Most of us have been watching the floods out in the midwest with detached interest and empathy...man, it must stink to lose everything you've worked your whole life for, and in an instant. but every now and then we get a story that brings things a little closer to home. Baseball fans the country should be mourning the loss of history that went down with Art Pennington's house:
His skin color cost Pennington a shot at the major leagues as a young man. He flourished instead in the Negro, Cuban, Mexican and Venezuelan leagues in the 1940s and, when baseball in America finally opened the door to blacks, in minor leagues across the country.
Six decades later, the water came and carried off nearly every bit of proof that Pennington was the equal of just about anybody who played anywhere he went.
Newspaper clippings, programs, autographed photos from Mickey Mantle, Sal Maglie and a dozen other big leaguers who assured him he would play alongside them someday, scrapbooks that gave his living room the look and feel of a baseball museum.
Not only did we lose the historical articles in Mr. Pennington's house, we also lost part of our own national heritage...the part we don't like to talk about and the part that privileged people like to deny exists...the part that is reflected in the ubiquitous presence of the Confederate flag in the back window of pickups registered south of the Mason-Dixon and even over some state capitals (it's display should be grounds for treason in my book-it is, after all, the symbol of an attempted uprising against a sovereign nation for the purposes of enslaving human beings-but I digress)...the part reflected in polls suggesting that three out of 10 Americans will admit to racial bias, meaning there's a whole lot more out there...the part that means that Mr. Pennington, not that long ago and within the living memory of many Americans, was not allowed to play baseball in Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium or Wrigley Field or the Polo Grounds. As far as I'm concerned, that can't be allowed to fade from our national consciousness, and the loss of Mr. Pennington's priceless collection needs to be mourned by Americans everywhere, whether or not they love baseball. A little part of our national conscience went down the river with those photos and scrapbooks.
In happier news, it appears that Dice-K is, in fact, on the mend, that perhaps he was just brought back from the DL a start too early last weekend. Five innings, two hits, no runs...you can't ask for more than that, really. Hideki Okajima, however, is rapidly pitching himself into Mike Timlin territory, which is depressing, because I really like him. I hope he can turn it around soon.
J.D. Drew is going to his first ASG, mark my words. He won't win the fan voting-Manny Ramirez, I think, is the current leader in the outfield-but I can't imagine that Terry Francona won't reward him for stepping up so big with Papi down. Besides, he's earned it on his own merits. He's been huge this month.
I just heard this, even though it's a few days old...
In a Sports Illustrated survey of 495 Major League Baseball players in its June 23 issue, Jeter was voted the most overrated with 10% of the vote. Struggling Giants lefthander Barry Zito was second at 9%, while Alex Rodriguez and Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew were tied for third with 7%. Mets third baseman David Wright and Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis tied for fourth at 4%.
That brings a smile to my face, because I've been saying that since, well, probably 1996. It isn't that Jeter is a bad player (although I've never considered him a first-tier shortstop-how many times have you heard "past a diving Jeter" as opposed to "caught by a diving Jeter?" And nowadays, at age 34, he doesn't even bother to dive most times) it's just that in nauseating Yankee style, he's been elevated to a status far beyond what his on-field performance merits. I'm not saying he's not a HOFer, or a great postseason performer-he's just not the Second Coming, which is what Yankee fans would have you believe and what makes non-Yankee fans (most ML ballplayers) focus on his shortcomings. Thus, "most overrated." Before this season, I would have said they were correct about J.D. Drew as well, a guy for whom the word "potential" was conceived. But Youk? My guess there is that's a reflection of the fact that perhaps he isn't very popular in his own circles, as Manny can attest.
Game 2, Lester vs sub-.500 Bahke. here's hoping Jon can continue his June resurgence, and that the Sox don't really, really need Coco for anything.