Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

World Series: It’s all about perspective

I was recently in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida for the World Series. Despite my beautiful surroundings I can’t afford to take my eye off the ball. I surprisingly encountered a bit of trouble settling on a topic to write about. I quietly wondered: “What’s the real story here?”

I could’ve written about the Tampa Bay Rays unbelievable season. After being the worst team in their division now they are the best. I could write about the last years’ World Series winner the Boston Red Sox and how they persisted this year but still came up short in defending their crown.

Finally it hit me. It’s not about the glitter and glamour of being at the World Series-it’s about historical perspective. It’s about who paved the way for me to be here in this professional capacity.

Yeah, that’s the story.

I must pay homage to the marquee African American writer of his day. His work opened the door of possibility for the African Americans who write today. Few know this pioneer’s birthday falls during Game Two of this year’s World Series. The sport he helped change forever with his pen.

Sam Lacy was born October 23, 1903. He was a sports writer until he died on May 8, 2003. Lacy loved sports and fell in love with baseball at an early age. His father frequently took him to Washington Senator games. In the 1920’s Lacy grew up in Washington D.C. where he attended Armstrong High School. He played baseball, football and basketball.

After briefly playing semi-pro baseball Lacy decided to attend Howard University where he majored in Education. While at Howard Lacy found a part-time job as a sports writer for the Washington Tribune. With the passage of time Lacy’s part-time work would become his ultimate passion.

Unbeknownst to many Lacy played an integral part in integrating Major League Baseball. Jackie Robinson received most of the credit but the man who set the atmosphere for history to be made was Sam Lacy: he persistently utilized his pen to consistently display how unfairly African Americans were treated in society and sports and integration was needed.

For the first three years of Jackie Robinson’s career Lacy was there chronicling the events as they unfolded. Lacy was treated inhumanely because he was an African American male who championed for change. Often Lacy covered games from rooftops of buildings because white writers didn’t want African Americans in the press box. Sometimes Lacy was forced to sit on top the dugouts to work. During the 1952 World Series at Yankee Stadium Lacy was denied entry to cover the games despite having credentials.

Lacy was the Sports Editor and Columnist for the Baltimore Afro-American for nearly 60 years. Lacy often received lucrative offers to write for white newspapers. Even Sports Illustrated wanted him in the 1950’s but Lacy stayed put. He knew he had freedom he couldn’t experience anywhere else. Lacy stated, “No other paper in the country would have given me the kind of license. I've made my own decisions. I cover everything that I want to. I sacrificed a few dollars, true, but I lived a comfortable life. I get paid enough to be satisfied. I don't expect to die rich."

If you ever visit the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown Lacy is there in the writers’ wing. Staying put really paid off.

Currently there are few African Americans with platforms who utilize them to champion social causes. According to a 2008 study done by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport over 94.1 percent of what’s covered in sports comes from a white male vantage point. That’s not diversity-it’s a crying shame.

Like most African American professional athletes many African American journalists refuse to make a difference by opting for silence rather than keeping it real. I personally chose the former, over the latter.

In my opinion Lacy lived a tremendous life of change and his perspective was vast. He was young enough to see Babe Ruth hit, Joe Louis fight, Jesse Owens run, and Jim Brown dominate. As an elder Lacy saw Bill Russell win, Willie Mays play center field, and Barry Bonds hit.

Lacy did in Journalism what the man he covered did in Major League baseball-that’s to break racial barriers and become a master of his craft.

I recognize the significance of my being at the World Series. Lacy endured decades of racism so I’d experience less today. I don't have to sit on top of the dugout or be denied entry in Tropicana Field because of this permanent tan I sport. I know I stand on the shoulders of those like Lacy who came before me. Unlike other African American writers, perspective is not being silent in fear of keeping it real.

Perspective, yeah, to me that’s the real story here.

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