This past week I made my annual pilgrimage out to Cooperstown, NY for the baseball Hall of Fame induction. While every year is eventful in it's own way one thing I've said time and time again is that we can learn a lot about dealing with racism from looking at baseball.
The Hall had an exhibit about the Negro Leagues and about the racism Jackie Robinson faced when breaking down the color barrier and becoming the first black player in the majors. Outside among those signing at different locations were a small number of aging players from the Negro League selling memorabilia and autographs.
As my son and I were reading a letter Jackie Robinson received threatening to kill him if he played in one of the ball parks we both reflected on what Jackie's courage was able to do. Two of my son's favorite hall of famers, Reggie Jackson and Ozzie Smith, would not be among those hanging in the hall had it not been for Jackie. Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson would have been unknown names.
When you stop and talk to people walking down the street and mention Ozzie's name they say "The Wizard" or bring up his incredible back flips. If you bring up Reggie Jackson they recall his famous three home run world series record. Henderson is known for his base stealing ability. Willie Mays for his records or his amazing over the shoulder catch. And Hank Arron who?
They are mentioned in the same breath as George Brett, Babe Ruth, Jim Palmer or any other number of players also listed within the Hall. The only differences people discussed between Reggie Jackson and Goose Goosage was that one was a pitcher while the other played outfield.
In today's game color or race makes no difference, if a player performs then teams pay him and fans respect him. When you discuss your favorite team and specific players on that team with other fans the call to trade or drop players or pick up other players has nothing to do with color of skin but of performance. You never hear someone saying the reason their team is winning or losing is due to too many of one skin color or not enough of another.
I contrast that to a story I heard on the radio about how as part of the financial reform bill there was a clause that was snuck in that will allow the government to perform audits on private financial companies and fine them if they do not have the correct mix of minorities and genders working there. Seems government wants to work the complete opposite from the lesson we learned in baseball that it isn't about forcing skin color mixes but instead it's about performance.