We live in a society that has little patience or understanding for history or being the first. Yes, being number one is making history. Honor comes with being the first Black!
This country’s dominant mindset has been divide and conquer for the most part — build your wealth by getting ahead at the expense of free or cheap labor. In other words, taking advantage of somebody like many White people did — I’m talking about slavery.
Jackie Robinson on April 15, 1947 became the first Black man to play Major League Baseball in the 20th century. Today, Major League Baseball, with its Black numbers sadly under 10 percent, honors Robinson by having all the players and coaches on each MLB team in the league wear Jackie’s number 42 on that day.
When I’m at Target Field, I say to myself: Do these people really get it? Do they understand this reminder is to say how bad, arrogant and selfish their grandparents were? Have you no shame?
It’s 2012. Today, open your eyes; think real hard: Yes, we have the amazing opportunity and distinction of being the first.
In 1947, the same year as Robinson’s first, John W. Lee became the first Black man to receive a regular commission as an officer in the Navy.
As I was growing up in Chicago, Illinois, baseball people talked about famous sports announcers in the Windy City like Jack Brickhouse and Harry Carey and how great they were. For me, however, I connected with Wendell Smith, the smiling legendary sportswriter and reporter for Super Station WGN-TV; he was my Jackie Robinson. To see that Black face on TV made me swell with pride and told me that I could dream of that kind of career, and that I could do it.
I was in New York City recently and was reminded at Gotham Hall of the name Lorraine Hansberry, who wrote A Raisin in the Sun — the first Broadway play written by a Black woman. It appeared to great acclaim; the audiences were moved to tears. Here we are many years later and A Raisin in the Sun is just as powerful as ever, really hitting home by touching universal human concerns.
Who can forget February 2, 2009: While covering the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Arizona Cardinals, I — yes yours truly — became the first sports writer in American history to cover his own son (Larry Fitzgerald, Jr.) in the Super Bowl (XLIII). I gave thanks to Jackie Robinson and Wendell Smith, whose successes through the pressures and challenges were a monument to courage and equal opportunity.
Robinson being number one was deemed and experiment back then by MLB; however, his dynamic playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers reinforced his charismatic appeal. In 1949 he led the National League in batting, won the Most Valuable Player award, and started a string of six consecutive All-Star game appearances.
Robinson’s pioneering was not in vain, but it hurt some because playing became solely for economic reasons. Soon came Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Frank Robinson, Willie Mays, Henry Aaron and others. It busted up the financially successful Negro Leagues and divided us.
I do not agree with the premise that Black reporters have the responsibility to educate today’s Black players on the history of Black athletes and the Black Press. That one falls on common sense. You have to know your history and damn better know if you’re an athlete in the United States. Those that stand tall in our presence appear to be of unusual height only because, in most cases, they stand on the shoulders of giants who preceded them.
Fitz Notes & Quotes
Congratulations to Raoul Johnson of Minneapolis: He won the 96kg weight class at the Olympic Team Trials. Our late publisher Launa Newman was a supporter of his success over the years. Johnson is also completing his Ph.D. in computer software engineering at Colorado University in Colorado Springs, CO.
Arizona Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. was inducted Saturday, into the Athletic Hall of Fame at Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, PA. Valley Forge is just outside Philadelphia. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, George W. Bush and Richard Nixon as well as Hall of Fame Viking Chris Doleman and Larry, Jr. are all former students of the academy.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2), and you can follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to email@example.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.
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