Satch and Osama

I am a big baseball fan. If given the opportunity, I could talk your ear off about Cap Anson, Shoeless Joe, Ty Cobb, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, Sandy Koufax, or Ozzie Smith. My dad and I often get into discussions about who the greatest is. I generally side with Henry Aaron, although there are days I pick Babe Ruth. My dad wavers between Micky Mantle and Willie Mays. If we discuss pitchers, we both agree on the great Los Angeles Dodger lefty Sandy Koufax. Never any disagreement there. Heck, his performance against the Yankees in the 1963 World Series alone is enough.

Has anyone noticed anything about the names I mentioned? No Josh Gibson, no Cool Papa Bell, no Buck Leonard and no Satchel Paige. Josh Gibson was the greatest catcher of his day. He hit something like 865 home runs in his career. Cool Papa Bell was the fastest player in the world, and he hit over .400 for seven consecutive seasons. Buck Leonard was one of the steadiest first basemen and later scouted Ernie Banks and Lou Brock for the Chicago Cubs. And Satchel Paige, what can one say about him? He won over 2,000 games and pitched into his late ’50s.

For those of you who do not already know, Gibson, Bell, Leonard, and Paige were all greats in the Negro Leagues. And it is only because they were among the greatest in the various Negro Leagues that anyone knows their names. What about the solid second baseman who moves runners over and plays great defence? I could name dozens of major leaguers who fit that description, but no Negro Leaguers.

Some of you may be asking “Hey Chris, what the hell does baseball have to do with anything?”

Well, aside from being the greatest game in history, baseball is a metaphor for life. The Negro Leagues are like the marginalized in the world and the western industrialized nations are like the Major Leagues. The white media of the day chose to ignore those playing the same great game just across the tracks. Only when they made great noise, like when Satchel Paige struck out five consecutive Major Leaguers in a barnstorming game earning a greatest pitcher declaration from none other but the great Dizzy Dean, do we ever take any notice of them.

As for life, this whole war on terrorism is the same. How many people in North America or Western Europe knew whom Osama bin Laden was on Sept. 10? How many of those same people knew what the Taliban was? When the Taliban was killing thousands of Afghans and forcing millions to move into refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran, were they alright? Is it only because they are linked to a guy who might be responsible for the death of 6,000 Americans that they are bad people?

These are the same people to whom President Bush gave $34 million two months ago to fight the war on drugs, even though they are a major exporter of heroin to Europe and beyond.

Was all this fine until they killed Americans? Hardly.

I just want you to ponder this: if something happens and a white person is not there to experience it, does it really happen at all?

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