RACISM IN BOSTON EQUAL TO MISSISSIPPI: RED AUERBACH WHERE HAVE YOU GONE?

The Boston Red Sox was the last major league team to add a black player.  Elijah Pumpsie Green joined the Red Sox roster in 1959.  On May 1, 2017 fifty-eight years later the Baltimore Orioles’ outfielder Adam Jones was called the N word and had a bag of peanuts thrown at him in Boston.  The more things change the more they remain the same.

The Twilight Zone was a television series in the 60s and was the brainchild of actor Rod Sterling.  The show was a strange mix of horror, comedy, science fiction, drama, and superstition.  Many black athletes describe the city of Boston the same way.

This should not come as a surprise to any of us who were honored in sports media to follow the modern day pioneering efforts of Jackie Robinson (MLB), Joe Louis (Boxing), and Jim Brown (NFL).

Time Magazine recently published a article titled “Why Boston Sports Teams Can’t Escape the City’s Racism”. 

Nothing could be further from the truth the NBA Boston Celtics did escape racism in Boston Garden.  Thanks to Celtic owner Walter Brown and coach Red Auerbach.

Mr. Brown and Red were the Top Cops when it came to racial harmony and Equal Opportunity Employers in the NBA.

They were the first to draft a black player, Chuck Cooper, the first to play five black players at the same time, the first to hire a black coach and the first to hire a black General Manager.  The coach and the General Manager had the same last name, Russell as in Bill.

Basketball historians like, Philadelphia legend Sonny Hill and New Amsterdam Newspaper sports Editor Howie Evans didn’t have a clue.  They claim Chuck Cooper was the first black to play in the NBA, until they heard my Inside Sports interview with Red Auerbach. Red revealed Earl Lloyd was the first to play because of a glitch in the schedule that allowed him to play one day earlier than Chuck.

There are plenty of black athletes who can testify to the sometimes smothering racism of the city of Boston.  Bill Russell won 11 NBA championships as a player, coach and General Manager.

He wrote in his 1979 memoir, “Second Wind”, ‘the city was a flea market of racism, it had all varieties, old and new, and in their most virulent form. City hall was corrupt, with hall-crony racists, brick-throwing, send-them back to Africa racists, and in the university areas phony radical-chi racist.’

One of the stories he tells about his encounter with racism he left out of the book.  That one story he tells was like something out of “The Godfather One” series.

Shortly after signing with the Celtics he brought a home in the suburbs only to return home one night to pull back the sheets and discovered someone had done a No. 1 in his bed.  Remember the movie producer who refuse to hire The Godfather’s godson for a starring role in his upcoming movie?  He woke up one morning to find one of his prize stallion horse’s head in the bed with him.  Russell got the message and moved!

In Boston Garden it was a different story, when the red neck racist attended NBA games at the Boston Garden, it was mandatory that they check their Klu Klux Klan hoods and robes at the door.  Those were orders from the Top Cops, Walter Brown and Red Auerbach. Boston Garden, security had strict orders to ID trouble makers and show them the front door immediately.

The Brawl that broke out at the Wizards and Celtics play-off game in DC had nothing to do with racism, but everything to do with a young immature Wizards player Kelly Oubre acting like a spoiled child.

I remember in the 80s when Larry Bird was having his way winning three MVP awards and playing the game on the same level with “The Big Three”, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas, black folks were outraged that he was compared with this trio.  They expressed their outrage by calling the Celtics a racist team and Larry Bird overrated.

To add fuel to the fire in 1987 Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons acted much like Oubre.  Thomas was quoted saying after losing a hotly contested final Eastern Conference game 7, “If Larry Bird was a black player, he would be just average”.  This was a racist statement.  He was made to apologize and eat his own words.

The telephone calls to Inside Sports regarding the racist Boston Celtics and its overrated player Larry Bird were off the hook and chain.  Those same callers changed their tune when I read them the Equal Opportunity History of the Boston Celtics.

Washington Post Sports Editor George Solomon and writers like Dave Dupree, Byron Rosen, Mike Wilbon, Tom Callahan and David Aldridge were regular contributors on Inside Sports in the 70s and 80s, 90s.

Solomon was listening to the Saturday show I was trying to explain to my listeners they had the city mixed-up with the team.  The following Monday he called to ask me to write a column explaining the difference between racism in the city and a team that was really color blind.  The column got great reviews and it took my writing career to the next level.

Washington National’s manager Dusty Baker kept it real about Adam Jones, he said, “It doesn’t really surprise me too much because I’ve been called that word in almost every city I have played in, minor leagues, big leagues, the letters of hate.  So it don’t really shock me too much, from L. A. to New York, in some places more than others.”

New York Yankee left-hander CC Sabathia told reporters, “I have never been called the ‘N’ word anywhere but in Boston.”

A day before the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Lebron James was to play in the 2017 NBA finals against the Golden State Warriors his LA home was sprayed painted with the N word across his front gate.  Everyone acted surprised, hate crimes have doubled in America.  It is funny how everyone crys wolf once we are confronted, too many think it does not concern us until it appears on our front doorstep.  Pro sports are the leading coponent of racism in America.

A friend and her husband were recently invited to a Washington Nationals’ baseball game.  The invitation was extended by the company her husband works for.  Their seats were located in “The Diamond Suite” of the stadium.  She described the experience as if they had just passed through ‘The TwiLight Zone’.  There was great food and drinks all free and you never had to leave your seat to get your food.  There was also big screen TV, you never had to look at the action on the field of play.

The suite was the “Playground” of Washington’s elite.  It was definitely a Different World, one that many black Washingtonians will never see or experience.  They have been locked out and it is by design.

In the meantime, Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred was heard talking out of both sides of his mouth when he commented on the Adam Jones incident, he said, “The behavior of these few ignorant individuals does not reflect the millions of great baseball fans who attend our games.”

Manfield is the overseer of a league that has priced people of color out his stadiums nationwide as it relates to the price of tickets, food and parking.

The average family of four cannot afford to attend a major league baseball game, it would really cost them an arm and leg.

He was quoted saying during the ground breaking ceremony for the Jackie Robinson Museum, “With the signing of Jackie Robinson by Branch Rickey it took our sport beyond the playing field.  There are a lot of American heroes, but Jackie Robinson is in a class by himself!” 

Red Auerbach, in an interview on Inside Sports, I asked him about what Black athletes did he admire most.  He said, “There are so many, but I have always had a great deal of admiration for Jackie Robinson. We all know what Jackie has done as a pioneer, but he was such a great athlete.”

I mention to Red during the interview that I had heard that Jackie’s best sport was not baseball.  His response, “No football was his best sport and he was a good basketball player to, we have had a lot of arguments when it comes to the best all around athlete of all time and it always comes back to Jackie Robinson and Jim Brown.  They are the ones who have done it and not the potential”!

What makes the Adam Jones’ incident so ironic is that the Boston Red Sox have more African-American (4) players on its roster than any other major league team.  The San Diego Padres home of one of the greatest hitter in the history of the game, the great late Tony Gwynn has zero African-Americans on its roster.

Baseball is called the American past time, but it has the lowest amount (8%) of African-Americans participating in the game since 1986 (18%) and there is no black ownership.  It makes you wonder why it is called America’s favorite pasttime?

Baseball’s giant among men the great Jackie Robinson broke down the color barriers of major league baseball in 1947 or so we thought.  He turned the other cheek when it was not a part of his DNA and the stress of that ordeal cost him his life at the young age of 53 in 1972.

It didn’t help when his own people turned against him when he joined the Republican Party.  Jackie understood long before the masses the Democrats were running a game on blacks called, “Now you see and now you don’t”!   These are the same blacks that also turned against Rev. Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali.  The common denominator, Jackie, Martin, and Ali were all strong willed independent black men who marched to their own drummer.

In April 2017 Rachel and Sharon Robinson the wife and daughter of Jackie broke ground for the Museum that will bear his name in New York City.  Rachel will be 95 years old in July and Sharon said, “This will be her birthday present”.

My question, why has it taken the Jackie Robinson Foundation and his family over 4 decades to raise what I see as “Chump Change” for major league baseball to get this project off the ground?

For the ground breaking ceremony alone they had to hustle up a grant for 6.5 million dollars donated by the Strada Education Network to clear the way for construction.  The grant was the largest ever received by the Jackie Robinson Foundation since the founding by Rachel Robinson in 1973.

The museum is scheduled to open for public consumption in 2019.  The problem, the Jackie Robinson Foundation will need another 18 million dollars to keep the doors open to the public. Why has a filthy rich Major Baseball League not stepped up to the plate with more than a measly one-million dollar donation?

The unvieling of a stature of Jackie Robinson in front of Dodger Stadium and the annual celebration of the retirement of his number 42 every April does not let Major League Baseball and Manfred off the hook.

SharonRobinson said, “Our father was known around our house as more than a baseball player, he was known as a “Activist” and a risk taker!  Sounds a lot like the Red Auerbach I knew.

This is another example of ‘Talk is cheap’!  Baseball Commissioner Manfred needs to put baseball’s money where his mouth is and give Rachel Robinson the financial breathing room for the Jackie Robinson Museum it deserves.

The more things change the more they stay the same!

 

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