The Independent Newsweekly
|Today's Take: NCR's daily Web column|
|Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news. It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.|
|June 23, 2003||
Vol. 1, No. 55
Baseball's best kept secret
Sister Rita Larivee, SSA, NCR associate publisher
The American baseball season is in full swing. But unknown to most Americans is a baseball game going on in Kansas City, Mo., with some of the best players of all time. Standing tall on a mock baseball field are 10 of the game's finest players; all in life-size bronze reproductions. Unfortunately, their names are rarely mentioned and their existence is left unrecorded by most historians. They are the heroes and stars of the once renowned Negro Leagues of baseball.
Founded in 1991, the official Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is the only museum dedicated to preserving the history of black baseball and is also the home to the baseball field mentioned above.
I had the chance to visit the museum this past weekend with the directors of the National Catholic Reporter during its semi-annual meeting of the board. But the experience was hardly about sports; it was an opportunity to view firsthand a small group of visionaries offering hope to the world
For unsuspecting visitors, the museum is not really about baseball. It's the home of the American dream. Remember that? It was once a topic of conversation by generations of people hoping for better lives and fulfillment for their children. It was about life-giving communities and the building of futures. It was about everyone getting a piece of the good life and nobody being left behind.
Perhaps you've forgotten. But not at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. There, everyone involved is committed to building a better future on the rubble of the past. They have every reason to despise those who caused much suffering and hardship for black Americans. But they've chosen another path. Through an on-going collective effort, the caretakers of this museum tell the story of fortitude, perseverance and courage to its many visitors.
For them, the story they tell is not the story of baseball, it is the story of America. Seen through the eyes of those standing on the diamond-shaped field, they share the story of black America during the first half of the 20th century and up through the Civil Rights years.
Despair is not part of their vocabulary, nor any sense of defeat or hopelessness. They've known the worst of human nature and refuse to let it dominate their joy for life, as well as their gratitude for being able to make the world a better place.
This summer, as you look for places to visit, consider a stop to a place and a community of people unwilling to be harnessed by the hatred of war and the fear of terrorism. They are all too familiar with both concepts. It's not baseball you'll be witnessing. It's the story of segregation and those unwilling to give up the American dream.
Forget those receiving multi-million dollar contracts to play ball. Come to the best game around, where all they simply wanted was to "play ball." It's one of America's best kept secrets.
© 2003 The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company, 115
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