Tag Archives: playoffs

Remembering Josh Gibson

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I arrived early at Nationals Park for Game 4 of the NLCS and did a lap around the stadium to see the sights. I discovered three statues near the home plate entrance, and as a student of baseball history anticipated two of the honorees—Frank Howard and Walter Johnson. But I confess that the Josh Gibson statue was a most pleasant surprise.

Not that Gibson, the greatest home run hitter in baseball history, does not deserve a statue. Quite the opposite. Gibson hit more home runs than anyone, including the longest home run in the history of Yankee Stadium. Some called him “the black Babe Ruth,” while others preferred to refer to Ruth as “the white Josh Gibson.” No, I was surprised to see the statue since Gibson, simply because of the color of his skin, was never allowed to play a Major League Baseball game.

Sadly, Gibson died of a stroke at age thirty-five. Three months later Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball.

In certain ways there has been undeniable progress in race relations in this country, thanks in part to baseball and the heroism of players like Jackie Robinson. When the team from our nation’s capital takes the field tomorrow night in their first ever trip to the World Series, their roster will feature players from Brazil, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Venezuela—and the United States. And from the United States, alongside white, European-Americans you will find African-Americans, a Japanese-American, and a Mexican-American. It is a beautiful thing to witness.

But do not be deceived. Progress is simply signage on the road to somewhere, and the destination most assuredly remains on the farthest horizon.

Josh Gibson’s statue outside a Major League Baseball stadium in our nation’s capital honors one of the greatest baseball players of all time. At the same time, it reminds us that he was never allowed on the team. Both deserve remembering.

Breaking Curses

The baseball playoffs arrive this week with a potential Cardinals-Cubs matchup. I will now reveal my important Steve Bartman theory even though it is not in my self-interest.

First, let me say that an objective fan would not place a bet on my much-beloved Redbirds this postseason. Although the Cardinals own the best record in the major leagues, the team limps into the playoffs both physically and in baseball play down the stretch. Still, I wouldn’t necessarily bet against the Cardinals for reasons that go straight to my Bartman theory.

For those who do not know, the Chicago Cubs are cursed. It is sad, but it is true. The Cubbies last won the World Series in 1908 and have not won the National League pennant since they were cursed by a goat in 1945. In 2003, twelve long years ago now (and the last time the Cubs won a playoff game), the Cubs were looking good and just five outs away from breaking the curse and going to the World Series when an unsuspecting fan named Steve Bartman tried to catch a foul ball and foiled the attempted catch of Cubs left fielder, Moises Alou. Alou threw a veritable fit, the Cubs lost the game (and ultimately the series), and Bartman became the bearer of the curse, sadly making him more (in)famous than that old goat.

So, my theory:

I am convinced that if Moises Alou would have simply smiled and ran back to left field that the Cubs would have gone to the World Series. I am serious. I believe that Alou’s fit fueled the crowd reaction, which led to Prior’s subsequent wild pitch, which led to Alex Gonzales’s error and the downfall of Western civilization.

I may be wrong, but as it stands now, the alternative theory is that a sports franchise was cursed by a goat.

My point is this: Life sure seems to be more cursed the more you believe you are cursed. Conversely, things start to look up the more you expect things will start to look up. Some call it self-fulfilling prophecy, and some call it the power of positive thinking. I just call ‘em as I see ‘em, and I’m calling this one as a strike right down the middle of the plate.

Last week, a Cubs fan started a GoFundMe page to raise money to send Steve Bartman to the wildcard game in Pittsburgh. A Cubs fan, not a Pirates fan. I love it. Bartman turned it down and gave the money to charity, but I love the campaign. It was touted as an act of forgiveness, but I think it was much more: That, my friends, is the way you break a curse.