) of the Notre Dame High School Knights pitches against the Alemany High School Warriors at Notre Dame H.S. on April 7, 2017 in Sherman Oaks, California. Greene is expected to be a high first round pick in the 2017 Major League Baseball player draft on June 12. Notre Dame defeated Alemany, 2-1. (Larry Goren/Four Seam Images via AP)

 

 

  • It’s a “Generation Gap” Thing

Related to baseball being seen as “uncool” among many African-American kids, I think it’s also a case of the game being seen by today’s millennials – of all races – as something that their parents and grandparents were and are into.

A big proof of this sentiment lies in the Negro Leagues, which were a pronounced part of black life and culture in this country in the years before Jackie Robinson’s debut with the then-Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

Stars like Satchel Paige, Oscar Charleston, James “Cool Papa” Bell and Josh Gibson were just as big among blacks as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio were among whites, and contests like the annual East-West All-Star Game in Chicago’s Comiskey Park (the White Sox’s home) often drew sellout crowds of 50,000.

The kids who saw those games – and later Robinson and legends ranging from Willie Mays and Henry Aaron in the 1950s and 60s to Willie Stargell and Reggie Jackson in the 1970s to Ozzie Smith and Darryl Strawberry in the 1980s to Frank Thomas in the 1990s and 2000s – were undoubtedly influenced by those players.

Much like they were influenced in a major way by Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan in the 80s.

It’s no coincidence that baseball’s popularity factor among young black children started to significantly decrease, while basketball’s popularity began to greatly increase, in the 80s as black baseball fans grew old and passed away, leaving a vacuum that the NBA and the NFL – with guys like Walter Payton and Jerry Rice – filled quite neatly.

Personally,  as another illustration of this gap my affection for baseball came from my grandparents, who had Dodger games playing on the radio and TV, with the great Vin Scully doing the play-by-play, seemingly every day during the spring and summer.

I’m not sure if I would have embraced the game the way I did if not for that.

 

  • My View Of What’s Being Done About This Issue

Despite baseball making every effort to increase interest and participation among young African-Americans with RBI and the MLB Youth Urban Academies, I firmly believe that it comes down to this, as illustrated by this old saying…

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it.

In other words, you can’t force a child – black or of any race – to like baseball or to play it.

For the same reason a Canadian kid who’s obsessive about hockey can’t be persuaded to eschew the diamond, an African-American kid who’s crazy about hoops – and for whom Kobe Bryant is next to God – cannot be persuaded to give that up to play baseball.

Or even add that sport in addition to basketball.

Which is why I sadly don’t expect the percentage of blacks in Major League Baseball to ever approach what it was in the 1980s again, as the best I can expect that percentage would be around 10%.

That would be my minimum goal if I were the MLB commissioner.

However, I do remain hopeful that the efforts to change this unfortunate trend produces moire positive results.

After all, I still regard baseball as being the best sport in the world.

 

 

One of the greatest baseball teams ever assembled: the Negro League’s Pittsburgh Crawfords, featuring icons like Satchel Paige (top row, 3rd from left), Josh Gibson (top row, 4th from left) and Oscar Charleston (top row, far right). Photo courtesy of diversity.appstate.edu

 

 

BLACK PANTHER: A Belated Review and Musings About The Smash Hit Movie

Photo courtesy of rogerebert.com

 

MY IMPRESSION OF THE MOVIE DEPICTING THE MARVEL COMICS SUPERHERO

When I read the rave reviews of Black Panther in the Los Angeles Times,

And when I saw on the news that the movie, directed by Ryan Coogler and written by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole and starring Chadwick Boseman as the title character, was an absolute smash hit, breaking box office records,

My prevailing thought was, “Looks like I’m gonna have to see it.”

It was just a matter of finding the time.

The time which I found yesterday as I went to a movie theater a few miles from my house to check out Black Panther for myself.

 

The Verdict (or my official review in other words)?

BLACK PANTHER WAS EXCELLENT.

SPECTACULAR.

OUTSTANDING in all aspects – story, plot, scenery, cinematography, art direction, costuming, acting performances.

 

 

The official trailer from “Black Panther”, courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

And a significant accomplishment in the sense that as Black Panther is, well, Black and from an African country whose technology, advancements, and standard of living matches any so-called “First World” country and then some,

Unlike the unfortunate images we get of emaciated refugees, tyrannical despot rulers, and extremist religious groups that slaughter entire villages and kidnap/enslave/rape scores of young girls and thinking nothing of it (read: Boko Haram in Nigeria) from that continent.

And even more significantly, this movie smashes the notion in mainstream Hollywood once and for all that a “Black” film can’t do well in the box office, particularly overseas.

Though I don’t expect Black Panther to win any large number of Oscars next year due to the fact that superhero movies rarely get any love from the Academy – because of when it was released, it’s not eligible for this year’s Academy Awards – I do expect it to get quite a few nominations, including best picture, director and actor/actress (both lead and supporting),

As well as more or less all the technical stuff; special effects, cinematography, art direction, costuming – which I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t win at least a couple of Oscars in those areas.

My thoughts regarding Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, Black Panther/the ruler of Wakanda who inherits the throne and, well…I’m not going to spoil the plot for you in case you haven’t seen it yet:

 

 

Lupita Nyong’o (left) with Chadwick Boseman in a scene from Black Panther. Photo courtesy of cnn.com

 

 

First Jackie Robinson in 42,

Then James Brown in Get On Up,

Then the great former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall,

Now this!

I certainly hope that this actor is enjoying his A-List status, as I consider him in that league now.

Especially since he’ll be playing Black Panther in several more movies in the coming years.

By the way,  I have four words for Coogler and Cole…

Start writing the sequel.

As for the other actors besides Boseman…

 

A VERY cool movie poster! Image courtesy of amazon.com

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vt9UZo32KMk

An extended trailer for Black Panther, courtesy of YouTube (click on the link).

 

 

Michael B. Jordan as the villain/enemy Erik Killmonger was the standout among many standouts such as Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, Danai Gurira as General Okoye, and Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s ballsy, tech-savvy sister Shuri.

He was a true bad guy (I won’t spoil it and reveal what he does), but you also see the reasons why he’s bad.

And, in a way, you end up understanding the factors going into his evilness.

At least I understood it as I watched the film.

I particularly loved the scenery and the costumes; it has seemed that the beauty of Africa’s mountains, terrain, and the elaborate clothing that is worn there has never really gotten enough attention and due in Hollywood.

That, along with everything else, was busted with this production.

The bottom-line thing that I felt as I watched this movie was that Coogler (in this case) is doing an excellent job continuing what filmmakers like Spike Lee and John Singleton were doing twenty and thirty years ago.

And of course it needs to go without saying that I’m very much looking forward to the sequel in two or three years.

I’ve got four more words to anyone and everyone who has not seen Black Panther…

GO SEE IT.

NOW.

 

The cast of Black Panther, including Chadwick Boseman as  the title character (fourth from right), Forest Whitaker (far left), and Angela Bassett (third from right). Photo courtesy of  bostonreview.net

 

 

 

 

Random Musings About Black History Month, 2018

Two of the most famous black people of African descent in history, in their only photo taken together. Photo courtesy of the odysseyonline.com

 

I’ll be honest, as always…

I can’t really think about anything original to write about to commemorate this year’s version of Black History Month, because I’ve already written a lot about the various topics and issues concerning African-Americans in blogs – mine and others – over the years.

I didn’t want to do what every other blog and site is doing and has done every year at this time and tout/laud the first Blacks to do this and the first blacks to invent that and the first blacks to stand up for whatever oppression.

As important as all of this is,  and as proud as I am over the MANY accomplishments and contributions  that Black people in this country and abroad have made to this world,

To me it’s simply a case of been-there-wrote-that and been-there-know-that.

And I’m sorry, but that’s just boredom-inducing to me.

One thought is prevalent in my mind, however…

It seems that it’s a terrible time to be an African-American right now, what with the President that we have, and all the alt-right movements and the blatant bigotry that has been abundant these past couple of years.

Come to think of it, it seems like it’s a terrible time to be anything but white, male, wealthy, conservative, straight,  Christian, or a combination of those six attributes, right now in America.

And it also seems that until our President-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is voted out in 2020 – the way he is and has been to anyone not like him, I’m confident of those chances – things will get worse for people who are not any of the six attributes named.

HAVING SAID THAT:

It’s nice to celebrate Black people of African descent this month, and I completely concur that it will always be necessary to have a focus on Black history – and the history of all people of color as well as women, non-Christians, and gays – every month of the year.

Not just February in Black history’s case.

But I firmly believe that we must also focus on the current realities of the bulk of African-Americans, who rather than having a dream ala Martin Luther King are having a nightmare of pronounced proportions, in virtually every possible way.

We must, once and for all, focus on how my fellow African-Americans who are living in misery, want and need can get out of such.

I have some thoughts on that, but I’ll save them for another time soon.

That’s about all I have to say right now…

 

I like this picture, for what I hope are obvious reasons. Image courtesy of bestwishesandgreetings.com

 

I’m A Lifetime Resident of Los Angeles and I’ve Never Had A Car: Why?

A common occurrence in America’s second largest city for the past sixty years: parking lots that are supposed to be freeways, this one the 405 in West Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of  la.curbed.com

 

THE VARIOUS REASONS I NEVER HAD AN AUTOMOBILE IN A CITY WHERE THE AUTOMOBILE IS KING

 

I know that in the City of Angels, I’m something akin to a freak of nature, a space alien who’s on the wrong planet.

Or seen by at least a few people as a “loser”, or someone who is somewhat less of an adult, because of this:

I have lived in the greater Los Angeles area for over forty years, and I’ve never owned a car – nor do I ever plan to own one.

Let me go right into the reasons why…

 

1. TRAFFIC, AS IN L.A. HAVING THE WORST IN THE U.S.

Of the over ten million people who reside in Los Angeles County – and in neighboring Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties – no one enjoys the gridlock traffic jams that have been part of the Southern California landscape and culture since the 1950s, when the automobile became the virtual symbol of L.A.

For me personally, it’s more than merely being annoyed while stuck in parking lots that are supposed to be streets.

A personal part of this Asperger’s Syndrome that I have is that my anxieties grow to a pronounced level, a 12 on a scale of one to ten, whenever I feel like I’m in a hurry to get someplace (which is much of the time) and the bus I’m riding in – my main form of transportation – is either stuck somewhere in traffic or stops because the driver is ahead of the bus route’s time schedule.

Yes, I know that plenty of aspies drive cars just like neurotypicals, but If I were driving a car, those anxieties could lead to me doing something that’s not good, like get into an accident because I’m trying to go somewhere too fast, or get into a road rage situation.

For me, it’s just easier and simpler to let the bus, Metro Rail, or taxi driver do the driving; it would save me and everyone else some potentially bad disasters and incidents.

As for Uber and Lyft, that’s an option that I’ll probably be using in the near future.

2. DWB – DRIVING WHILE BLACK

I’ve heard too many stories in the news about how African-Americans like me have been stopped, searched, handcuffed, arrested, and killed while driving by white police for no other reason besides the color of their skin.

Getting racially profiled like that has happened to me more than once while riding my bicycle in Santa Monica when I lived there in the early 1990s; while I wasn’t handcuffed, I would be stopped by motorcycle cops and given tickets for reasons I don’t know to this day.

Experiencing what those fellow blacks have experienced is something I want absolutely no part of, which is why for me, driving my own car is not worth that risk.

 

 

A major part of driving a car as a black man that I want NO part of. Photo courtesy of justicenotjails.org

 

 

3. AFFORDABILITY

I don’t want get into any details about my income as I feel that’s no one’s business, but suffice it to say that it’s not at the level where I can afford to buy and (particularly) maintain a decent car.

And as for financing and monthly payments, that’s likewise something that would induce a level of stress in me that I do not need at this point in my life, as I want to live more simply.

Worrying about money for gas, and fixing my car if it broke down and needed new parts like an engine or transmission is something that I don’t want to do.

4. BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

I definitely don’t need to contribute to the dirtying of the air (despite changes to cars that have offset that) that the exhaust from cars brings.

One can say that by not driving, I’m doing my part to improve the environment and slow down the global warming that’s getting to be more and more of an issue.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE…

It’s just simpler for me to take public transportation, an area where Los Angeles has improved as there are things like the various Metro Rail lines and a planned “Subway To The Sea” going from downtown to Santa Monica that didn’t exist twenty years before.

Besides, when I had my bicycle I recall crashing and wrecking it at least three times in a twelve-month span, scraping myself fairly badly on one occurrence.

I can only imagine the ramifications of going through the same thing while driving a car.

I know that having never had one has led at least some folks to see me as a loser, or something less of an adult.

If you are one of those who are of that opinion because I don’t drive and have never had my own mode of transportation other than a bicycle, go ahead and think such.

It’s OK.

I have to do what’s right for me, no matter what.

 

A part of Los Angeles culture that I likewise want no part of. Photo courtesy of abc7.com