A Bittersweet Celebration
If my dad was still living, we’d be celebrating the fact that Major League Baseball announced that the Negro League statistics are now officially part of the official records. That’s right, the Washington Post, in an article posted on December 16, 2020, reported on this monumental change. Dad would remind me of how good Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, and other Negro league players were. He’d tell a story about a woman who played in the league, talking about making history. Even though he loved and idolized Jackie Robinson, he’d admit, there were more talented Black players in the Negro Leagues in the ’30s and ’40s. He knew, as did many Black people, that many of the white major leaguers couldn’t hold a candle to the brothers restricted to the Negro League.
Now he might not say it but I’m sure in the back of his mind he’d be remorseful because the great players from that era aren’t around anymore. They died before getting their just due. They didn’t get the recognition, didn’t make the money, didn’t get the chance to revel in their accomplishments. They were treated like second class citizens and inferior ballplayers just because they were black. Their talent didn’t matter, their skill didn’t matter, their competitiveness didn’t matter. What mattered was their color. So, even though we’d be celebrating today’s announcement, our, especially his enthusiasm would be dampened.
What’s my point? Just this. While we celebrate these superior athletes, this recognition still does not make up for the fact that they were wronged. Baseball, in this case, can never make up for that just as society cannot make it up to our families who were forced into poverty due to the injustices that started with slavery or to the hundreds of millions of our ancestors who had to settle for second class citizenship. So, I’m happy that the injustice perpetrated upon the Negro League players has been acknowledged and at least there is an attempt to set the record straight.
There’s so much work left to do.