Baseball, life collide in Boston

Posted July 24, 2009, at 11:26 p.m.

Life and baseball, baseball and life — they often meet and sometimes collide.

On Tuesday of this week, Pumpsie Green threw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game in celebration of the 50th anniversary of his becoming the first African-American to play for the Sox.

Boston was the last MLB team to integrate.

As noted in his online column, veteran baseball writer Murray Chass cited the irony that there are no African-Americans on the Red Sox today.

The Sox called on Dominican-born David Ortiz to catch the Green first pitch.

Chass talked of the current lack of African-Americans on the Sox with Sox officials and it is worth a read at MurrayChass.com.

In summary, the Sox said the snapshot of the Sox roster at this moment is not indicative of any attitude by the organization that would keep African-Americans off the team.

There is no reason to believe otherwise, but the irony is there nevertheless.

The irony is further compounded in Boston by the matter of the Harvard professor who was arrested in Cambridge this week trying to get into his own home.

That matter has created international news and raised anew the issue of whether racism was involved in the incident between the police and the professor.

Baseball is deeply involved to remove racism from its game. One area of involvement is MLB-sponsored youth programs to create interest by inner-city kids in baseball.

Major League Baseball has funded the building of fields, the purchasing of equipment and the offering of educational sites that are connected to baseball fields. They want to lure the kids who gravitate to other sports to consider baseball.

There is an economic issue here for MLB. If the kids go to other sports, they not only do not play the game, they do not buy tickets to watch it either.

Meshed with that economic reality is the “do the right thing” matter.

Many of the kids from the inner city happen to be African-Americans, and without the help of someone, there are no fields and equipment.

Which is MLB’s first concern, economic or otherwise? Does it matter?

The same can be said of the Red Sox and their roster. The Sox want to make money and win. One does not necessarily come before the other.

If an African-American makes the Sox a better team, the issue is being better, not being black. Should it be otherwise? And that is a real question.

Pumpsie Green returning to Fenway asks that question anew. There is nothing wrong with that discussion, if we all undertake it rationally.

The Cambridge incident raises the race issue in the general community and nation. Trying to make that discussion rational is proving difficult. Has it ever been otherwise?

Baseball falls under the umbrella of life, and often life is very complicated.

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