Dan Shaughnessy wrote a nice tribute yesterday to longtime Globe sportswriter Larry Whiteside, who died Friday at the age of 69, apparently after a battle with Parkinson's disease. Now, unlike many Boston sports fans, I don't live and die with the words of local sportswriters (you know, the fans who profess to detest a guy like Shaughnessy but can quote his column verbatim every day), so I'm not terribly familiar with Whiteside's day to day contributions, although I've certainly read him often over the years. But he was featured prominently in a favorite read of mine, Howard Bryant's Shut Out, as a pioneer in sports journalism for African-Americans, a guy who took the heat and stayed in the kitchen for more than 30 years. I smiled at Shaughnessy's mention that Jim Rice was asking about Whiteside-according to Bryant, the two of them went toe-to-toe on occasion and got physically aggressive with each other at least once. But ultimately, respect won the day. Even the equally surly Roger Clemens held Whiteside in esteem, saying,"That's kind of shocking. I'm sad to hear that. They're good people there, guys that followed me when I was young in my career. ... Larry, he was always good to me."
In another vein, it's interesting to note, in a culture that frequently denies there's any vestiges of racial inequity left, that Whiteside died at age 69. That is actually almost exactly the life expectancy for men of color in this country, a staggering eight years less than the overall American life expectancy of 77.6 years. The illness that killed Larry Whiteside, for example-Parkinson's, a nasty disease to hit anybody-has been demonstrated to affect proportionately more African-Americans than whites and to kill them more often when they do get it.
The world has lost a good and interesting man. RIP, Larry. You'll be missed.
(AP Photo/The Boston Globe)