Olympian and great track and field athlete Larry Questad passed away on Nov. 1. 2020 at the age of 77. Some may not recall the name Questad but during his prime competition years he was known as “The fastest white man in the world.” Earlier this year I was doing some research on the Olympics and came across a documentary which focused on the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, specifically the Men’s 200 meter medal celebration where Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fist.
A part of the doc featured Questad’s reaction during the victory ceremony as he was perched in his seat at the stadium. He voiced being stunned and surprised at what he was watching as well as somewhat disappointed. Being from Utah he was not entrenched at the urban ills many in the black community experienced. He further mentioned great frustration with the Olympic coaching team for not allowing him be a part of the Men’s 4×100 relay because the coaching staff had decided to run “an all black team.” He assumed since lead runner Jim Hines was injured during one of the prelims, he would get selected as based on running times he was in the top four.
In life perspective is everything. Many like myself understood the protest, while those such as Larry saw it as something negative, if not disrespectful.
After watching the doc I knew I had some homework to complete. As a sixteen year old High School student and a person who always loved track and field, as well as being on staff at the 1984 Olympic Games which granted me the opportunity to meet both Tommie Smith and John Carlos, all I could wonder is why I had never heard about Questad’s lament?
About two months ago I tried to contact Questad. To my amazement I made contact and was eventually directed to his wife; Elizabeth who agreed to set up a tele/interview with him. About a month later, I struck oil as Larry called and allowed me a brief interview.
He has an amazing story and I am so grateful for his family in allowing me to speak to him. I was not aware of any severe health issues other than he was planning a hip surgery.
I would encourage you to do a little research to discover his feats. Even though he finished sixth in that iconic 200 meter race in Mexico City, to this day he holds records which are still standing.
For many of us 2020 will be a year we were sheltered in place due to Covid. Since most of us have reduced going out we have watched a lot of TV.
“With Drawn Arms” was recently released and I saw the preview today. IT IS A MUST SEE. Not because you are a documentary nerd, a track and field affectionado or some type of revolutionary. The doc is about the great Tommie Smith and his world record breaking performance at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. Smith was an exceptional athlete but many remember his powerful gesture along with teammate John Carlos as they stood on the victory stand in what has become international folklore.
Produced by Glenn Kaino it is moving and inspirational as you are invited to get to know Tommie through his narration of many personal moments.
The doc is a solid 10 and available on the STARZ network.
The Major League Baseball (MLB) season of 2020 will forever be remembered by the worldwide Covid pandemic. The season was adjusted so that all involved in the national pastime could be played in conditions deemed as safe as possible. MLB continued its international appeal although surprisingly the number of players as part of each team’s 40 player active roster, dropped by 3 from the previous year. Cuba is the Caribbean’s largest country and also known as a Latin powerhouse. For the 2020 season twenty-two players are part of MLB’s thirty team active rosters. Cuba is the Caribbean’s largest country and prides itself as a Latin baseball powerhouse and ranks in the top five around the globe. A key metric not openly discussed is the national team has lost some of its lustre through defections as stars lucky enough to be noticed by an MLB team gladly make the transition. Similarly to the Negro Leagues before Jackie Robinson broke the color-barrier was its popularity. However once Robinson opened the door the rest is history as many wanted to see those “stars.” Thus the Negro Leagues “prime product” was diluted and eventually disappeared. Hopefully high level baseball in Cuba can be sustained.
One more point about this year’s lineup, two star studded players have experience in MLB but as of this writing are not officially on any teams roster.
Today I join baseball fans around the globe to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day.
The event has turned into a special day for our family as this is the day we all suit up and head to Dodger stadium. Due to Covid-19 our celebration will be virtual as even though a pandemic is blazing across the land, paying homage to “Jack” must go on.
A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.
As a baseball historian I have mapped out a full schedule of activities to pay my respect. Here is a partial listing as well as some great links you may want to check-out if you too are inspired to salute #42.
The players, umpires, managers and coaches may not be on the field donning #42 but you can believe people from all walks of life will be wearing their Jackie Robinson gear as a sign of respect and connection to his legacy.
Ken Griffey, Jr. gives a great interview on how he was inspired to call baseball commissioner Bud Selig to request if he could wear #42 CLICK HERE
#42 was a special movie because it captured Robinson’s experience as he hit the Dodgers minor league play in preparation in being called up to the “big team.” It captures his stint in Daytona Beach, Fl which today has the Jackie Robinson stadium and is used by the Chicago Cubs minor league system. Additionally there is some great scenes from Sanford, FL (about 20 miles from Daytona Beach) which in 2012 happened to be the city Trayvon Martin was murdered by George Zimmerman.
There’s the Hammer (Hank Aaron), and there’s the Cobra (Dave Parker) and so many other great African-American professional baseball players who earned their unique nicknames. Then there’s the Hawk, the nickname given to Andre Dawson.
In 2008 as part of their outreach and recognition of Black History Month, Major League Baseball launched the Urban Invitational Classic to showcase the talent of HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Over the last several years the name was changed to recognize “The Hawk” and is now called the Andre Dawson Classic. Dawson played his college ball at famed Florida A & M. The games will be featured on the MLB network so check your local provider for game times.
SAT. FEB. 15TH
Southern University (HBCU) faces Alcorn State (HBCU) at 2:00 p.m. ET, then the University of New Orleans plays Grambling State University (HBCU) at 7:00 p.m. ET.
Today the Negro Leagues commemorates its 100th birthday. Starting in 1920, the Negro Leagues became an institution for African-Americans who had professional talent to play but were denied to join Major League Baseball.due to racial discrimination that was the law of the day.
The league has come and gone but today its greatness can be seen as communicated by the Negro League Baseball Museum. Even though the “old” Negro leagues started in the late 1800’s, it was nearly forty years later when Rube Foster had the vision to organize teams for the masses to enjoy.
The contribution of the league is of great folklore to United States history.
Above caption: L.A. lands Betts in blockbuster trade, MLB
For over thirty years the Los Angeles Dodgers have been trying to win the World Series. They have come close and in the past decade they have regularly won their division. In the past three years they made it to game seven of the World Series only to lose to the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox respectively. Enough is enough!! For their 2020 run they have a lot at stake. Among other things they will host the All-Star game. As they prepare for spring-training in a couple of days, up until yesterday it looked like business as usual; favored to win their division but a longshot of getting back to the World Series.
Yesterday evening they vaulted as the perennial favorite to be thronged as 2020 World Serieschamps, at least on paper. They grabbed superstar Mookie Betts and David Price from the Boston Red Sox. Both are impact players the Dodgers badly need if are to be taken seriously. Betts brings all of the tools which have made him a coveted “find.” Price brings a veteran arm to strengthen a pitching corps which recently saw Hyun-jin Ryu and Kenta Maeta depart via trades.
The bigger picture
Professional sports is a lucrative business. Like any organization or corporate body, they are defined by how they embrace corporate responsibility. When the Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson in 1945 as the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball (M.L.B.), it was more than just a regular signing. He made his debut on April 15, 1947 and it was a turning point in our society. The Dodgers were rewarded then and up until recently by many, particularly the African-American community for taking a gesture that can be traced as the beginning of the modern civil rights era. People, even those who didn’t live in Brooklyn or for that matter weren’t necessarily baseball fans, the Dodgers became their favorite team.
Jackie Robinson’s legacy gets stronger every year especially for those who have access to information like never before. Unfortunately for the Dodgers all of the goodwill from their Jackie Robinson connection has recently come under question. Last year the genie came out of the bottle as the media started reporting what many had known: the 2019 team did not have one African-American player on their roster. To the chagrin of many, yes David Roberts who is the manager is African-American and some have African ethnicity but it was an eyesore that could not be explained, especially in Los Angeles. A city that prides itself as a leader of a diverse population. There are many reasons for the lack of African-American players but it was a new level of hypocrisy for the Dodgers to tout the signing of Robinson and round out their 2019 roster with a goose-egg.
Interestingly, both Betts and Price hail from Tennessee. Their presence gets the Dodgers off the hook from a social and community perspective and more important their talent may be what is needed for them to get to the World Series and claim the crown. In the meantime, only time will tell as winning is the name of the game. While much has been written about the Robinson phenomenon, to their credit M.L.B. has taken on a strategy of incorporating more players of color by internationalizing the game. While there has been a dearth of African-American players there has been a spike of players coming from the Caribbean and beyond (Cuba, Dominican Republic, Aruba, Curacao, Venezuela and of course Puerto Rico). So, the bottom line is the Betts, Price trade to the Dodgers allows them to refocus the spotlight on something positive versus something negative.
Fred Thomas, III is a lifelong Dodgers fan having attended his first game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with his father and older brother in the late ’50’s.
Just in. Managers of three of baseball’s perennial organizations have been fired or otherwise parted ways. For the upcoming season and in the foreseeable future, A.J. Hinch manger of the Houston Astros, Alex Cora of the Boston Red Sox and Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets will not be watching any baseball games from their respective dugouts.
The season for 2020 hasn’t even started yet Commission Robert Manfred dropped the bombshell of the year, and for many it may be the decade or perhaps a lifetime. His announcement came yesterday morning by concluding the Houston Astros were guilty of a sign or signal calling scheme.
What!!! You may ask…..stealing signs, what is that?
Ever since sport was created as a competitive exercise many have a “win at any cost” or “whatever it takes to win” mentality. Fortunately, over time those who have operated to “bend” the rules are usually ferreted out. Of course, the credibility of fair competition is the result.
In most sports there are enough rules and regulations to choke a horse!!! Yet, the manner of mankind has always found a way to manipulate those rules and regulations as an advantage to them. Most define that as stone-cold cheating.
That is the situation the Houston Astros found themselves in following Major League Baseball’s (MLB) investigation into the signal scheme.
The investigation covered the period from 2016 through the present. During the investigation, the DOI interviewed 68 witnesses, including 23 current and former Astros players.
Signs or signals are used to communicate a variety of things during the game. Metrics or analytics is also used as a complement so that players can be positioned based on sequences, probability or the likelihood of when and where the batter will hit the ball. Assuming he is lucky enough to make contact. As difficult as it is to hit a baseball that is coming in at 80 to 90 or even 100 mph, and is also moving requires great skill! Yet, knowing what kind of pitch is coming in helps improve the odds of being able to make contact or to not swing. MLB has specific penalties for team’s or player’s who are caught stealing signs.
A bird wouldn’t get caught if it never opened its mouth!
Interestingly, MLB’s investigation started following an allegation made by a former player of the Astros!!! As quoted in Manfred’s finding, “On November 12, 2019, former Houston Astros player Mike Fiers publicly alleged in an article published by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic that the Astros had engaged in sign-stealing methods in 2017 that violated MLB’s rules.”
The Astros were dealt swift punishment by Manfred. Starting with the ownership led by Jim Crane, General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Manager, AJ Hinch also received news they were not expecting. Surely, more punishment and fallout is expected. At the top of the lineup is Alex Cora who was a coach with the Astros during the period in question and who subsequently was selected the manager of the 2018 Boston Red Sox. Many have posed the question? Did the antics he employed with the Astros go with him to Boston as during his first year they became world champions? For many the answer is a resounding yes. As mentioned at the top of this article – Cora and the Red Sox have parted ways.
Then there is Carlos Beltran who was quoted in Manfred’s report but somehow was exonerated from any illegal behavior. His last team as a player was with the 2017 Astros. Even though he was not fined by MLB on Thursday Jan. 16th the heat became too much so he and his new employer of just two months, the New York Mets have parted ways. The result is not only has he lost out as being a freshman manager but now his prospects of being selected into baseball’s coveted Hall of Fame is in jeopardy.
To get snakebit once is bad enough. But, to get snakebit twice in back-to-back years has Dodger fans in disbelief as in 2017 they lost the world series in seven games to the Astros. Then, in 2018, they again lost the world series in seven games to the Cora managed Red Sox. For some, equity is stripping the respective winners of their “title” and awarding the Dodgers as the winners. Unfortunately, that outcome is highly unlikely.
In the meantime, some fans are so incensed about the scandal they are consulting lawyers claiming it resulted in financial harm from the Astros and Red Sox. Also, led by City Councilman Gil Cedillo a resolution has been passed seeking MLB’s intervention of stripping titles from the Astros and the Red Sox and renaming the Dodgers as the rightful winner.
In the meantime, Crane, Luhnow, Hinch and Cora are tied to this disgrace of the national pastime. Surely other heads will roll and while the scheme is in the lap of the Houston Astros it is unlikely, they were the only participant. What other teams will be implicated? In the meantime, stay tuned.
Above photo: ‘Ted Williams, Minnie Minoso’ Boston Red So, baseball player Ted Williams and Cleveland Indians player Minnie Minoso, posed in dugout for 1959 All Star Game, Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, July 1959. (Photo by Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris/Carnegie Museum of Art/Getty Images)
[Havana] The 2019 All Star Game (ASG) will feature 15 players that were born outside of the United States. Behind the Dominican Republic, Cuba is number two and will feature three players who will be part of the July 9th festivities.