An (urban) field of dreams: Chicago and Philly youths no longer diamonds in the rough!

<div class=\"postavatar\">An (urban) field of dreams: Chicago and Philly youths no longer diamonds in the rough!</div> No Gravatar

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The little league world series has come to an end and as I  sat on the couch slyly wiping the water that welled within my eyes  before anyone could notice realizing the magical run by the Jackie Robinson West little league team from Chicago fell short against a powerful South Korean team 4-8 , the feeling of sadness and letdown was quickly replaced by the replaying of the memories that highlighted this years little league tournament.  There was the dominating performance of Mo’ne Davis the lanky young female from Philadelphia who set the world on fire with her 70 mph fastball , dazzling eyes and illuminating smile. Then came the youngsters from the south side of Chicago the all black team of young boys that wanted nothing more than a chance to represent the United States and bring home the title.   Their accomplishments were the reason I tuned into watch the series, these young ball players captured the attention of the media and celebrities across the country.  Watching the tournament brought back memories of my time in little league back in the 1970’s and the trip we made to the hallowed grounds of Williamsport, PA to watch the tournament.


mone davis 1 I remember wishing I could be on that field playing in front of all  those people representing the New England region. Instead my  peers and I sat in the bleachers and kept ourselves amused. The  performance of Mo’ne and the Jackie Robinson team was one for  the ages. You could see the pride of all Americans from different  racial, social and economic backgrounds appreciate the odds  they overcame to first make it to the tournament, yet alone  experience any success. The timing could not have been planned  better, given the recent racial tensions  punctuated by the debacle in Ferguson, MO.  For a moment at least these young people took our minds off the tragedy and tension that is tearing away at the fabric of this great nation.  I have to profess that as I looked at those innocent faces of both the Philadelphia and Chicago teams; I couldn’t help but wonder what the future held for these bright and gifted young athletes, what will their world look like in 10 years ? will they have a chance to compete in this world? how many of those young black boys from both cities will reach adulthood or meet a tragic end staring down the gun barrel of peers and law enforcement officials?  The answers are yet to come, sure they will be honored as heroes when they return to their respective cities as well they should, but once the fanfare fades they will have to face the reality of returning to a normal life whatever that means to each. Given the recent spike in violent deaths in Chicago one can only imagine what those young men have witnessed.

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My hope is the incredible run of both teams will help spark more interest from inner city youths to return to the diamonds to play Americas favorite past time, that would be a nice site to behold

I tip my cap to all of the teams in the tournament that traveled from around the world, each with their own set of challenges, the smiles and tears as they played their hearts out reminded us they were just youngsters enjoying the moment. We as adults could learn a valuable lesson from these young athletes on how to demonstrate true sportsmanship it starts with respect.


(photos courtesy of multiple news services)

Somthing to Chew On!

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  Earlier this week I posted a question on my facebook page after listening to another golfer mention in jest the term “Fried Chicken” when talking about Tiger Woods.  The question I posed was this why is it  when some golfers want to attack Tiger there is always a reference of Fried Chicken as to offend his African American ancestry when Tiger himself does not claim to be just African American. Why not make stereotypical jokes about his Asian, Native American or Dutch heritage?  A few of the responses were “some choose to hate when they can’t relate” “they can’t beat him on the golf course so they use hurtful words to beat him” and “the world is letting him(Tiger) know who he is even if he doesn’t want to acknowledge and fully embrace his African roots.

I guess what troubles me about this latest incident with Sergio Garcia is that he too is a minority. What does it say about the lack of respect and compassion we are now experiencing when a member of one oppressed group demeans  someone from another with futile stereotypical humor in an arena where both are considered outsiders.   To Tiger’s credit he remained above the pettiness , yet the lasting impact of this exchange which was played up on social and mainstream media still continues.   Of course there are those who back Garcia such as Golfer and Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley People make mistakes and say things all the time that they regret and didn’t mean. Sergio was very remorseful about it and we move on”   Move on hmm, its always suggested that African Americans move on after being on the receiving end of either verbal, systematic, or physical abuse my question to those who suggest this course of action,  if we keep moving on then who will be left to deal with the issue?  I wonder if McGinley would be as quick to move on if Garcia told the joke about the red head drunken Irishman,the priest  and …    Myself along with many of you enjoy listening to our favorite comedians spout offensive racist remarks and pay good money to hear their diatribes within that context, however when these type of incidents continue to rear their ugly head is it really as simple as forgive and forget, How can me move on when we keep getting dragged back into the fray?

My hope is that Sergio learned a valuable and humbling lesson of sensitivity from this mishap and is truly remorseful and not apologizing out of fear of losing sponsors (surprisingly there was no real backlash)  and comes to realize that he  is not immune to such hurt just because he can drive a little white ball on a beautiful green golf course into a black hole.  If not I suggest Sergio do a little research of his beloved Spain’s  sordid history with slavery to realize why his joke didn’t leave of us rolling in the aisles.

The game has never been the same!

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With the recent completion of the NBA All Star game held in Dallas, TX in which the East edged the West squad 141-139 and Dwyane Wade being named the MVP and the upcoming Frenzy aka March Madness, I thought it was fitting to remember the first African American that broke the color barrier in the sport of Basketball.                                                        

Harry Haskell “Bucky” Lew (January 4, 1884 in Lowell, Massachusetts – 1963) was the first African American to play in a professional basketball game. Lew played in a New England League game for Lowell against Marlborough on November 2, 1902, the first documented instance of an African-American playing in a professional basketball game. Harry Lew was born in Lowell in 1884 to an African-American family with a long and illustrious history in Massachusetts. His great-great-grandfather, Barzillai Lew, was a free black man who purchased the freedom of his future wife for $400. A gifted musician, he served in the Revolutionary War. He played the fife at the Battle of Bunker Hill, and years later at General Burgoyne’s surrender after the Battle of Saratoga. Harry Lew’s grandparents’ home in Lowell was a stop on the Underground Railroad. His father, William, was a delegate to the 1891 Equal Rights Convention in Boston.

He came of age in the Jim Crow era when “separate but equal” kept blacks and whites in different worlds, in the North as well as the South. Breaking the color barrier on a Lowell basketball court was not easy. Bucky Lew was a talented musician—he played a violin solo at his graduation from Lowell High School — an excellent student, and an extraordinary basketball player. According to one of his teammates, he was “the best double dribbler he had ever seen” (double dribbling was legal at the time). A brilliant defensive player, he was always chosen to guard the best player on any opposing team. But when Lew first took the court against white men, his skillful play was met with jeers and racial slurs.

After leading the local YMCA team to a Merrimack Valley championship, he played defense for the Pawtucketville Athletic Club in the New England Basketball League. When the League folded, Lew stayed in the game, working as a player and general manager for his own Lowell-based teams. In 1928, he moved to Springfield. One of the pioneers of basketball, he has never been inducted into the Hall of Fame, located just a few miles from where he spent the last 35 years of his life. Years later “Bucky” Lew reminisced about that first game. On November 2, 1902, his team, Lowell’s Pawtucketville Athletic Club, faced a team from Marlborough. He remembered that his manager was reluctant to let him play against white boys. But Lew was a hometown boy, and “some of the local papers put the pressure on by demanding that they give this little Negro from around the corner a chance to play. Well, at first the team just ignored the publicity. But a series of injuries forced the manager to take me on for the Marlborough game.”

Lew was supposed to be the extra man, and to spend the game sitting on the bench, but then one of the starting players was injured. At first the manager refused to put him in. “He let them play us five on four,” Lew remembered, “but the fans got real mad and almost started a riot, screaming to let me play. That did it. I went in there and you know… all those things you read about Jackie Robinson, the abuse, the name-calling, extra effort to put him down … they’re all true. I got the same treatment and even worse … I took the bumps, the elbows in the gut, knees here and everything else that went with it. But I gave it right back. It was rough but worth it. Once they knew I could take it, I had it made.” This was only the first of Lew’s encounters with racist opponents and fans. “Nobody ever voiced an objection to playing against him as a black player until they played him and he would shut down their best player… Then all of a sudden, they would say, we don’t want to play against a Negro player. They just used that tactic to get him off the court for the next game.”

After Lew played one year with the Lowell team and two years for a Haverhill team, the New England League disbanded. Lew formed and traveled with his own team, playing and coaching, for another 20 years.

Photo and story courtesy of

Forgotten Heroes of Horse Racing

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Isaac Murphy's grave at the Kentucky Horse Park
Isaac Murphy’s grave at the Kentucky Horse Park

Most famous of the black jockeys by far is Isaac Murphy who is considered one of the greatest riders in American history. He was the first jockey to win three Kentucky Derbys and won an astonishing 44% of all races he rode. That record has not been approached by any other jockey since. He was the first jockey to be inducted into the Jockey Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Racing. Sadly, his career was cut short at the age of 34 when he died of pneumonia. He always had trouble staying at the light weight demanded of a jockey and was known to binge and purge. It has been speculated that it was vomit backing up in his lungs that caused the pneumonia which led to his death. He is buried next to Man O’ War in the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington

Willie Simms was a superb rider of the late 19th century. He brought winning mounts to the wire 24.8% of the time.Simms was born in 1870 in Augusta, GA, and began riding at East Coast tracks in 1887. During his career he rode for the most prominent owners of the era, including Mike and Phil Dwyer, Richard Croker, Pierre Lorillard, August Belmont, and James R. Keene.Simms won back-to-back Belmont Stakes in 1893-94 aboard Commanche and Henry of Navarre. He also was a two-time winner of the Kentucky Derby aboard Ben Brush and Plaudit and was the only African-American jockey to win the Preakness, aboard Sly Fox in 1898. One of Simms’ most dramatic races was a match between Dobbin and Domino in 1893. Simms and Dobbin finished in a dead heat with the previously unbeaten Domino.Simms found great success riding the New York circuit in the 1890’s. He also briefly rode in England in 1895. Many sources credit Simms with introducing the British to the short stirrup style of riding later popularized by Tod Sloan.Willie Simms was the nation’s leading jockey in 1894. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1977.

Swaps and Shoemaker in the San Vicente, © 1955 Santa Anita Photo; Willie Simms © Keeneland Library 


Unsung Sports Pioneers

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In keeping with the theme of “Black History” Month the shortest month of the year to acknowledge the important contributions of the Black Race. Over the next few weeks I will profile some “Unsung Sports Heroes” individuals that many of you may have forgotten or never heard of. Enjoy

Willie Thrower
Ht/Wt: 5-11/182,Team(s): Chicago Bears, Toronto Argonauts (CFL), and Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL) (Signed as F\A in 1952 by Chicago Bears)
College: Michigan State 

Chicago Bears QB Willie Thrower became the first African-American quarterback to solely play quarterback in an NFL game on October 18, 1953 against the San Francisco 49ers. He played under center and received the snap directly, making him the first African American QB since Pollard in 1923. Thrower a native of New Kensington, Pennsylvania had already been the first African American QB in the Big 10 conference, playing for Michigan State from 1950 to 1952, helping them win the National Championship in 1952. In his historical game, Thrower went 3 for 8 for 27 yards in a 35 to 28 loss. What was unfortunate about the game was George Blanda, who had struggled was reinserted into the game at the 5 yard line to complete a drive Thrower had started. After his debut against the 49ers, Thrower never appeared in another NFL game. Before the next season Thrower, who made the Bears team in 1953 as basically a “walk-on” was cut the following year in 1954. Thrower wanting to play QB and without any other takers in the NFL decided to go to the Canadian Football League, playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and semi pro in Toronto for four years before injuries shortened his career. He retired at age 27. His feat of a black man playing quarterback was considered such an oddity for the time that “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” featured him in a story. Thrower had a good outlook on his brief time at QB in the NFL and told The Valley News Dispatch of Tarentum, Pa., before he passed away in 2002. “I look at it like this: I was like the Jackie Robinson of football. A Black quarterback was unheard of before I hit the pros,”

 Photo and info Courtesy of  The African American Quaterback Website



Inspirational Book of the Year!

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Great Brothers of Soul Magazine (GBOS) names “An Unsung Coach” Inspirational book of the year for 2009. Author Tony Price to receive an award at the 40th Annual GBOS Image Awards on November 7, 2009 @ The John Hancock Hall, Boston, MA.


GBOS magazine is a New England based publication that recognizes the important contributions of Everyday people who are doing extraordinary things within the community.