YOU’RE JACKIE BRADLEY, JR. and you have the potential to be in the same class with the most famous Jackie of all; At 22, you already have his class.
Although your dad was named after singer Jackie Wilson, and that tradition was passed on to you, your Twitter page pays homage to that other Jackie, number 42. And you tweeted:
I get the chills every time I watch this. Watching just this short clip is so powerful http://bit.ly/R30Ubw
The film “42” tells the iconic story of Jackie Robinson, the baseball player who broke the color line; it celebrates him as a superior athlete and a man with dignity, strength of character, and class.
YOU’RE JACKIE BRADLEY, JR. and your Twitter page makes your connection to another famous Jackie quite clear:
“My quote on Twitter is from Jackie Robinson, my favorite baseball player of all time. Without Jackie doing what he did, I am not here playing baseball. I try to give baseball as well as life my all each and every day because you can’t take anything for granted. When I see someone who needs a little boost or help, I want to be that person to lend them a hand to bring them to a better place in their lives.”
YOU’RE JACKIE BRADLEY, JR. and there are already reminders of your connections to the great former Negro League players, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.
The nonpareil Hall of Famer, Willie Mays, would tell the story of how his Auntie Sarah Satterwhite, would roll a ball to him on the floor, before Willie was old enough to walk.
At the age of three, Willie was playing catch with his father, William Howard Mays, who played center field for the Birmingham Industrial League Semi Pro team.
Jackie Bradley’s mother said: “I discovered he had a gift when he was 18 months old…That’s when I bought him a little tee ball set, which we set up in the front yard. He took his bat and hit one into the street. I was shocked.”
When signing a Red Sox jersey for a charity auction, Bradley took his time. In neat cursive, he signed: “Jackie Bradley Jr., 44.”
“Whoa, that’s weird. Forty-four,” Bradley said as he finished.
The number 44 had just been given to him to wear. He did not ask why the Red Sox gave him that number, although 44 resonates in baseball history, worn by, among others, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson and Willie McCovey.
YOU’RE JACKIE BRADLEY, JR. and there are already comparisons to the first Jackie; you are a game-changer with your bat, glove, and speed; you are a man of noble character; you are a thoughtful, sensitive man; if your power develops [especially to opposite field Green Monster], you could put up very similar stats to Jackie The First.
YOU’RE JACKIE BRADLEY, JR. and you keep that “Jr.” on the back of your uniform, because, as you joked: “My dad always told me, ‘You better put Junior in there because if you ever get in trouble, I’m not going to jail for you.’”
YOU’RE JACKIE BRADLEY, JR. and with a total of just 138 games of Minor league apprenticeship, you are the first position player from your 2011 draft class, one of the deepest and most talented pools in years, to reach the big leagues.
You won’t turn 23 until April 19th this year, but you are the first Red Sox rookie to make his big-league debut on Opening Day since Shea Hillenbrand in 2001. You are the youngest left fielder to open the season for the Sox since Carl Yastrzemski, who was 21 when he made his debut in 1961.
YOU’RE JACKIE BRADLEY, JR. and your prospects for being drafted by a team in MLB tanked, when you suffered a mid-season wrist injury, while diving for a ball against Vanderbilt. You missed much of the final two months of the regular season — the period that led up to the draft.
You would not be seen on the field again before the draft; denying you the opportunity to go on a hot streak and led MLB scouts to wonder about your health; especially if the injury would negatively affect you swing at bat.
The injury probably caused you to slide down the draft boards and right into the waiting arms of the Red Sox organization.
YOU’RE JACKIE BRADLEY, JR. and your sudden arrival on the Boston roster is a stark contrast to a player who tried out for the team in 1945. It took a City Councilman to threaten to not approve Red Sox games on Sundays [due to Blue Laws], to force the franchise to reluctantly to give the man a tryout at Fenway.
But, the team stalled for three days and the player was forced to sit in a hotel room, until a local paper broke the story. When the player and two other black players ran onto the field, it was reported, anecdotaly, that someone yelled out “Get those niggers off the field,” but not in any newspaper.
“It burns me up to come fifteen hundred miles to have them give me the runaround…Not for one minute did we think the tryout was sincere.” [Jackie Robinson]
YOU’RE JACKIE BRADLEY, JR. and you are familiar with the racist history of the Boston Red Sox franchise: it was the last team to put a black player on its Major league roster. Cantankerous owner [1933-76], Tom Yawkey was a racist:
“The Red Sox had several black players in their farm system during the 1950s. Many would have good seasons but then, without explanation, be traded away or even released outright, while the slow, lumbering power-oriented white players that typified the Red Sox were no longer in style in the major leagues. Against his personal wishes, Yawkey finally allowed the team to be integrated. In 1959, the Red Sox became the last major league team to field a black player, (Pumpsie Green), twelve years after Jackie Robinson‘s rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Yawkey]
“We scouted them right along, but we didn’t want one because he was a Negro. We wanted a ballplayer,” said Yawkey.
Until 1959, they rejected players who were not up to Yawkey’s “ballplayer standard”—Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays, while all the other MLB teams were signing Lary Doby, Satchel Paige, Hank Thompson, Monty Irvin, and Hall of Fame SS, “Mr. Cub,” Ernie Banks.
“The Red Sox were one of the most racist teams in baseball. You’ve got a 50-year legacy of difficulties between the Red Sox and the African-American population.” [Howard Bryant, author of Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston (2002).
YOU’RE JACKIE BRADLEY, JR. and you have been privately tipped off about Boston’s “dirty little secret”—an entrenched racism under the thin liberal patina created by the faculty and students of its many universities and colleges.
“Bolstered by the undertone of racial apartheid that long was otherwise-liberal Boston’s dirty little secret, Yawkey’s Red Sox neither sought nor signed African-American players [until 1966]… Pumpsie Green was the token black player’s name, and he had to play for a manager, Yawkey pal Mike Higgins, who was an unrepentant southern racist who could have stepped into Rod Steiger’s “In the Heat of the Night” role without an acting coach.”
Although “[Mike] Higgins was prone to using racist slurs…Yawkey not only kept him on as manager for several years, he promoted him to general manager.”
“I have no feeling against colored people. I employ a lot of them in the South. But they are clannish…”
Yawkey and his ilk tended toward a more Klan-ish attitude.
Boston general manager and Hall of Fame infielder Eddie Collins claimed in March, 1944:
“We [the Red Sox] have never had a single request for a try-out by a colored applicant.”
But, almost a year later at approximately 10:30 in the morning on Monday, April 16, 1945, Boston city Councilman Isadore Muchnick and sportswriter Wendell Smith and three African-American baseball players from the Negro leagues arrived at Boston’s Fenway Park.
One month earlier the Red Sox reluctantly agreed to hold a tryout for African American ballplayers: Shortstop Jackie Robinson of the Kansas City Monarchs, second baseman Marvin Williams of the Philadelphia Stars and outfielder Sam Jethroe of the Cleveland Buckeyes.
The audition of the three players took a little over one year to arrange and lasted only a perfunctory ninety minutes. A blatant insult.
YOU’RE JACKIE BRADLEY, JR. and you are aware that there are more recent examples of racism by the franchise:
When the Sox fired Tommy Harper in 1985 he filed a successful suit through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In 1990, outfielder Ellis Burks was the only African American player on the Red Sox roster, just like it was in 1959, when then General Manager, Lou Gorman said: “I know it’s out there but I really don’t know what you can do about it.”
There were issues with the treatment African American players, such as star Mo Vaughn, and off-field Red Sox employees.
In 1998, Thomas Sneed, the African American manager of the club’s “600 Club,” a private restaurant with club seating at Fenway Park, filed a complaint with MCAD. Someone defaced a photograph on his desk of his white girlfriend. When he complained, the Red Sox took no action.
Thus, for at least the third time in their history, race inspired legal action against the Red Sox organization.
YOU’RE JACKIE BRADLEY, JR. and maybe you’ve heard about this city’s recent history:
There was undercover officer Michael Cox’s beating at the hands of white colleagues who mistook him for a criminal.
In March, 2012 a 23-year-old butcher from Roxbury walked into a Dorchester bar called Twelve Bens around midnight, the only black man in an Irish pub was with a 27-year-old white friend, and, after they had ordered a few drinks and started playing darts, a half dozen drunken white men approached them, according to the police report.
The word “nigger” was thrown at the black man, and he was taunted for being a black hockey fan wearing a Bruins shirt. His friend stepped in and was branded a “nigger lover.”
The two men asked the bartender for help; he allegedly snapped, “Mind your own business.” They left, but the group followed them and a fight erupted in the parking lot, six men pummeling one into the pavement. No one was arrested, though the bar’s owner was cited for failing to notify police.
The incident went all but unreported in the media.
And, then there was that ugly incident in 2012 when the Boston Bruins lost the Stanley Cup to the Washington Capitals, when Caps’ right winger—a black hockey player— Joel Ward fired a puck past Bruins goalie Tim Thomas.
Boston fans were outraged, not just because their team lost, but because they had been beaten by “a nigger.”
Listen to the racist carrion Tweet:
- “Joel ward you fucking nigger you suck 6 goals all season you fucking plug nigger bitch”
- “Hey Joel Ward!! You fuckin spear chucking monkey, why don’t you actually DO SOMETHING. You’re totally irrelevant”
- “Joel Ward doe. yet again, slowly taking over everything the white man holds near and dear”
- “The only reason Joel ward is playing hockey is because he got cut from the basketball team in high school #gorilla”
- “Fuck joel ward. Fuck black hockey players. the bruins blackhawks all day niggas”
- “Joel ward is a fuckin nigger #FuckYou”
- “How the fuck did Joel ward get out of my plantation? #WheresMyCotton”
- “Warning to Joel Ward. Your one of three black guys in Canada. I will find you…and I will kill you.”
[MORE HERE with IDs attached: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jpmoore/27-racist-and-homophobic-reactions-to-black-hockey]
Red Sox Century, traced the racial history of the Red Sox back to the Jackie Robinson tryout and asserted that racism- not the spurious “Curse of the Bambino”–was the major factor that prevented the Red Sox from winning a world championship since 1945.
YOU’RE JACKIE BRADLEY, JR. and you know that on February 22, 2002, presumably, the Yawkey Jim Crow Era ended when he sold the club to New England Sports Ventures.
Nearly a year later, on January 31, Jackie Robinson’s birthday, the club sponsored a “teach in” of sorts on Robinson for a group of adolescents.
It appears that the new Red Sox ownership, by not denying, dismissing, or distorting the facts of the club’s racist reputation, seem willing to treat that era as a lesson learned and move into the post-integration epoch.
YOU’RE JACKIE BRADLEY, JR. and it appears that the equality that your hero, Jackie Robinson, worked so hard for, may finally be realized in the Red Sox organization.
Still, Mr. Bradley, as a young man from the South, take it from an ancient Irishman who has been to–and knows–Southie, it would be prudent for you to avoid the south of Boston.
Because, even today, if you were walking down Broadway in Southie, and you were approached by a group of white adolescents with bats, it could still mean one of two things:
1. They recognize you as their hero Red Sox outfielder and want you to autograph their bats.
2. They do not know who you are and–in the ugliest tradition of Southie racism–they will use those bats to beat you to within an inch of your life.
Welcome to the team that let its blatant racism send Jackie Robinson away, after the future Hall of Famer was humiliated, forced to wait for days for a try out that lasted only 90 minutes.
Welcome to a city with a long, sordid history of hatred toward black people.
Welcome to what the former Mayor, in his parochial accent called, quite accurately:
“The Shitty of Bawsh-tun.”