Saturday, March 28, 2009
Yesterday I enjoyed and participated in the 14th annual "Baseball in Literature and Culture" conference, with scholars from far and wide (though I had only to amble down the hall) assembling to explore and celebrate the meaning of a game. The luncheon speaker was Jim "Mudcat" Grant, one of thirteen African-American twenty-game winners chronicled in his book The Black Aces.
He spoke of visiting the White House's Previous Occupant, who had difficulty distinguishing Dontrelle Willis from Montel Williams - to Condi Rice's evident embarrassment; of "gross" memories of a brutally-segregated America from which we've just awakened; and of the joy of living long enough to be able to tell his grandchildren, with conviction, that they COULD grow up to be president themselves one day... children whose great-great grandmother was born into slavery.
Dr. Harriett Hamilton of Alabama A&M reminisced as she paged through "Daddy's Scrapbook," the sacred memory-trove of her late father Henry Kimbro - one of the great under-sung stars of the Negro Leagues.
For my part, I paid tribute to John Updike and his classic New Yorker tribute to the great Ted Williams, "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu." It was my small way of bidding "Rabbit" adieu. Ted, we learned from Mudcat, was one of the too-few white stars who welcomed baseball's integration and were kind to African-American ballplayers.
I can't wait 'til next year.