The U street NW corridor was the home of jazz greats and civil rights icons in the late 60s. I met Ronald “Blue” Hamilton at Harrison Elementary School in NW Washington, DC where he was a student/athlete The school was located directly across the street from Children’s Hospital, two blocks from Cardozo High School and one block from the U Street corridor. Harrison was definitely a inner-city school. When I received the call from Ricky Williams (a card carrying member of the KIT Saturday Program) with the sad news that Ronald Hamilton aka ‘Blue’ had recently made his transition. “The Good Old Days” came rushing back.
In 1965 I watched civil rights history change right before my eyes. It seem like H Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael and Marion Barry all arrived in DC around the same time. Carmichael took over as the Chairman of SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) in 1966 and H Rap Brown followed him as the chair in 1967, Marion had eyes only for Pride, Inc. In 1966 Marion would kidnapp Pride Inc from Rufus “Catfish” Mayfield. I was 10 years Mayfield’s senior, but he grew up in the same NE Parkside housing project as I had. He lived in the 600 block of Kenilworth Terrace and I lived in the 700 block of Kenilworth Terrace that was all we had in common.
Catfish had inherited Pride, Inc as a result of his friend Clarence “Bug” Booker being shot and killed near Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road, NE. Booker was shot in the back by a white cop who accused the pair of stealing a 29 cents box of cookies, all hell broke loose. Catfish was a 17 year old juvenile delinquent who was a petty theft and had served time in reform school for car theft. The potential for violence was real, but cooler heads prevailed, and out of the ashes came Pride Inc.
The U. S. Labor Department sponsored the project with a grant the first year for $300,000. The program would provide hundreds of jobs for at-risk youth like Mayfield. The second year the Labor Department’s grant was worth two-million dollars. Marion Barry and his wife Mary Treadwell were like sharks in the water smelling blood. The two swooped in on Catfish who was just a teenager in over his head. Marion use the Pride platform to jump start his political career. Marion and Mary Treadwell were later convicted in 1983 for fraudulent mis-using federal funds earmarked for Pride, Inc. Catfish was able to piggyback off of Marion’s civil rights platform and has since become a designated “Civil Rights” leader. Marion gave little or no credit to Catfish as the creator and heart of Pride, Inc. Read his book “Mayor For Life.”
In 1967 while still working for UPO I would meet Muhammad Ali on the campus of Howard University and the rest is community and sports media history.
1967 would be a very good year for me, UPO would give a grant to the DC Recreation Department to hire additional Roving Leaders for their “Youth Gang Task Force.” I would be a part of that grant package. I left UPO for the Department of Recreation & Parks’ in November 1967. Petey Greene stayed at UPO where he became the radio voice of black DC with “Petey Greene’s Washington.” He was heard every Sunday evening on W-O-L radio. I would later join him with a five minute sports report.
In the meantime, enter Ronald ‘Blue’ Hamilton, Lee House, Bernard ‘Fantastic’ Hillary, Ricky Williams, Gene Ward, Stacy Robinson, Keith Jackson, Raymond ‘Sweet Toot’ Hill, Thurston McLain, Tyrone Shorter, Lloyd ‘Preacher’ Jones, Michael “Dynamite” Palmer, Johnny Robinson, Michael Gordon aka Michael Gee, Jimmy Lee and brothers, Ronnie and Vincent. They were all students attending Harrison Elementary. They spent their evenings at the Harrison Rec Center located directly across the street from the school, both facilities were one block off the U street corridor. This was truly a inner-city school in every sense of the word. They didn’t have a care and politics were the last thing on their fragile minds.
I was re-introducing myself to the school environment in Cardozo/Shaw. My stint as a ‘Neighborhood Worker’ for UPO made it easier for me to transition into my new role as a Roving Leader. School leadship led by Harrison Principal, Mr. Cousins and Physical Ed teacher, Mr. Davis was the best, they really made ‘Children First.’ These black men were a breath of fresh air that I have not seen since. When Sugar Ray Leonard was trying to get his act together, Mr. Cousins granted him an audience with the children. He had lost his self-esteem and they helped him to regain it–they only saw the hero.
Our Prince of Peace Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 I spend three days and nights on the streets of DC with nothing but a police badge issued to me by Captain Tilmon O’Bryant of the 4th District Headquarters. The badge allowed me to cross police and military barricades anywhere in the city to help try to keep the peace. The only thing I was scare of was a scare cop mistaking me for a looter and shooting me down in the streets. I could not wait to return that badge to Tilmon O’Bryant.
My wife Hattie and I found our non-profit organization Kids In Trouble and were the host for our first Christmas toy party for needy children in December 1968. After 45 straight years of toy parties in the DMV without grants or loans Hattie said, ‘No Mas’ and I turned in my Santa Hat and keys to the sleigh.
Blue tried to participate in every toy party I gave for the children, he would show up at places I thought were off the beaten path for him, but there he was that smile and “Hey Mr. Bell.” I affectionately called him “Captain Knucklehead.” He was a member of the football and basketball teams at Harrison and Hillcrest Saturday Programs. He could not play dead, but he was one of those guys who gave his all. He also thought I could still make things happen after he became a grown man and I was an old man barely hanging on myself. He would call asking if I could find him a job, pay his electric bill, find him an apartment, etc. One night I was attending a NBA Wizards’ game at the Verizon Center and I spotted him working. He was with my friend Kay Ettridge, she was a former DC cop and she was his supervisor and mentor. I was elated he had a job, but happier that his mentor was Kay. Several years later that job would come to an end with new management. He would later call saying, “Mr. Bell I am over here near Sibly Hospital can you come and get me?” It was Sunday and raining, it was hard to say “NO” but I did.
My last call from Blue came two years ago to tell me his social Security had come through. He wanted me to help find him an apartment! He promised he was going to bring me a piece of money–I am still waiting (smile).
Father Raymond Kemp our watchdog priest from the house of St. Paul & Augustine Church, responding to the news of Blue’s demise on FB, he brought to my attention that there was a drowning incident at the Hillcrest Saturday Program pool back in the day. I remember one incident on my watch. It was on a cold November Saturday and I walked into the pool and spotted a body lying at the botton. Everyone was swimming all around him. I dove in and pulled him out-it was a little kid we called Horsey. I didn’t know mouth to mouth so I ran with him in my arms soaking wet to the Children’s Hospital Emergency Room–they saved his life, but I would take the credit for it everytime I would see him, I would say “Boy I saved your life.” He would just laugh.
The first ever national NFL community television promo on water safety was video taped at the Hillcrest Saturday Program. Redskins Larry Brown and LB Harold McLinton were taped teaching water safety to the kids. Those were ‘The Good Old Days’ with Dave Bing, John Thompson, Jim Brown, Red Auerbach, Petey Greene, Larry Brown, Harold McLinton, Roy Jefferson, they made Blue and the Kids In Trouble Hillcrest Saturday Program the best in the DMV. Those days were truly “The Good Old Days.”
It makes you wonder how will today’s children describe ‘The Good Old Days’ to their children and grandchildren? Will they remember ‘The Good Old Days’ as Donald Trump being the worst U. S. President in American history and how he let Covid 19 be on track to kill a million U. S. residents? Or will they tell their children stories on how racism in police departments across America killed a record number of black, unarmed minority men and women in our streets for no rhyme or reason? And how a Lie became the New Normal among black and white leadership in American politics? Will they tell how their heroes and sheroes were spooks that sit by the door with titles and high paying jobs, but their success and contribution was like having a “Hero Sandwich” without the meat. RIP Ronald Hamilton.
THE MOST INFLUENTIAL SPORTS JOURNALIST OF THE 20th and 21st CENTURY! Black Men in America
It is often said, “Sports and Politics Don’t Mix” someone forgot to tell the late sports journalist Wendell Smith of the Pittsburgh Courier Newspaper, the late Sam Lacey of the Afro-American Newspaper and Inside Sports talk show host, Harold Bell. These three pioneers and trailblazers are considered the greatest black sports journalist of the 20th and 21st Century. Their common thread, all three could write great stories, were great athletes and were ground breaking journalist, in radio and television. They blazed trails for others to follow.
Wendell Smith was born in Detroit and he is a HBCU graduate, West Virginia State. He encountered racism in the early stages of his athletic career. He was an outstanding pitcher on the baseball team. One day after winning a game, a major league scout approached him and said that he wished that he could sign him, but couldn’t due to baseball’s color barrier, and instead signed the opposing player a white pitcher. It was there Smith promised himself that he’d do whatever he could to see an African-American play major league baseball. He became the sports editor for the college’s newspaper his junior year.
He began his professional writing career in 1937 with the Pittsburgh Courier, then the most popular paper within the black community in the country. He started as a sports writer and then was selected the sports editor the year after. He covered the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords of baseball’s Negro leagues for the Courier. Smith also petitioned the Baseball Writer’s Association of America (BBWAA) for membership but was turned down because he was with the Courier and not one of the white-owned papers. Little has changed in 2021 a segregated newspaper pressroom is second only to a church on Sunday.
Smith is credited with recommending Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers general manager, Branch Rickey was searching for a individual with strong character to successfully execute the integration of MLB. In April 1947 Rickey made it happen. The Courier offered to pay for Smith to travel with Robinson, who had to stay in separate hotels from his teammates due to segregation policies prevalent at the time. Smith traveled with Robinson in the minors in 1946 and with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. In 1948 Smith released his book, Jackie Robinson: My Own Story.
Later Smith moved on to Chicago and joined the white-owned Chicago Herald-American. Smith left his baseball beat and covered mostly boxing for the American. In 1947, his application to join the BBWAA was approved, and he became the first African American member of the organization.
Smith moved to television in 1964 when he joined Chicago television station WGN as a sports anchor, though he continued to write a weekly column for the Chicago Sun-Times. Smith died of pancreatic cancer at age 58 in 1972, just a month after Robinson. Smith had been too ill to attend Robinson’s funeral, but he wrote Robinson’s obituary.
In 1993, he was a posthumous recipient of the J. G. Taylor Spink Award for excellence in journalism. In 1994 Smith was inducted into The Baseball Hall of Fame. His widow Wyonella Smith donated his papers to the Hall of Fame’s archives in 1996, providing invaluable research material on the subject of baseball’s integration. DePaul University and the University of Notre Dame have presented the Wendell Smith Award to the best player of each game between the schools’ men’s basketball teams since the 1972–73 season. In 2014, Smith was the recipient of sports journalism’s prestigious Red Smith Award.
Sam Lacy was born on October 23, 1903, in Mystic, Connecticut to Samuel Erskine Lacy, a law firm researcher, and Rose Lacy, a full-blooded Shinnecock Indian. The family moved to Washington, DC when Sam was a young boy. In his youth he developed a love for baseball, and spent his spare time at Griffith Stadium home ballpark for the Washington Senators. His house at 13th and U streets was just five blocks from the stadium, and Sam would often run errands for players and chase down balls during batting practice.
In his youth Sam witnessed racist mistreatment of his family while they watched the annual Senators’ team parade through the streets of Washington to the stadium on opening day.Sam later recalled what happened after his elderly father cheered and waved an “I Saw Walter Johnson Pitch” pennant.
“Fans like my father would line up for hours to watch their heroes pass by. And so there he was, age 79, out there cheering with the rest of them, calling all the players by name, just happy to be there. And then it happened. One of the white players—I won’t say which one—just gave him this nasty look and, as he passed by, spat right in his face. Right in that nice old man’s face. That hurt my father terribly. And you know, as big a fan as he had been, he never went to another game as long as he lived, which was seven more years. Oh, we’ve come a long way since then. But we’ve still got a long way to go.”
As a teenager Sam worked for the Senators as a food vendor, selling popcorn and peanuts in the stadium’s segregated Jim Crow section in right field. Lacy also caddied for British golfer Long Jim Barnes at the 1921 U. S. Open, held at nearby Columbia Country Club. When Barnes won the tournament, he gave Lacy a $200 tip.
Lacy graduated from Armstrong Technical High School in Washington, where he played football, baseball and basketball. He enrolled at Howard University, he graduated in 1923 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education, a field he thought might lead him to a coaching career.
Lacy played semi-pro baseball after college. He pitched for the local Hillsdale club in Washington He also refereed DC-area high school, college and recreational basketball games, while coaching and instructing youth sports teams.
While in college, Lacy began covering sports part-time for the Washington Tribune a local African-American newspaper. He continued writing for the paper following his graduation, and also worked as a sports commentator for radio stations WOL and WINX in the early 1930s.
He joined the Tribune full-time in 1926, and became sports editor shortly thereafter. In 1929 Lacy left the paper for the summer to play semi-pro baseball in Connecticut while his family remained in Washington. He returned to the paper in 1930, and once again became sports editor in 1933.
During his tenure Lacy covered Jesse Owens medal-winning performances at the Summer 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The world heavyweight title fights of boxer Joe Louis (including his victory over Max Schmeling, and the rise of Negro League. He covered stars such as Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Cool Papa Bell.
Lacy approached Clark Griffith about signing several Negro players from the Homestead Grays, but Griffith voiced concern that the fall of the Negro leagues would “put about 400 colored guys out of work.” Lacy retorted in a column, “When Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, he put 400,000 black people out of jobs.
In October 1937, Lacy broke his first major story when he reported the true racial origins of multi-sport athlete Wilmeth Sidat-Sing, of Syracuse University. He claimed Sidat-Singh was of Hindu and Indian heritage, when in truth his widowed mother had remarried, to an Indian doctor. Prior to a football game against the University of Maryland, Lacy revealed Sidat-Singh had been born to black parents in Washington, D.C., and trumpeted the news as a sign the color barrier at segregated Maryland was about to fall. When Maryland officials refused to play the game unless Sidat-Singh was barred from the field, Syracuse removed him from the team and lost the match 13-0. The controversy prompted an outcry against both schools’ policies and actions, and Sidat-Singh was allowed to play against Maryland the following year as he led Syracuse to a decisive 53-0 win. Lacy drew criticism in some circles for divulging Sidat-Singh’s ethnicity, but maintained his stance that racial progress demanded honesty.
In August 1941 Lacy moved to Chicago to work for another black newspaper, the Chicago Defender, where he served as its assistant national editor. While in the Midwest he made repeated attempts to engaged Major League Baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis on the topic of desegregating the game, writing numerous letters, but his efforts went unanswered.
Lacy also targeted blacks in management and ownership positions with the Negro leagues, some of whom had a vested financial interest in keeping the game segregated. In a Defender editorial, he wrote:
“No selfishness on the part of Negro owners hip, nor appeasement … to the Southern reactionaries in baseball must stand in the way of the advancement of qualified Negro players.”
On January 4, 1944, Lacy returned East, joining the Afro-American in Baltimore as sports editor and columnist. He continued to press his case for integrating baseball through his columns and editorials, and many other black newspapers followed suit. In one such piece in 1945, Lacy wrote:
“A man whose skin is white or red or yellow has been acceptable. But a man whose character may be of the highest and whose ability may be Ruthian has been barred completely from the sport because he is colored.”
However, Lacy did not make any headway on the issue until Landis died in late 1944. Lacy began a dialogue with Brookly Dodgers owner Branch Rickey, and Landis’s successor in the commissioner’s office, Happy Chandler, lent his support to the effort. It ultimately led to Jackie Robinson signing with the Dodgers’ minor league team, the Montreal Royals on October 23, 1945, which was Lacy’s 42nd birthday.
Lacy spent the next three years covering Jackie’s struggle for acceptance and a spot in the big leagues. He traveled with Robinson to the Royals’ games at various International League cities.
He traveled throughout the Northeast, to the Dodgers’ spring training site in Daytona Beach, to Florida, to competing clubs’ camps throughout the deep South, and to Cuba for winter baseball.
Like Robinson and the other black athletes he had covered, Lacy encountered racist indignities and hardships. He was barred from press boxes at certain ballparks, dined at the same segregated restaurants with Jackie, and stayed at the same “blacks only” boarding houses as Robinson. Robinson would eventually break MLB’s color barrier in 1947 with the Dodgers, but Lacy never allowed their racial bond to cloud his journalistic objectivity. During spring training in 1948, Lacy chastised Robinson in print for arriving 15 pounds overweight, his “lackadaisical attitude” and for “laying down” on the job. He also plastered details of Robinson’s personal life throughout his articles, including the dining, shopping, wardrobe and travel habits of Jackie and his wife, Rachel.
Lacy resisted having his own personal bouts with racism become part of the integration storyline, and kept the focus on the athletes he covered:
“There were a lot of things that were bothering him. [Robinson] was taking so much abuse that he said to me that he didn’t know whether or not he was going to be able to go through with this because it was just becoming so intolerable, that they were throwing everything at him.”
Lacy made sure to cover all angles of the race issue. In 1947, he reported on the interaction between white St. Louis Browns outfielder and rumored racist Paul Lehner, and his black teammate Willard Brown:
“Brown used a towel to wipe his face and neck. Lehner reached over, picked up the same towel, wiped his face and neck. He handed it back to Brown and the latter wiped again. A little later, Lehner repeated the act. Folks, this was something I saw, not something I heard about.”
In 1948, he reacted to the death of Babe Ruth not with adulation for the star but with spite toward Ruth’s personal behavior:
“[Ruth was] an irresponsible rowdy who could neither eat with dignity nor drink with judgment who thrived on cuss-words and brawls whose 15-year-old mentality led him to buy one bright-colored automobile after another to smash up. The rest of the world can hail the departed hero as a model for its youth but I do not wish my [son] Tim to use him as an example. And there is absolutely nothing racial about this observation. The same applies to [black boxer] Jack Johnson, who is also dead.”
Lacy covered the first interracial college football game ever played in the state of Maryland when all-black Maryland State faced all-white Trenton (N. J.) in 1949:
“Down here on the Eastern Shore, where 32 lynchings have occurred since 1882, democracy lifted its face toward the Sun on Saturday.”
Not content to see black ballplayers reach the major leagues, Lacy began pushing for equal pay for athletes of color, and for an end to segregated team accommodations during road trips. His first success on those fronts was persuading New York Giants general manager Chub Feeney to address the latter issue:
“I pointed out to Chub Feeney that he had guys like Willie Mays and Monte Irving and Hank Thompson holed up in some little hotel while the rest of the players, people who might never even wear a major-league uniform, were staying at the famous Palace. Chub just looked at me and said, ‘Sam, you’re right.’ He got on the phone to (Giants owner) Horace Stoneham and that was the end of that.”
Over the ensuing decades, Lacy pushed for the Baseball Hall of Fame to induct deserving Negro league players, and later criticized the Hall for placing such players in a separate wing. He also pressured national TV networks over the lack of black broadcasters, criticized Major League Baseball for the absence of black umpires, targeted corporations for their lack of sponsorships of black athletes in certain white-dominated sports including golf, and highlighted the dearth of black head coaches.
Stories covered extensively by Lacy included the Grand Slam tennis titles won by Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe two decades apart, Wilma Rudolph’s three & field gold medals at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome and Lee Elder playing at Augusta National in 1975 as the first black golfer in The Masters tournament.
In 1954, Lacy questioned why the city of Milwaukee had chosen to honor Braves outfielder Hank Aaron with a day in his honor a mere two months into his playing career:
“Why? Why is it we feel every colored player in the major leagues is entitled to a day? Why can’t we wait until, through consistent performance or longevity, the player in question merits special attention?”
Lacy worked as a television sports commentator for WBAL-TV from 1968 to 1976.
Lacy remained with the Baltimore Afro-American for nearly 60 years, and became widely known for his regular “A to Z” columns and his continued championing of racial equity. The onset of arthritis in his hands in his late 70s left him unable to type, so he wrote his columns out longhand. Even into his 80s he maintained his routine of waking at 3 A.M. three days a week, driving from his Washington home to his Baltimore office, working eight hours, and playing nine holes of golf in the afternoon. Lacy could no longer drive after a suffering a stroke in 1999, so he rode to the office with his son, Tim, who followed in his footsteps as a sportswriter for the Afro-American.
In 1948, Lacy became one of the first black members of the Baseball Writers Association of America preceded by Wendell Smith who became a member in 1947.
In 1984, Lacy became the first black journalist to be enshrined in the Maryland Media Hall of Fame.
In 1985, Lacy was inducted into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame in Las Vegas.
In 1991, Lacy received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Black Journalist
In 1994, Lacy was selected for the Society of Professional Journalist Hall of Fame by the Washington chapter.
In 1995, Lacy was in the first group of writers to be honored with the A. J. Liebling Award by the Boxing Writers Association of America.
In 1997, the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s groundbreaking major league debut, Lacy received an honorary doctorate from Loyola University Maryland, and was honored by the Smithsonian Institution with a lecture series. Lacy also threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to a Baltimore Orioles home game at Camden Yards that season.
On October 22, 1997, Lacy received the J. G. Taylor Spink Award for outstanding baseball writing from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The award carries induction to the writers and broadcasters wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and Lacy was formally enshrined on July 26, 1998.
In 1998, Lacy received the Frederick Douglas Award from the University System of Maryland on April 23 the United Negro College Fund established College scholarship program in Lacy’s name on April 25; and he received the Red Smith from the on June 26.
In 2003, the Sports Task Force wing of the National Association of Black Journalist instituted the Sam Lacy Pioneer Award, presented annually to multiple sports figures in the host city for the NABJ convention. Recipients are selected based on their “contributions to their respected careers, but more importantly, their direct impact on the communities they served.
Lacy also served on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports and on the Baseball Hall of Fame’s selection committee for the Negro leagues.
Sam Lacy wrote his final column for the paper just days before his death at age 99 in 2003, and filed the piece from his hospital bed. In 1999, he explained his rationale for staying with the Afro-American while spurning more lucrative offers:
“No other paper in the country would have given me the kind of license. I’ve made my own decisions. I cover everything that wanted to. I sacrificed a few dollars, true, but I lived a comfortable life. I get paid enough to be satisfied. I don’t expect to die rich.”
Sam Lacy died rich at the age 99 on May 8, 2003. He was one of the richest men I know in sports media—I wish we all could die so rich—-he died a “Free Man!”
The mis-quote of the month: “After freeing over 300 slaves, Harriet Tubman said, “I could have freed hundreds more only if they had known they were slaves.”
Dr. Edwards was once an outstanding athlete on the San Jose State track and field team. He had been a contributor to “The Original Inside Sports” for over four decades.
When former NBA great and ESPN analyst Charles Barkley’s interview on CNN went viral as it related to his opinion on black men in America/Michael Brown and Ferguson. I contacted Dr. Edwards to make sense of the uproar. I also spoke to Michael Wilbon of ESPN to get his take on his friend Barkley’s views on racism and black men in America. Wilbon has agreed that we can all disagree! This was all being said as it related to ESPN’s Kenny Smith’s “Open Letter” to his colleague Charles Barkley.
Wilbon had written two books on Charles Barkley. He said “Harold I didn’t hear the interview (liar) but I will see Charles tomorrow and I will get a response!” I turned to ESPN’s PTI to watch Wilbon and his partner the overrated Tony Kornheiser, but during that segment of the show there was no mention of Kenny Smith’s Open Letter to Barkley so I moved on. Wilbon has become a Big Liar–his word has meant absolutely nothing in 2021.
This was Dr. Harry Edwards’ take on Barkley and Wilbon: “I love Charles Barkley– as long as he is sitting on the sports desk at TNT trying to explain why the Clippers will never win a championship as long as their toughest, most consistently competitive player is a 6’1″ point guard. But when he begins to offer jaw-droppingly ignorant and uninformed opinions on issues from Obama’s Syria/ISIS policy to the “criminal” predispositions and proclivities of the Black community, I find something more productive to do like taking out the garbage or cleaning up my lawn. And the saddest part of it all is that he apparently doesn’t realize that the networks and interviewers are just flat out CLOWNING HIM!!! It’s a “What crazy crap can we prompt Barkley to say. And all the better if it is an attack on Black people!”
The “guess what Charles Barkley said on CNN?” factor is incentive enough for the networks to persist in presenting and promoting this clown show– long past the time when it is either funny or even remotely engaging. Now both Barkley and the interviewers look like clowns– and justifiably so.”
Forget Michael Wilbon – he is as sick and confused as Barkley. He is the guy who while sitting on a major cable network anchor desk said ” I call my Black friends “Nigger” all the time – and there is nothing wrong with that.” This is a sentiment that Barkley agrees with– until the White boy sitting next to them calls somebody “Nigger” and then they want him fired! So don’t hold your breath for Wilbon to exercise either the balls or the intellectual integrity to challenge Barkley on his bull shit.
Dr. Harry Edwards
Summary: Jeff Roorda business manager of a white St. Louis Police Association called for disciplinary action against the five NFL St. Louis players whose “Hands Up” gesture was an expression of their Freedom of Speech as they ran on to the field of play. He demanded that the players be punished and that the team issue an “public apology.” Roorda has a history of corruption as a St. Louis police officer.
In the meantime, the black Ethical Society of Police (220 members strong) said, “We completely supports the actions of the St. Louis Rams football players in which they showed support for the family of Michael Brown by entering the stadium with their hands up.”
I had the opportunity to listen to the videotaped debate between Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith on Inside the NBA held on Thursday night. The topic, Kenny’s Open Letter to Barkley as it related to Michael Brown and Ferguson. I was further confused by Barkley’s response to Smith for adding the word “Slavery” to the dialogue in his Open Letter, but he found nothing wrong with his friend Michael Wilbon using the word ‘Nigger’ as his word of choice while addressing his everyday buddies? What ever happen to common sense?
My opinion, Kenny had every right to bring slavery into the conversation. There is an old saying “If you don’t know your history you are bound to repeat it.” It is evident to me that Barkley does not know his black history. Shaq O’Neal made a valid observation when he said, “I don’t believe all the evidence is in the Ferguson case” but he was smart enough to leave the debate in the hands of Smith and Barkley. Shaq is a big supporter of law enforcement.
Any objective person no matter the color of one’s skin could easily see that black folks in the town of Ferguson were set-up to fail—they were in a no win situation. Still burning and looting should not have been an option. First, it does not take a Grand Jury 100 days to reach a decision on whether Officer Darren Wilson should be send to trial. Second, why would the Governor of the state of Missouri put 400 National Guardsmen on standby before the decision is handed down and why is the decision read at 9:00 pm? Why would a responsible leader put the town in danger by giving the looters an opportunity to seek and destroy under a cover of darkness? Where were the 400 National Guardsmen that the Governor put on alert once the burning and looting started—nowhere to be found? Why were there no arrest made on the first night of the looting and burning? Smells like a set-up to me. The same set-up I was an eye/witness to in DC in 1968 when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, TN.
I was working in the U Street corridor when the orders were send down to the police to only moderate the looting and burning on the first day. The next day there were wholesale arrest, much too late for many businesses and residents of the inner-city—they had lost everything! A piece of Black History Charles Barkley knows absolutely nothing about because of his hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil mentality. Charles Barkley claims without the police many black communities would be like “The Wild, Wild West!” And his most ridiculous observation ‘I don’t think the death of Eric Garner was a homicide.”
Garner was the black man choked to death on a New York street corner while selling loose cigarettes. He died while six white cops wrestled him to the ground, one had an illegal choke hold barred by the NYPD. He said several times to his attackers, “I can’t breathe.” But no one was listening. The Grand Jury freed the white cop. But there are still claims that body cameras are the solution to police brutality but when the crime was caught on camera the guilty cop still gets a free pass. Something is wrong with this picture!
I have spent 50 years working in the schools, streets, playgrounds and courts here in the DMV. I have seen the Good, Bad and the Ugly in law enforcement. There are some goods cops but they are outnumbered by the bad and ugly. The bad and ugly are usually the cowards who hide behind their guns and badges. In today’s world it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish the thugs from the cops. Some people say, “They are one of the same.”
For some reason beyond me the Powers-To-Be can’t see the Big Picture when it comes to police brutality in this country. No amount of body cameras are going to solve the Ebola like disease of racism embedded in police departments throughout this country. “The Code of Silence and The Blue Wall” established to protect crooked and corrupt cops are the real problems. Plus, the criminal justice system is overrun with judges who go along to get along with the corrupt cops. Until we can find a way to change the plantation mentality thinking of Charles Barkley and the “Us against Them” attitudes of cops around the country, we are going to continue going in circles while the Al Sharptons and the Jesse Jacksons are allowed to keep hustling the black community pretending to keep hope alive while our children and black men die in the streets.
“Harold, congratulations, your archives are valuable and should be given the broadest possible exposure. Your discs and videos of your programs belong in the new Smithsonian Institution of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). A wing of the new museum will be dedicated to the struggle in sports and will be titled “Leveling the Playing Field”. Your work was a major force over the years in leveling the playing field, especially in terms of the struggle to define and project “Our Truth!” Dr. Harry Edwards
The two ESPN writers covered the hotbeds for playground basketball in America in a July 2014 blog titled, “Playground Basketball is Dead.” The hotbeds covered were in New York, Philadelphia, L. A., Chicago, and Baltimore/Washington, DC.
Once an American staple, hoops on blacktops across the United States has all but faded away.
AT RUCKER PARK
in New York the birth place of playground basketball, people sat on rooftops and climbed trees to watch Julius Erving play. In Louisville, Kentucky, Artis Gilmore would pull up in his fancy car, still wearing his fancy suits, and just ball. Arthur Agee chased his hoop dreams in Chicago. The Philadelphia outdoor courts once boasted a who’s who of the city’s best ballers, and in Los Angeles, playground legends with names such as Beast, Iron Man and Big Money Griff played on the same concrete as Magic and Kobe. That was then, a then that wasn’t all that long ago. Now? Now the courts are empty, the nets dangling by a thread. The crowds that used to stand four deep are gone, and so are the players. Once players asked “Who’s got next?” Now the question is “Anyone want to play?” And the answer seems to be no, at least not here, not outside.
It once didn’t matter who played, just that there was a game to watch. Holcombe Rucker, the director at what was then known as P.S. 156, started a basketball tournament in 1947. There were no grand plans, just a hope to give kids something positive to do. Bob McCullough was one of the kids he took care of, the two growing so close that McCullough joked that Rucker’s wife, Mary, thought “I was his hidden son.” Rucker died of cancer in 1965, and McCullough, was just finishing up his degree and career at Benedict College in South Carolina.
He took over his mentor’s duties. He added to Rucker’s new semipro/pro division, making things a little fancier by supplying the players with uniforms. Before long, Rucker became the place to play, but fans weren’t just drawn by the likes of Dr. J; they came to see playground legends, too, guys such as Fred Brown and Earl “The Goat” Manigault. At this year’s opening celebration, Brown stood outside the gates of Rucker in apair of linen khaki slacks and a tan shirt. Still fit and trim, Brown had no plans to play that day, but he was happy to be back — back on the court where he made a name for himself. “People didn’t care if you were 20, 30 or 50; if you loved the game, you played, and people respected you for it,” Brown said. “Now it’s more commercial. It’s about individuals. People want to see certain players. We came to watch the games.”
Basketball was made for the playground. Yet the game is disappearing, leaving a hole — in the playgrounds and in our hearts.
IN WASHINGTON, DC
NBA Hall of Fame player the late MOSES MALONE , as legend has it, played one game in a Big M Trotters tournament and was named MVP. Ernie Graham, the Maryland star, cut his teeth in those tournament games. It was at the Big M that legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson discovered Ed Spriggs, the man who spent his senior season toughening up a spindly freshman by the name of Patrick Ewing. The M in Big M stood for Melvin, as in Melvin Roberts, the man who sponsored the tournaments and built the court at 700 Eastern Ave., just over the Maryland border from D.C. To make things easy for himself, Roberts built the court adjacent to his business, Melvin’s Crabhouse. And so on a summer evening, folks could gather to watch local legends all while enjoying the local delicacy for dinner. “There were people all over the place, music, good crabs to eat — it was like a cookout,” said Graham, who used to drive in from Baltimore. “Teams from all over would come.” That a basketball court ended up next to a seafood joint, built by a business owner who was more civic leader than entrepreneur, it said everything you need to know about the once-vibrant playground basketball history in this area.
From Baltimore’s Dome (aka Madison Square), to the King Dome in Seat Pleasant, Maryland, to the Goodman League in D.C., to Melvin’s, it wasn’t a matter of finding a game; it was about deciding which spot had that night’s best run. During the day, those same courts teemed with young kids pretending they were the old heads they had watched play the night before. Now those courts, much like the leagues, are quiet. Back when Kevin Durant was a skinny, 13-year-old kid, his godfather and mentor, Taras Brown, took him to the King Dome, at the corner of Addison and Sheriff in Road in Seat Pleasant (in walking distant of Melvin’s Crab House ). As Brown saw it, “He needed to go where the pole didn’t move and everybody played physical because nobody wanted to fall down.” On a recent, sunny, June afternoon, that same playground was deserted. Melvin’s Crab House and the basketball court are all gone, too. The business closed eight years ago, and the property, along with the basketball court, was put up for sale. Roberts passed away in January 2011.
“That’s gone now, all of it is gone,” said former University of Maryland star Ernie Graham, who honed his game on the playgrounds of D.C. and Baltimore. There is no single cause. The best players, young and old, want to be inside instead of out; they want organized games to showcase their skills, not pickup games to earn street credit. Violence has chased people off playgrounds and out of parks, and NBA and NCAA rules limit when and where guys can play in the offseason.
Graham said. “I have a 22-year-old son [Jonathan, a senior at Maryland], and he’s never to my knowledge played outside. I know these younger guys think we’re hating on them, but they had to experience what we did to appreciate why it was so special. And they never will.” For the most part, the culprit here is no different from anywhere else — AAU tournaments pulling kids away in the summer, college players spending time on campus, neighborhood violence spilling onto the courts — but the real killer of playground hoops in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area is apathy.
There are fewer people selfless and dedicated enough to run the games, and consequently the games are literally dying with the passing of aging organizers. In Baltimore, for example, the Cloverdale Baltimore Basketball Association at Reservoir Hill shuttered with the passing of Lorenzo “Mike” Plater, who ran the league until his death at age 79, two years ago. What’s left is an era holding on for its last breath.
Two strong-willed men are keeping two leagues alive in DC — Jeff Johnson at the Watts League in the Northeast section of D.C. and Miles Rawls at the Goodman League on the Southeast side — but will they help rejuvenate the playground scene or simply serve as its pallbearers? “We’re not going to die out,” Johnson said. “Won’t let that happen.”
Miles, has seen what the league can do for the area: According to a Washington Post story , there were zero crimes committed within 100 feet of the court in 2011, compared with 165 crimes 1,000 feet away — but he might be the only stopgap between the Goodman’s existence and extinction.”Without Miles, there is no Goodman League,” said Mac Williams, coach of Team Ullico. And even Rawls might not be enough. The city has big plans for the Barry Farm area. Although currently stalled, there are plans for an area revitalization to include retail shops, a Metro stop and new housing — perhaps even where the basketball court currently sits. Even if the court itself isn’t dug up, a neighborhood changeover could significantly alter things and it has.
In 2021 the Goodman League has given way to gentrification; the process whereby the character of a poor urban area is changed by wealthier white people moving in, improving housing, and attracting new businesses , typically displacing current black inhabitants in the process by pricing them out making them expendable as red-lining continues by their local banks.
The black population has been joined by a brown population (hispanics) who compete for the same space (jobs and housing) making it more difficult for blacks to survive. The brown population is willing to work for less and live 10 and 12 to a two bedroom apartment. When Black Americans balk at these new concessions, they are labled lazy and wanting something for nothing and told to go back to Africa. Lost in the process it is easily forgotten Black Americans (slaves) were the ones who help build this nation. The promise of 40 Acres and Mule for their slave labor to our ancestors is yet to be kept. An “Even Playing Field” has become a figment of our imagination.
I remember a meeting in 1978 in the NBA New York City league office. I was a Nike rep with NBA Nike Shoe rep, John Phillips. John and Nike had organized an All-Star Game in 1977 in the Bahamas, the home of 1978 L. A. Laker Mychal Thompson. He was their No. 1 draft choice. In the meeting was Ron Thorne, NBA VP of Player Personnel, Gary Bettman, NBA attorney and Horace Broman, NBA Security. The problem, the NBA was not happy with their players playing in pick up basketball All-Star games on playgrounds and other sites they did not control. John was planning a follow-up charity game in the Bahamas that summer with Mychal Thompson returning home to the Bahamas, that was until he was summonded to the meeting.
There was no NBA Player Association rep in attendance to represent the players. The meeting started out well until John question the validity of the league barring players from participating in all-start games in the off-season. Everyone voiced their opinion and John held his own, saying he thought the process was unfair to the players and the fans. Gary Bettman got frustrated and said, “It has nothing to do with being fair, because we own the players!” I had been very quiet until then, I stood up and said, “What the hell is this a plantation?” All hell broke loose with yelling and screaming back and forth, Thorne banged on the table and said, “Time Out for lunch and we will meet back here.” They never came back and playground basketball has never been the same.
ON THIS DAY IN BLACK HISTORY HAROLD BELL & INSIDE SPORTS ARE STILL NO. 1
Black Men in America.com the on-line magazine is ranked in the top 10 among the 500 most read on-line black websites in America. The No. 1 blogger and most popular search engine is HAROLD BELL. Which search keywords send traffic to this site? 1. HAROLD BELL 10.05% 2. African American spending habits 5.62% 3. black consumers 3.97% 4. black yacht club 3.90% 5. all in one master tonic 3.38% .1) Blackplanet.com – A community for African Americans, that provides an interactive forum with chat, photos, games.2) Blackamericaweb.com – African American perspective on news, travel, entertainment, business, technology, and sports.3) Dallasblack.com – Featuring Dallas/Ft.Worth African-American community events, businesses, scholarships, job post.4) Africanamerica.org – Intelligent. Black. Community5) Blackmeninamerica.com – Black Men In America.com is one of the most popular online magazines in the country. Cityalert.com – CityAlert.com is one of the leading online destinations for Urban trendsetters.1. Mybrotha.com – Online magazine dedicated to providing information, education and entertainment resources. 2. Blackvoices.com – African-American community offering news and entertainment and cultural resources.3. Blackhaven.yuku.com – Online forums dedicated to ETHNO centric discussions of issues pertaining to the African diaspora.Top Keywords from Search EnginesWhich search keywords send traffic to this site?Keyword Percent of Search Traffic 1. HAROLD BELL 10.05% 2. African American spending habits 5.62% 3. black consumers 3.97% 4. black yacht club 3.90% 5. all in one master tonic 3.38%+4LikeCommentShare
Social Media sites where you can find Harold Bell:
http://www.The Original Inside Sports.blog / https://sundaylongread.com/2018/01/28/inside-inside-sports-the-oral-history/ read the inside story of how the Washington Post kidnapped my sports talk show title and made it their own. Read how greed and white privilege operates in America, especially when it comes to black America–without boundaries they just take and take. The Washington Post now own the rights to Inside Sports. Don’t forget Famous Amos and his cookies!
On Saturday January 24, 2021 Henry “Hank the Hammer” Aaron Left us behind in his sleep, you see most people get their wings when they transition, but Hank has been flying for years. He flew above the critics and competition in the MLB, by showing up everyday, working harder than everyone around him and being consistent and great every at bat, game, series and season year after year.
Forty-Four years ago, I dreamed I would one day be as good as Hank Aaron the baseball player, but that never happen for me or anyone else. Remember he is by numbers not opinion, The “Greatest Of All Time” (GOAT). Forty-four months ago, I started coaching in a youth program in partnership with MLB and the Atlanta Braves. I teamed up with coach Julie Jones and with the Boys and Girl’s club. That start up was Atlanta RBI, four years later, the Boys & Girl ‘s club walked away from the older boy’s program to focus only on 13 and under. I put together two leagues 18 and up and 15 and up. I did not think about it twice before taking over. No risk no reward.
I was just trying to make a difference in young inner city boy’s lives who wanted to play the game of baseball at a high level. I recruited teams coached by Antonio & Marquis Grissom, Tyrone Newbern , Eric Wynn, Cliff Albright, Kim Brannan, Ernest Spikes, Eddie Bowden, Shawn Livsey, Errol Rogers, Coach Dumas, Coach Austin, Coach Wray. I did not know at the time, we would collectively create BLACK BASEBALL EXCELLENCE in Atlanta and see 27 kids go on to play professional baseball and over 175 go to college. We Created jobs in front MLB offices, Doctors, Lawyers, Financial Analyst , Engineers and more. Even with that we are still chasing the G. O. A. T.
The Hank and Billye Aaron Foundation is called “Chasing the Dream Foundation” and just like when he played, his dream started it in his heart from a place called love. The program is meant help 755 kids get an education through his foundation, but they have done so much more with consistency, hardwork and passion for people day in and day out. The foundation has developed classics musicians, educators, doctors, actors and just great young people over 1,000 kids. Doing it the right way, not bragging on FB or IG but quietly making a difference with class and dignity.
Well I’m passing the torch, it’s time for Marquis Grissom to take over RBI. I no longer run the program. I hope and pray he takes it to greater heights for kids that look like me and others that don’t. He is a good man and with the Braves help I’m confident he will. In closing, My brother and I talked about Mr Aaron’s impact on me and why it hurt me so deeply when he passed on. I watched a man who lived a beautiful life go home to his final resting place is a blessing, but I didn’t have an answer for my pain until now. As a kid I dreamed of being like a ball player who was the man and as a man I have tried to live a life striving to be like a man who was once a ball player.
The internal conflict is that Hank is that man both times. As a man I no longer want to be like Hank, although Hank was an amazing human being. I want to honor him by taking my program Atlanta Metro Inc Baseball and Softball and hopefully touch every kid with the game I love as positively as I can. For me to help them chase their dreams, but yet make sure they are chasing it from a solid academic foundation. I think that will honor Hank best (to see them live a beautiful Life). RIP my hero Hammering Hank.
the author is native of Atlanta, Georgia. He is an account executive for CBS television 46, and former President of 100 Black Men in DeKalb County, Georgia. Mr. Hollins wears many hat when it comes to young people in his zip code. The lives he has touched reads like a Who’s Who in Atlanta and not all of them are athletes. Last year CBS 46 honored him as a “Community Hero” and several weeks ago he pinched hit for Hammering Hank when Hank called in sick–John threw out the first pitch in the stadium being dedicated to his hero.https://www.facebook.com/100005314755131/videos/1500145726839238/
Henry “Hank” Aaron first came to my attention in the 1957 World Series. I was a few days shy of my sixth birthday. The ’57 World Series was the first baseball game my family ever watched on a television set. We were farmers, and radio had been the media beaming information and entertainment into our farmhouse for about forty years.
Family members debated the decision to purchase the family’s first television. Television allowed us to see with our eyes the picture of the words we heard on radio. That clinched the decision to spring for a black and white tv, as indeed a late-season home run in the eleventh inning by Aaron had clinched the National League pennant for the Milwaukee Braves.
Seeing Aaron and Billy Burton performing admirably in the outfield and with the bat lit a spark in that six-year-old’s eyes that he could one day play baseball too. Before we had a television, we listened to baseball games on the radio. Usually, the game broadcasted into our hamlet in Middle Georgia featured the New York Yankees.
I had no idea what the Yankees looked like, but I knew their names, Mantle, Martin, Rizzuto, McDougal, Berra, Ford, and the rest. I had not heard of any of the Braves, but they performed so well that I learned their names: Spann, Adcock, Burdette, Matthews, Crandall, and Bob Buhl was always warming up in the bullpen, which didn’t look like any bullpen we had on the farm. One player whose name rolled off the announcer’s tongue with an air of importance was Henry “Hank” Aaron. Long before Aaron was “The Hammer,” or “Hammerin Hank,” he was Henry “Hank” Aaron. And seeing that Aaron and Burton looked like me, wow, a baseball player is what I wanted to be.
As fate would have it, I didn’t play professional baseball. Instead, I taught on the elementary and college level, practiced law, and now I sometimes write about baseball, including a book on the Negro Leagues where Aaron got his start (The Duke of 18th & Vine: Bob Kendrick Pitches Negro Leagues Baseball (Cascade Publishing House, Atlanta, 2019).
On the day that “The Hammer” transitioned, 13 days shy of his 87th birthday , I took a trip to the tax office at Greenbriar Mall. I needed a tag for a new car I purchased in December, a Jaguar convertible. My wife says I am too old for a convertible, but it is a car that I always wanted, and seeing that later in the year, I will reach my seventh decade, I decided to fulfill that dream.
The night before, I planned my morning journey to the tag office. A long line greets you every day. You must get up early in the morning for the privilege to stand in the front of the line. It was a cold morning.
Taking the back way just as the first light of dawn broke through the sky, I turned down Adams Street, and as I often do when passing the home of Henry Aaron, I took a glance and prayed that all was well with him. My mind reflected on the evening I spent at Aaron’s house in the mid-1990s at a fundraiser for Marvin Arrington, who was running for mayor of Atlanta.
While the guests were outside, I wandered into the house to use the restroom; I passed through Aaron’s den and was mesmerized by the sight of every Aaron baseball card hanging on the walls around the room. I spent more time viewing Aaron’s baseball card collection than outside hobnobbing with the politicos. When I had a chance to speak with Aaron, I complimented him on his collection, then I told him, I have one card that you do not have on your wall. Aaron looked stunned, then said, “Oh yeah?
“Yeah,” I said, “I have a Tommie Aaron.” He smiled.
I think Aaron was pleased to know that someone treasured having a Tommie Aaron baseball card. The two of them have hit more home runs than any brother act in Major League Baseball.
I passed his home and took the curve in the road up to Childress. Nothing appeared any different than on other trips by his house. I arrived early at the tag office; a long line had already formed. The line would have been much worse if I had waited later in the day.
A young, 30ish Black woman was barking out orders explaining just how it would go today if you expected to receive any service from the tax commissioner. This clerk separated those under 65 years of age in a line on the entrance door’s right side. The 65 and up group was on the left side of the door. We stood outside in the cold and the rain. I took my place at the end of the line. I noticed that every senior citizen this young clerk interacted with, there ensured a disagreeable conversation. The young clerk raised her voice rudely, repeatedly, in response to questions raised by the seniors.
Then a young, 30 something well-dressed Black man in hip-hop garb strolled up to the senior line because it was shorter than the young people’s line. Several seniors told him that line was for people 65 and above and that unless he had taken incredible care of himself, his line was the long one on the other side of the door.
The young man was disappointed and rudely yelled: “Okay, you old folks can have this line!”
When I was a younger man, I never thought it was a practical reality to be dismissive to my elders. Seniors were people to cherish, to help, and from whom to soak up wisdom. But this new crop doesn’t seem to know that it flourishes because of the pathway cleared by the “old folks.”
Yet, young people do not know the journey and thus do not respect the journey. They think that young people rule the planet. And while older people are dying in large numbers, many still survive because the “old folks” have learned the secret to longevity. The young cannot envision they will reach the threescore and ten years promised in the scripture. A great many are gone before age thirty. They have no clue that Divine Grace can carry “old folks” into their hundreds living comfortably on checks that were cashed long before many of the young crowd were born.
While standing in line, my phone began to ding. First, I ignored calls from several baseball coaches thinking that the call could wait until I returned home. Then putting my phone away, a notice from Politico popped up. The headlined read HENRY “HANK” AARON DEAD.
That was a jolt I didn’t expect, like a family member learning on television that a relative died in an accident. This is such a cold and callous headline. Politico could have at least written, Henry “Hank” Aaron Has Died. I imagine that headline was written by a young journalist who placed little value on the lives of older people. Aaron’s transition deserves more solemnity than an announcement that he is dead.
Are there any “Baby Boomers” staffing news rooms these days? Surely a “Boomer” would have edited DEAD from that headline out of respect for the life of, well, any human.
So, what does all this have to do with Hank Aaron?
Henry “Hank” Aaron had manners — good manners. He respected the space of other people. When the public address announcer introduced Aaron, he would saunter toward home plate, usually with his bat in one hand and his helmet in the other hand. If it was a home game, and he was coming from the home team on-deck circle, Aaron walked behind the Homeplate umpire so as not to disrespect the umpire’s space by walking in front of him, then put on his cap, cock his bat, and the rest you can read in the record books.
Young people can learn manners from Aaron’s life. A little respect goes a long way, even with disagreeable people. When the young tax clerk came to me, she asked for my bill of sale. I handed it to her. There were several pages stapled to it. She refused to take it and barked at me, “I said I need your bill of sale.”
“This is my bill of sale,” I replied.
“I don’t need all that,” she bellowed.
“Well, what do you need,” I asked, confused, and getting a little agitated.
Pointing at the stapled document in my hand, she said, “I don’t need all of that.”
Bingo, now I get it.
“So, what you want is the top sheet and not the other pages,” with a tinge of sarcasm, I queried?
“Yes,” she impatiently stated.
“I didn’t understand you,” I replied.
To which the young clerk offered: “Well, it’s the mask; it’s hard to understand me with my mask on.”
“Oh, I heard what you said. I didn’t understand what you wanted me to give you. It’s a matter of communication,” I thundered, getting a bit flushed in the cheeks.
“You don’t understand,” she roared, telling the old fool off.
“Oh, I understand alright, you don’t understand how to talk to people,” detaching the one sheet she wanted and handing it to her.
Manners, older people have them, or at least most. Few young people have them, some do. Aaron had manners. His manners were on display every night the Braves beamed into American homes. My mom taught me manners, and I saw them reinforced every time I watched Aaron play baseball.
Henry “Hank” Aaron was consistent. Day in and day out, you could count on Aaron showing up and performing at a high level. As the late 1950s gave way to the 1960s, my two favorite baseball players were Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. I believed that one of them would be the first to hit 60 homers in a season since George Herman “Babe” Ruth. Also, I believed that Mantle or Mays would claim the career home run record of 714. Both had seasons of 50 plus homers, but neither hit 60 in a season nor did either catch Ruth in career homer runs. Mays came close at 660.
Aaron never hit 50 homers in a season. He never hit over 47 in any campaign. So how did he get to 755 home runs when other sluggers failed to reach this summit?
By consistency. In his first 20 years in the league, Aaron averaged 39 home runs a season to surpass Ruth at 715. His production dropped over his last two years, but Aaron managed to average 33 homers for each season he played.He went to work every day. He put in the same excellent effort. When he walked away from his baseball career, he was the “King of Swat”!
Some young people lack the patience to be consistent. They want it right now, just the way they like. Like the tag clerk, she did not want to be responsible for the complete document, she only wanted what she wanted, and that old dude must not be very bright because he doesn’t understand all I am asking for is the top sheet.
Ironically, I had been to the tag office the previous day, but the dealer had not submitted the paperwork, so I received instructions to go back. I encountered this same tag clerk on my visit the day before, and she was charming. She had an adorable spirit. She was patient; she was kind and immensely helpful to the seniors.
Aaron found his comfort level. It was not as flashy as Mays, nor did he hit the tape measured shots of Mantle, but he maintained a consistent productive level.
We all should strive to have Henry “Hank” Aaron’s manners and apply his consistent approach to reach our goals.
Thank you, Mr. Aaron, you taught me much more about life than about baseball, and I am good with this fact.
Harold Michael Harvey is theLiving Now 2020 Bronze Medal winner for his memoir FreaknikLawyer: AMemoirontheCraftofResistance. He is a Past President of the Gate City Bar Association. He is the recipient of Gate City’s R. E. ThomasCivilRightsAward, which he received for his pro bono representation of Black college students arrested during Freaknik celebrations in the mid to late 1990s. Harvey is an engaging public speaker. Contact him at email@example.com. Click here to visit Harold’s official website.
The term “The Greatest” is used very loosely today, but I would guess it would depend on the generation one was born (time). Henry Aaron is the greatest player of my generation. His great swing took him from a poverty-stricken section of Mobile Alabama, to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He died on Thursday January 19, 2021. He was 86.
I was blessed as a sports media personality to have broken bread and interviewed some of the greatest sports personalities of my generation. There were Muhammad (Boxing), Bert R. Sugar (Boxing), Red Auerbach (NBA), Wilt Chamberlain (NBA), Clarence ‘Bighouse’ Gaines (College basketball), Jim Brown (NFL) and Hank Aaron (MLB) and a cast of hundreds.
I was not surprised Hank’s last heroic act was for his community. He was first among the Atlanta personalities to get vaccinated against Covid 19 at the new Morehouse School of Medicine, January 5, 2021. He was hoping to send a message to Black America that the shots were safe. He said, “It makes me feel wonderful. I don’t have any qualms about it at all. I feel quite proud of myself for doing something like this, you know. Its just a small thing that can help zillions of people in the country. Vaccine experts are saying his death had nothing to do with the vaccine.
Hank’s greatness never let him forget his humble beginnings growing up in Mobile, Alabama. He went from picking cotton as a child to hitting homeruns out of Major League ball parks around the country.
Racism showed its ugly head at every stop, there were tough times in the Negro Leagues and more disguised and subtle racism in Milwaukee and Atlanta. The racist bigots that Jackie Robinson faced in 1947 were still there when Hank arrived in Indianapolis to play with the Clowns’ organization of the Negro leagues in 1951. He was 17 years old. There was no relief in Jacksonville in 1953 when the Braves promoted him to their class A affiliate, the Jacksonville Braves. He led the league in almost everything accept home runs, runs scored (115), hits (208), doubles (36), RBIs (125), total bases (338) and batting average (362). He made his Major League debut in Milwaukee on April 13, 1954. A fracture ankle cut his season short in early September, but he finished 4th in the voting for the “Rookie of the Year” he closed out the year with 13 home runs. There was little doubt he was a super-star in the making.
He was also frustrated with the lack of progress of Africa-Americans on the field of play (less than 10%), lack of GMs in the front office, lack of managers on the field and lack of black ownership in the sky-suites. He watched as so-called black brothers pretended to be minority owners in name and title only. They made no on-field or off-field baseball decisions to help the team win.
Hank faced racism around each base he ran, especially, after each home run he hit during his quest to break the record of the legendary home run king, Babe Ruth. In Major League Baseball Ruth’s home run record of 714 was sacred and stamped “White Privilege.” Hank didn’t just talk the talk in the struggle for civil and human rights, he walked the walk while challenging Major Leauge Baseball to live up to the ground breaking efforts of Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson. He was the loudest voice to be heard that the Negro League players were equal to the white players in the Major Leagues. In December 2020 MBL finally recognized the Negro Leagues as an equal partner for whatever that is worth in 2021.
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick on Friday reminded fans that Aaron broke in with the Milwaukee Braves in 1954, just seven years after Jackie Robinson shattered the color line with the Brooklyn Dodgers. So Aaron faced the same brutal racism other Black players of the era experienced, especially as the slugger approached Ruth’s home run record. “This Black man in the deep South was about to break a record that no one really thought could ever be broken and that was not wearing well on a lot of (white) people,” Kendrick told the MLB Network, shortly after getting word of Aaron’s passing. “And yet he was able to withstand, endure and still perform at an exceptional high level.” Kendrick added: “He’s as much of a civil rights icon as anyone.”
My wife Hattie and I had the opportunity (Privilege) to spend some private and quite time with him right after he broke the Babe’s record. Ali called to tell me Hank was coming to DC and he wanted to see our Rumble in the Jungle interview. Ali had given him my number. Hank called and invited us to meet him at his downtown hotel for lunch. After lunch we went back to his room and watched the interview. He loved the video and said, “You guys were really serious, you really captured the real Ali, congratulations.”
He walked us to the elevator and asked me to write our home address and telephone number down for him. Several weeks later we received a check in the mail for $1,000 dollars made out to Kids In Trouble and a note saying, “keep helping kids.” In 1980 I held a fund raiser on my birthday at the Foxtrappe Club in DC. I raised $5,000 dollars hoping to help the Atlanta police solve, ‘The Atlanta Child Murders.’
Hank said, that he was deluged with racist hate mail and death threats as a Black player threatening the mark of one of the most popular white players to ever play the game. He said he kept all of the letters to remind his grandchildren how pervasive racism is in the country. “In all of the interviews that the police and the detectives and whoever was in charge did, (they said) all of these were probably just crank letters, but there may be one in there from someone that meant something,” He said in a October 2016 interview.
Hank wrapped up his 23-year career in the majors in 1976 with a boatload of records that still stand including 2,297 runs batted in, 6,856 total bases and 25 All-Star game appearances. But the former Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves great is best known for a record that no longer stands — hitting his way to the all-time home run record previously held by Babe Ruth and later eclipsed by Barry Bonds. Aaron, hit 755 home runs.
He was a class act, he showed little bitterness that his home run mark was surpassed in a modern era that has emphasized long balls and had been helped along by better training methods and even doping. When Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run in San Francisco in 2007, the Giants played a videotaped congratulatory message from Hank. He said on NBC’s Today show last year, “It’s kind of hard for me to digest and come to realize that Barry cheated in the home runs,” He still called Bonds the home run king of baseball, and he doesn’t believe other great players of the steroid era should be banned from Cooperstown.
He was a class act to the end, the shoes he wore in our struggle for civil and human rights will be hard to fill in pro sports.
Blacks have been coming and going out of the White House for over one-hundred years. Frederick Douglas was an abolitionist, orator, writer and a frequent visitor to the White House in the late 1800s. President Rutherford Hayes made him the first black U. S. Marshall in 1877. Following Douglas to the White House were Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown and his sidekick Al Sharpton. The athletes were many including Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Holmes, Don King, Hank Aaron. Who will follow Joe Biden and Kamala Harris into the White House?
When you hear someone say, “Sports and politics don’t mix” you can bet your last dollar it was not Jim Brown. He has hustled the black athlete and the White House for more checks than any visitor in White House history. In 2020 he hit the jackpot with Donald Trump, Trump authorized 50 million dollars for his Amer-I-Can Program disguised as prison reform. His networth went from one-dollar in 2019 to 50 million dollars in 2020?
If you were to ask a black Republican why are you a Republican?, nine times out of ten they would say, “It is the fastest way to the money!” Jim Brown can atest to that, that has been the norm for most blacks. Their visits are to enrich themselves and not the black community. My reach-back track record in the community improved after I left the White House–not my bank account.
If you are a black man or woman and living in America and you have been “Sitting On the Fence” and in denial as it relates to being a Republican or Democrat you better–fasten your seat belts for a wake up call and smell the coffee. History has proven there is very little difference between the two.
What is it that Richard Nixon and Donald Trump have in common, nothing except being Republican Presidents–and one left the White House saying, “I am not a crook” and the other left saying, “I am not a racist?” I would take Nixon over Trump everytime and anytime. Trump has replaced Nixon in the minds of many blacks as the worst President in American history.
Listen to Princeton University Professor Eddie Glaude. There is no big fancy vocubulary with big words (Don King and Eric Dyson). He breaks it down so that all the PhDs on Capitol Hill and the brothers and sisters living in SE DC with no Ds can understands exactly what he is saying.
Claude’s description of racism in America is the same racism I was describing on my sports talk show Inside Sports with Muhammad Ali, Harry Edwards, Jim Brown, Duane Thomas, Willie Wood, Roy Jefferson, etc in 1972. My problem was, I was not as eloquent as Claude. I was emotional and pissed off in the first 3 seconds of my presentation. I came off like the angry black man and I was. In Claude’s 3 minutes he was armed with a knife (smooth vocabulary) that cut deep, he cut through the BS like a surgeon in a operating room at John Hopkins Hospital. The patient (White America) never knew that they had been cut until his final word. He was a smooth operator. See his presentation below.
Check the expression on the faces of the panel as he ends his presentation and the narrator Nichol says–“WOW” and Eddie Claude says, “Lord help us.” I think he just sent a prayer up for President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.
Claude brought back memories from my days on Bolling Air Force Base as a White House Presidential appointee (Richard Nixon). I had started out working with the great Oklahoma football coach, Bud Wilkinson in 1970. Wilkinson was the Director of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. He turned to politics after his great college football career. I hung in there with Bud for about six months and I got bored. Bud would come into the office on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday he would hit the road for the next big college football game. I would not see him again until the following Monday.
I called the man President Nixon assigned to look over me, Herb Klein. Mr. Klein was the White House Communications Director (he was a class act and a gentleman). It took him about a week to find me another job. He transferred me to the Department of Defense (Pentagon) in the care of Secretary Melvin Laird. Mr. Lair was looking for someone to head a new position for DOD called Domestic Actions (a community based program). I was assigned to Bolling Air Force Base in SE DC (‘The Hood’ Ward 8) as the Director of Domestic Actions. My role was to allow the off-base community to use on-base facilities when they were not being use by military personnel. Those facilities included baseball and football fields, swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts and the base library for community meetings. It was my dream job.
The base Chaplain and I became good friends, his name was Charlie Reider. The Chaplain had this grand idea about making use of some of the vacate buildings on the base. He asked me what I thought and I told him about how the juvenile facilities in DC were overcrowded and maybe we could house some of the youth on base. He took the idea and ran with it and within a couple of months Bolling Boys Base was established. The first of its kind on a military installation, I had a little help from my friends at the White House and DC Superior Court Judge Luke C. Moore. Luke had close ties with DC’s first black Mayor, Walter Washington. Chaplain Reider locked down things on base.
The program was a big hit, I had radio and television personality Petey Greene, DC Superior court judges, the Washington Redskins and Harlem Globe Trotters visit the Boys Base to encourage and enhanced the future of the youth. My dream job would turn into a nightmare.
I had several unpleasant encounters with the base commander a Colonel named, Duane Erickson ( ‘Good Old Boy’ from Texas). He didn’t like civilians under his command no matter if they were Presidential appointees. My office was in the base headquarters down the hall from his. We had to see each other almost everyday and I could tell I was a sight for his sore eyes. The second in command was Colonel Fred Taylor and he was a true officer and a gentleman.
Colonel Taylor knew things were not kosher between me and his boss, but he would always have a kind and encouraging word. One evening he asked me to join him for breakfast at the Officer’s Club in the morning and I did. I remember him saying, “Harold, you are doing a great job here on the base, the Bolling Boy’s Base was a great idea. Colonel Erickson does not like civilians in his space, but he had no choice with you because you were assigned here directlly from the Pentagon by way of the White House. I know it might look like something else, but I don’t think it is (racism). My advice, is for you to remember he is the commander of the base and you guys need to work together as a team. The base needs you both.”
Colonel Taylor excused himself and returns to the table with a poster and gives it to me, it read, “The definition of Diplomacy is being able to tell someone to go to hell and have them looking forward to the trip.” There was a picture of the Devil standing in the middle of red hot flames with a spear in his hands smiling. The Colonel smiled and we finished our breakfast. It looks and sounds like Professor Eddie Claude learned that lesson.
The hand that Biden and Harris have been dealt left by Trump; 400,000+ deaths due to convid 19, unemployment, homes and businesses lost, racism by cop and a criminal justice system–that thrives on Justice and Just-Us. I would not wish that on Mitch McConnell or Lindsey Graham “The Proud Boys” of the U. S. Senate. I don’t expect Joe Biden to save us, I agree with Professor Eddie Claude, we cannot blame all of this chaos (based on racism) on Donald Trump, but he help let the skeletons out of the closet, “This is Us”–Lord help us!
This is an open letter is to Black and White America on the birthday of two of the greatest civil and human rights advocates in the history of American, Dr. Martin Luther King and the Greatest, Muhammad Ali. This open letter is especially for those who claim what they saw on Wednesday January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC on the grounds of the Capitol, was not the America that they knew! If you know of anyone who uttered those words–check their closet for a KKK hood and robe. They are a part of the problem. The brillant essay below was written by Don Rivers who resides in Atlanta, Georgia.
“I’m thankful for Donald Trump because he served as the catalyst which brought racists who hid in the shadows for years out into the open.For years the Karen’s and Ken’s of the world lived a secret life. By day they were bankers, business executives, teachers, politicians, police officers, actors, models, artists, and even members of the House and Senate. They mostly kept their views to themselves, played by the rules, and seemed like well adjusted members of the multi-cultural society that has been America, well, since it’s founding.
They knew how to play the game and what, and what not, to say in order to get along and advance in their world. Like most Americans who were told they were white, they had been raised from birth on a revisionist version of American history in which slavery was but a small blemish upon America’s past perpetrated by an unenlightened misguided minority in the South. White civilization in the North had righted the ship, realizing that slavery was in fact not in keeping with the teachings of Christianity, or for that matter, the ideas set down in the U.S constitution by the founding fathers, that formed the moral fabric of their society.They were taught that the civil war was related to, but not really fought over slavery.
Rather, it was a war fought between two highly civilized groups who only came to arms because one, the North, wished to subdue the other, the Confederacy, who wished to secede from from the Union. In their story there were “very fine people on both sides” that were driven to war because they reached an impasse and were simply trying to protect their families, property, and way of life. This version may be one of the most naive and only war retellings throughout history where there is neither aggressor nor villain. Of course, if this version were true, then the actual history which directly arose from the civil war would not exist.
There would’ve been no need to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, black people would’ve received the 40 acres and a mule that they were promised, the Black Codes would never have been written and adopted, there would be no need for Jim Crow laws, thousands of lynchings would’ve never taken place, Black Wall Street would still exist, a black Harlem would be thriving today, the entire civil rights movement would’ve been redundant, Rosa Parks would’ve been allowed to sit at the front of the bus like all the other ladies, Ruby Bridges wouldn’t have needed a police escort to walk to school, four little girls would now be four grandmothers with large families to show, MLK, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and hundreds of other black activists would’ve chosen other vocations and might still be alive.
The G.I bill would’ve been an equal opportunity affair, redlining would never have happened, historically underserved black communities would instead be thriving multi-cultural metropolises, mass-incarceration would not exist, neither would gentrification, there would be no need for Black History Month because black inventors and innovators would not have been written out of the American story, jazz and so many other black musics would celebrate their actual black origins, a black life would carry the same worth as a white life, so Black Lives Matter would never need be said, and a black president may have been elected 100 years earlier, followed by many others.
Instead America swallowed whole the white-washed fiction of the confederacy along with the belief in a persistent Black Menace, who secretly wanted revenge for slavery, and who might slaughter their families and impregnate their daughters, if given the opportunity. Birth of a Nation was not just some black and white silent movie, it was the encapsulation of an entire belief system that was viewed by white Americans everywhere, including in the White House itself. ANTIFA and BLM are nothing but modern day incarnations of this same menace and thus one more reason for why so many white people are obsessed with gun ownership and the second amendment.
Thus, it wasn’t just Karen and Ken who believed in this narrative which made no sense, it was the vast majority of white and white adjacent America, who seemed fine on the surface, but below something far more sinister stirred. Behind closed doors, and when in like company their true colors and characters came out. This true character stayed mostly hidden. With the many victories won during the civil rights movement, and with the passage of federal laws which prohibited racial discrimination, going all the way back to the Klu Klux Klan, most who did not support black and brown progress learned to hide in plain sight.
In more recent times they quietly donned confederate battle flags stickers on trucks, revered confederate monuments, re-enacted the civil war, and mostly only used the N-word in private. Believe it or not, they actually considered this to be a form of oppression. If they considered the Clinton through Bush presidencies to be inhospitable to their true beliefs, then the Obama presidency was like being Jewish in Germany in the 30s. For them Obama represented 8 years of hell and the rapid decline of what America was all about.
The truth is that America’s issues actually began when the first European slaughtered the first Native American, and then continued while the founders of the resulting European colonies committed serial genocide, then kidnapped and transported millions of native Africans in the greatest forced migration (or just plain kidnapping) of people that the world had ever seen. Murdering, brutalizing, kidnapping, transporting and then forcing millions of human beings to work for free over hundreds of years took a great deal of hate and effort.
The Transatlantic Slave Trade made the world a darker place and the people who were responsible in many ways had to sacrifice their own humanity in order to excel at it. The cultures which sprang up around such slave colonies were truly evil, and the unbridled hatred, which they nurtured, tainted every man, woman and child, perverting every facet of their characters and lives, from their versions of Christianity to their versions of history and ultimate world views. They elevated brutality and hatred to high arts. This went on for hundreds of years, until in America even white Southern children could see nothing wrong in the ownership, brutalization, and raping of their black childhood friends. All they saw was the natural order of things.
The South was not alone in its brutality to those of the darker hue. Others, at home in the U.S and around the world in the colonies of the West Indies, Australia, South America, Asia and Africa, echoed the same beliefs, structures and behaviors. What America did provide in a post slavery world was the normalization of modern racism through a focus on capitalism. Without the support of America (and others like Britain) South Africa’s system of apartheid would never have survived for so long. And indeed, once that support was finally withdrawn in the 1990s, it crumbled.Like other cultures based on white supremacy, Southerners actually viewed the events which led up to the American Civil war as an attack on their culture, way of life and livelihoods, which was entirely supported by slave labor at the time.
To them their ancestors fought to retain who they were as a people, and though they lost, many never truly surrendered their beliefs. They simply buried them, or transformed them into some modified form which the North might turn a blind eye to.
An egotistical bigot billionaire con man turned reality TV star realized this and went about riding this wave of historic white grievance all the way into the White House. How did he do it? He made it cool to be openly racist again. He gave America’s bigots permission to let their bigot flags fly. He restored white pride. He retweeted the grievances of “oppressed whites” throughout the world, including white South Africans, and drew connections with what some thought might happen in the U.S, if liberalism were allowed to continue along it’s present politically correct trajectory.
Trump attacked any and everything liberal, from Climate Change to abortion and gay marriage. He promised whites in the U.S that they would always come first. He celebrated white privilege. He demonized nations South of the Border, and “shithole countries with majority non-white populations. He attacked the left and cozied up to racist extreme right groups, becoming their long awaited messiah. Through people like Steve Bannon he reached out to other right leaning groups and movements around the world, forming an alliance, which would rewind the clock on progress.
Thus, the entire Trump presidency was really about one thing from beginning to end; The restoration and preservation of White Supremacy throughout the world. Just like Jim Crow, its true intentions were dressed up in a lot of words, but when naked it was clearly all about preserving one of the oldest stratification systems on earth, racism, so that people who believed themselves to be white could finally walk with their heads held high again. And they did. The behavior which was once reserved for gatherings of the likeminded exploded into an openly racist resurgence which saw thousands of people gathering at rallies, reminiscent of those huge rallies which took place in Nazi Germany after Hitler seized power. Nationalism became a good word, and even had its own slogan; America First.
Despite the inclusion of a few lost and confused people of color, America First, its MAGA twin, and Brexit counterparts were clearly for white people. One could draw a line directly from the emergence of the Birther Movement to the storming of the U.S Capitol. In the birther movement Trump sought to redefine what it meant to be an American, and thus be a legitimate American President.
His problems with Obama were centered around questioning his American citizenship, but they were actually about his skin color. In the storming of the U.S Capitol Trump sought to embolden racists and bigots all over the world to “take their countries back” from people like Obama. His actual goal was far more selfish; A second term as president and the protection that this offered from the mountains of lawsuits headed his way in his post presidential life. Even now, Trump’s situation is dire enough that he is prepared to burn down everything and tear America to shreds in the process in order to achieve his objective.
He is perfectly prepared to push the country into a second civil war, if it will save him from prosecution. It will not be over and we will not be able to breath that long overdue sigh of relief until every single shred of power that he was awarded as president is rescinded. Like Hitler, Trump’s ability to broadcast his vile and hateful message (over any and all platforms) needs to be suppressed, and to speak very plainly, he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for his part in enabling his followers, both the radical terrorists and idiot sycophants, who stormed the Capitol. Those in Congress who supported his rise, and who even now support the disenfranchisement of millions of voters to win him a second term, need to pay a high enough political price that no politician of sound mind would ever consider following the same path in the future.
When Trump assembled, riled up and sent that mob down to the Capitol, he placed the safety of millions in jeopardy. When he refused to call out the national guard or do anything to address his supporters for hours he intensified this threat. When he finally did address his supporters, without condemning their actions, and even while telling them that he “loved them”, he legitimized their coup attempt.
The attack on the Capital was an attempted bloodless coup, but if Trump had the loyalty of the U.S military, he absolutely would’ve graduated to a more standard version, which all but certainly would’ve been more bloody. All of this is before we even consider his total failures around dealing with the pandemic. If America wishes to remain a democracy it must stand against all those who seek to seize power by other means, even if that person is the sitting president. They say that presidents cannot be sentenced to prison, but I humbly suggest that Trump may be one hell of a candidate for that policy’s revision.”