Oct. 3, 2020

My Boys Of Summer Were Destined For Greatness

Roger Kahn wrote a masterful book about his childhood heroes who played on the Brooklyn Dodgers, The Boys of Summer. I read that book and enjoyed reading about Joe, Roy, and Jackie as they changed the game of game of baseball in the late 1940s’ and 1950s’.  However, African American  “Boys of Summer” was entirely different from Roger Kahn. Because as a young African American boy my baseball heroes were black. These men  are leaving now for eternity as they have passed or are passing it seems every day now. I grew up in and a age when baseball was the supreme sport in this nation. Not all of these players have gone but pretty soon they all will have made their last journey. I was lucky enough to have admired and watched my baseball sports heroes like Lou Brock, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron,  Frank Robinson, Maury Wills, Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Clemente, The Alou Brothers, Jesus, Matty, and Felipe, Elston Howard, Paul Blair, Tommie and Willie Davis, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell, Curt Flood, Vada Pinson, Luis Tiant, Johnny Roseboro, Ferguson Jenkins, Ernie Banks, Juan Marichal, Rod Carew, Willie Horton, and Bob Gibson. These players didn’t have the benefit of the long term guaranteed contracts. They had prove it contracts every year and because of their race if they didn’t prove it each and every year they could be dismissed without cause. Yet each of these black baseball superstars did indeed prove it each year and every year. They changed the dynamics of America’s past time with speed, power, and fielding prowess. I was dazzled by the game that these men played. All of my friends mimicked these men during the games. Who of my friends didn’t try Willie Mays basket catch? Who of my friends didn’t want to throw a baseball as fast as Bob Gibson? Heck, some of us even tried the cross-handed bat handling of Hank Aaron. We had those superstars to mimic and it was wonderful. Now these men are dying and with their deaths the glorious era of baseball dominance is ending. Now the baseball stadiums are not filled with young black boys and girls. The playgrounds aren’t filled with baseball diamonds but basketball courts and even soccer fields. It’s a different time now and I think when Bob Gibson passed today a tear rolled down his cheek because the sport he loved no longer dominants the field of athletic play.