With the stripping of the American little league World Series title from Jackie Robinson West, one of the happiest sports and human interest stories of the past year became one of the saddest.
In one fell swoop, the seeds of joy that these black youth from Chicago’s South Side sowed in winning were transformed into a field of sorrow.
This was true not only for them. It was also true for countless fans of all colors and classes from across the country whose spirits soared with their unlikely victory of a national championship.
Jackie Robinson West lost its title because the team used players from outside the geographic area (district) that the team represented. The players themselves had nothing to do with this. Yet, they will pay a heavy price.
Is there a lesson to be learned from all of this? There are many.
There is a serious question as to why the adults involved such as the district administrator and Jackie Robinson’s manager manipulated those geographic boundaries. Others have raised concerns about racism in the bringing of charges and the decision-making.
But, this is not a blog about lessons. It is a blog about memories. It is a blog of thanks.
Thanks to all those “boys of summer” who played for Jackie Robinson West: Jaheim Benton, Cameron Buford, DJ Butler, Brandon Green, Trey Hondras, Josh Houston, Ed Howard, Marquis Jackson, Pierce Jones, Eddie King, Prentis Luster, Lawrence Noble, and Darion Radcliff.
It is an opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments of those kids who won our hearts not only because of the way they played the game but through their sportsmanship as well. More importantly, these kids from poor neighborhoods and families – many of them single parent – of modest means beat the odds. In doing so, they gave wings to hope.
Kenny Williams, Executive Vice President of the White Sox, speaking to the Jackie Robinson team and a crowd of about 10,000 in Millenium Park at a city-wide celebration of the World Series championship pointed out that it was not just about the kids, however.
Early in his speech, he declared…”But right now I’m going to bring attention to the superstars of the South and West sides, and I’m not talking about these kids.”
“(I mean) the leaders of community organizations. Teachers. Before-school programs. After school programs. The people in the neighborhoods who haven’t given up on the village mentality, because it does take a village.”
Williams moved on to address the Jackie Robinson players stating, “Now to get to those young men…who conducted themselves like professionals. You had ABC, CBS, NBC…anything with an N…trying to put a microphone in your face, trying to bait you, to show a little cockiness, to show a little arrogance, to show something other than grace and style. And you guys did not waver.”
“You inspired me.”
Williams continued to tell the young men, “I see Richard Dent (Chicago Bear Hall of Fame player) back here. He knows…What’s the first thing you do when you get famous, Dent. You thank your momma. That’s what you do. I have not heard anybody thank their mommas. So you guys, when you come on this stage, I better hear it. Because they did the washing. They filled your bellies. They got you to practice. They did all that, so you better give some love for the mommas.”
We say to the members of the Jackie Robinson West team, don’t forget Mr. Williams’ observations and sound advice. They pertain no matter the final results on or off the field.
We also say to those young men always remember this. You were winners. Then, you were losers. But, to those of us who were moved and motivated by your stellar performance and behavior, you are still champions.
Here’s to the Jackie Robinson boys of summer. Thanks for the memories! They can’t take that away from you or us.