Bleachers Fifty Cents, Grandstand One Dollar

"castro was still in the hills" jim zapp

"football and basketball are just revenue sports" butch mccord

"white beans, pigs feet, and cornbread was our steroids" sidney bunch

"if you can't make it in nashville, you can't make it anywhere" sidney bunch

these are just a few memorable quotes, the few that found their way into my notebook, from today's panel discussion about negro league baseball, at the main branch of nashville's public library. each of the gentlemen quoted above actually played in the negro leagues, and each being from nashville were wearing tremendous smiles at the attention being shown them by their home town. also on the panel, though i have no quotes from him, was chuck meriwether, a major league umpire who stood behind the plate at the historic 2004 world series.

i enjoyed my time at the discussion, and in particular enjoyed hearing senile old men talk passionately about what they love while driving the moderator, a local sports writer, absolutely mad by breaking from the intended path.

the conversation criss-crossed from experiences in the negro leagues to the diminishing numbers of american blacks playing professional baseball, especially compared to football and basketball.

umpire meriwether noted, perhaps touchingly, when asked about 2004 world series, that it wasn't till the second game that the import of the series really hit him. it was before the game, and the other umps and him were circled around home plate, when one observed that, back on the green monster (where during the normal season all the days games scores are displayed) that no other scores were posted. at this moment he found some butterflies.

during the Q & A one person noted that the red sox were the last team to integrate blacks onto the roster and speculated that perhaps this is why it took them so long to win a world series.

also during the Q & A a questioner mentioned that he was at a ball game and butch mccord was being honored with the opportunity to through the first ball. the announcer said, "and to throw out tonight first pitch is baseball great and former negro leaguer, butch mccord." at hearing this, a little white boy standing next to his father asked, "dady, whats a negro?"

i suppose i should say more, or at least offer some more synthesis or criticism. perhaps my duty is to tack more meaning onto these experiences through reflection. i sit here and try and do so, but nothing fills the head. truly, the greatest part of today was shaking the contorted and articulate hands of eighty year old negro league heroes.

there are forty living negro leaguers alive in the world, and i have met three of them, and seen another (buck 'nancy' o'neil) in person, and that makes ten percent. pretty good i'd say.

afterwards i went to the reception where i ate a hot dog. while i dont normally eat dogs, this was the third in twenty-two years, the occasion made it seem appropriate.


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