July 01, 2003

More on the 'White Jays' Id...

fiery defence of the story that really leaves the Star adrift in the credibility gap. Griffin's editorial starts by praising the "research" and "documentation" in a story whose chief positive assertion was a count of white faces in a team photo. (Estimated research time required: eight seconds.) Then he celebrates the Canada Day long weekend by slandering his country:

There are always going to be issues of race in professional baseball which need to be monitored to ensure the continuing forward movement of the game. It's been that way since World War II when Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier and North American society started on the volatile road toward equal rights and equal opportunity.
Jackie Robinson came up to the majors in 1947, you'll recall, while the fires of war were still raging furiously in Europe. But what is this "North American society" of which Griffin speaks? I seem to remember, and stop me if I'm straying into hyper-obscure baseball-history territory here, that Branch Rickey placed Jackie Robinson with the Montreal Royals in 1946 precisely because Canada was a totally different society, one which could accept an integrated baseball team. Which it did, happily: fans caroused in the streets en masse, cheering Robinson to the skies, after he won Montreal the minor-league championship. The "colour line" was an American artifact in an American game. Canada had a role in helping to break it, and is surely entitled to the benefit of the moral distinction Griffin submerges here. And while we're at it, let's not forget to tip our caps toward race-barrier-free Cuba, where the Dodgers were able to play spring training in 1947 without a bunch of evil rednecks screaming "nigger!" (Never forget that dark-skinned players, long after the color barrier was broken, were forced into separate sleeping quarters in Florida.) Cuba, in fact, was the only place where the best of America's ballplayers, black and white, could face off against one another before Branch Rickey, Mr. Robinson, and our Canadian pals stepped up to the plate.

Posted by at July 1, 2003 10:04 PM
Comments

...in "organized" season-length competition, of course. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, leading black and white pro players did barnstorm against each other where lack of public opprobrium allowed.

Posted by: Colby Cosh at July 2, 2003 03:57 AM

The Negro League stars generally acquitted themselves rather well in those exhibitions--which is why there are any number of quotes out there from great white stars and managers acknowledging that players like Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, and Satchel Paige were every bit as good or better than anyone playing major league baseball. No one was seriously arguing that black players weren't capable of playing major league baseball, and there were a few documented cases of managers who were more attached to winning than bigotry trying to sneak black players in by claiming they were Native Americans or Cubans, only to be caught and the unfortunate player sent packing.

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland at July 2, 2003 10:48 AM

"And while we’re at it, let’s not forget to tip our caps toward race-barrier-free Cuba," Isn't this one more Cuban myth? Why do so many Americans--especially the mass media-- fall into this easy comparative analysis, always detrimental to the US? It's not a topic I knew much about, so I made the same assumption about 'race-barrier-free Cuba. I do expect, however, people who've actually written about that nation or even visited there would be more aware of this nature of this myth.

I've read just this last month a scathing, trenchant piece by "black" Cubans about the terrible racism and discrimination they have endured historically and to this very moment at the hands of the minority so-called "Spanish" (among them, of course, Fidel and all the public faces the workers paradise presents to the world.) The article, which I have no way of vetting for accuracy, made the claim (shocking to me) that the majority of Cubans are of recognizable black ancestry! While reading I was instantly reminded that I don't ever really recall seeing these majority African ancestry Cubans in the media exported from Cuba (documentaries, feature films, news reports, etc.)
The few I can recall were typically--surprise!--athletes, especially ballplayers and Olympic boxers. (For example, the great Red Sox legend Luis Tiant, one of the most popular Red Sox ever...whom I frequently see, btw, at golf course and local restaurants here in Boston.)

I wish I saved the piece. But failing that, I thought I would quickly google 'blacks in Cuba' and see if it would pop up before I critiqued Matt and Colby. Turns out, the very first listing at google has this opening sentence: "Arriving back in Havana, I found black Cubans locked in heated talk about the old topic that has long been approached with great caution: race in Cuba.' (from afrocubanweb.com) The second paragraph starts "...[e]ver since television reached Cuba 40 years ago, the image projected has been overwhelmingly white. Except for inroads made in the first 10-15 years after the revolution, what is black has been heavily stereotyped; and nowadays there are no black actors to speak of on Cuban television, which is easy to see by tuning in."

This is a depressing article, I do recommend it. ( I won't bother to look for the original article that brought racism in Cuba to my attention...this will do as a start for a necessary reevaluation of the problem and a little re-education.)

No black to speak of? In a majority black society? This certainly makes the racism and discrimination far worse than America in the 40s or 50s (or beyond.) And a disgraceful whitewash...if only because of the casual negligence of the media who've reported on Cuba. Or could it be worse than that? Is the media complicit in covering up this scandal to protect Castro? (See Oliver Stone's documentary, or others by the left.)


I

Posted by: DDK at July 2, 2003 11:37 AM

DDK -- By "race barrier," I was referring specifically to Cuba's professional baseball leagues, which didn't have any at the time, and for the decades before. Cuba's amateur leagues, if memory serves, used to be pretty uniformly white, and certainly there is and has been racism in that society, but I was being specific to the situation.

Posted by: Matt Welch at July 2, 2003 12:20 PM

My understanding is that Negro League players often barnstormed in the Caribbean countries and occasionally would go to play for one of the local teams. IIRC, there's a rather harrowing description by Cool Papa Bell (damn it, why don't modern players get nifty nicknames like that?) in "Baseball: When The Grass Was Real" about how he, Satchel Paige, and several other Negro League notables went down to play in the Dominican Republic at the summons of then-strongman Trujillo--only to find that their lives were in peril if they didn't win the league championship for the big guy (naturally, they did--these guys were *really* good).

It's a shame that the great Negro League players never got a chance to prove it in the Show, but they *did* lead damned interesting lives. . .

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland at July 2, 2003 02:04 PM

The story about the 1937 (or '36) Domincan season under Trujillo is one of the best in baseball history. That was probably as good or better a league that year than MLB.

Posted by: Matt Welch at July 2, 2003 02:09 PM

Matt, "defenestrates"?

What window did he throw him out of?

Posted by: Rand Simberg at July 2, 2003 02:42 PM

Figurative language, my engineering friend! I refuse to use the verb "fisk," and all these Prague-related posts reminded me of the Czechs' favorite method for solving religious disputes.

Posted by: Matt Welch at July 2, 2003 02:57 PM

Matt: In some ways, that makes it worse...at least to me.
That a society with a majority of blacks (is it, as reported in the article I referred to, 51% or so?) are allowed only to play professional sports for the amusement of the minority ruling class...ie. good only for entertainment value. (See: apartheid South Africa.)

Meanwhile systematically banned from attending serious career advancing paths to economic and social parity like colleges, medical schools, or admission to professions, the bar, judiciary and the like. It gets worse in these latter years, as the afrocubaweb reports, since Cuban blacks are now entirely segregated from the artistic, theatrical, dramatic world of their 'color' masters...except as stereotypes of the basest behavior.

I suggest it's a scandal of South African proportion if true. Certainly I haven't heard a word of accusation of racism at all, much less of this dimension and depth from any of the hundreds of writers and filmmakers returning to gush over the wonders of this egalitarian workers paradise. As for 'everyone knows there is racism' in Cuba? This is not something widely known--at least in my own experience--of avidly reading about the country by American apologists.

Posted by: DDK at July 2, 2003 03:06 PM

DDK -- My observational experience of spending February 1998 in Cuba, for what it's worth, bears little resemblance to your description. There is racism there, but it is largely a mulatto society, and I don't think it comes close to reaching the institutional levels of the Jim Crow South.

Posted by: Matt Welch at July 2, 2003 03:37 PM

Re: The quote from Colby Cosh:
"[T]he fires of war were still raging furiously in Europe" in 1947?
According to my history books, WWII ended in 1945. Does this cast any doubt on some of Cosh's other "facts"?

Posted by: Alistair at July 2, 2003 06:08 PM

I think Colby is being just a wee bit sarcastic there, in response to the article's assertion that "[i]t's been that way since World War II when Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier."

Posted by: Chris Lawrence at July 2, 2003 06:35 PM

Is there any bigger disconnect between writer and reader than that between your typical, frustrated, wannabee liberal pundit big city sports reporter, and the people (men really) who actually like to read about and enjoy sports, including the "outside the lines" part?

Posted by: Lloyd at July 3, 2003 09:42 AM

Hmmm...

Well, speaking as a writer and editor (not an engineer), it just seemed like a strange word to use figuratively, unless there was some metaphorical window in view.

So to speak...

;-)

Posted by: Rand Simberg at July 8, 2003 09:38 AM
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an workers paradise. As for 'everyone knows there is racism' in Cuba? This is not something widely known--at least in my own experience--of avidly reading about the country by American apologists.

Posted by: DDK at July 2, 2003 03:06 PM

DDK -- My observational experience of spending February 1998 in Cuba, for what it's worth, bears little resemblance to your description. There is racism there, but it is largely a mulatto society, and I don't think it comes close to reaching the institutional levels of the Jim Crow South.

Posted by: Matt Welch at July 2, 2003 03:37 PM

Re: The quote from Colby Cosh:
"[T]he fires of war were still raging furiously in Europe" in 1947?
According to my history books, WWII ended in 1945. Does this cast any doubt on some of Cosh's other "facts"?

Posted by: Alistair at July 2, 2003 06:08 PM

I think Colby is being just a wee bit sarcastic there, in response to the article's assertion that "[i]t's been that way since World War II when Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier."

Posted by: Chris Lawrence at July 2, 2003 06:35 PM

Is there any bigger disconnect between writer and reader than that between your typical, frustrated, wannabee liberal pundit big city sports reporter, and the people (men really) who actually like to read about and enjoy sports, including the "outside the lines" part?

Posted by: Lloyd at July 3, 2003 09:42 AM

Hmmm...

Well, speaking as a writer and editor (not an engineer), it just seemed like a strange word to use figuratively, unless there was some metaphorical window in view.

So to speak...

;-)

Posted by: Rand Simberg at July 8, 2003 09:38 AM
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