Cuban National Players in MLB v2022


This year’s edition is late but once again we note professional baseball players who hail from Cuba and are now playing in Major League Baseball (MLB). The list is compiled from those making the 40 player roster of the thirty MLB teams. Like many professional sports in the United States the rosters have become more diversified representing players from all over the globe.

Cuba has a tremendous baseball legacy. It is the national sport. It became a key topic in my journey to explore the Negro League’s presence in a country where the teams were welcomed and a strong brotherhood was created. Before the U.S. imposed embargo players and many teams took great joy to make the trek to the Caribbean’s largest country. Even though key players have departed resulting in a sharp decline of their status in World Baseball Rankings, they still pose a threat to teams that take them lightly. In the last decade they were consistently in the top 5 and currently have jumped two spots to claim the 9th position.

A critical observation of my research is posing the question – will CUBA baseball go the way of the Negro Leagues? From my perspective the answer is no because while the talent has decimated during the last decade, baseball in Cuba is a national commodity whereas the Negro Leagues were part of the African-American culture making it much easier to transition into the broader society.


A couple of notes from this year’s edition

  • The 2022 lineup totals 27 players, an increase of two.
  • American league teams have the majority of players at 17, unchanged from last year.
  • The National league has 10.
  • Surprisingly 15 teams have ZERO players.
  • Cuban National players account for approximately 2% of all players.
  • MLB escalated investing in Latin America in the early ’60’s and it is not surprising that Dominican Republic leads the pack.
  • Another important feature of this list is understanding Cuban baseball is still strong but over the years the top talent has been diluted as more players have defected or made it over to the U.S.A.


TEAMS20212022Change 2022 v 2021
Arizona Diamondbacks001
Atlanta Braves322
Baltimore Orioles130
Boston Red Sox000
Chicago Cubs000
Chicago White Sox441
Cincinatti Reds221
Cleveland Indians000
Colorado Rockies010
Detroit Tigers000
Houston Astros332
Kansas City Royals100
Los Angeles Angels101
Los Angeles Dodgers111
Miami Marlins010
Milwaukee Brewers000
Minnesota Twins000
New York Mets000
New York Yankees111
Oakland Athletics111
Philadelphia Phillies000
Pittsburgh Pirates010
San Diego Padres101
San Francisco Giants000
Seattle Mariners000
St. Louis Cardinals101
Tampa Bay Rays220
Texas Rangers121
Toronto Blue Jays110
Washington Nationals111
TOTALS25272

Whether you are a serious fan of Cuban baseball or the Negro Leagues you will find this documentary an outstanding piece to help you better understand the history. It came out in 2020 and I viewed it as part of my Amazon account.


Here is another good doc to give more perspective. The material is good but the authors appear somewhat bias towards to bitterness to the Castro regime. For me, of all the interviews and voices presented I did not count one from an Afro-Cuban perspective, but still good information to balance your thoughts. The doc is part of public broadcasting so you will need to match up your local channel and when it (if) will be shown.

Fred is a baseball historian who has studied and researched the game at length. His relationship to Cuba stemmed from understanding how the Negro Leagues operated during segregation. Further he has been able to visit many stadiums in Cuba while taking in various games. Currently his visits have escalated and allowed him to visit many landmarks as well as interview those in Cuba who understand the current dynamic as well as a historical appreciation of when the Negro Leagues were prominent and how the sport was a common denominator to bridge the communication gap.

Eastcoasttrek ’22


For this year’s trek we decided to stretch things out. In addition to flying to our initial destination which was BWI (Baltimore-Washington International airport) our mode of getting around was Amtrak. Of course getting to/from Canada we rented a car. Once we got back to the states we opted for public transportation via metro (District of Columbia and New York City) and resorted to a lot, and I mean a lot of walking – based on our smartwatches in seven days we trekked 94.3 miles walking. Oh yeah, one confession but only due to several emergencies where time was not on our side – we opted for Uber on three occasions. Trekking is not for the weak or feeble or those who enjoy the usual comforts of travel. On the other hand our style allows us to experience many things most miss. As usual once we got back into the District of Columbia we were joined by our foodie extraordinare, Renie Hale. As we moved to New York we were joined by my sister Angela.

Countries Visited

United States

Canada

States Visited

Maryland

Connecticut

Vermont

Massachusetts

New York

Cities Visited

Springfield

Baltimore

New Haven

Colchester

Montreal

Plattsburgh

New York City

District of Columbia

Hanover

Highlights of the trek

We knew this trek would require more laser-focused planning. Our funds were limited as was our time but we were willing to move it from 5 days to 7 days. This allowed us to visit Canada, New York and some places we simply did not have time in previous treks. The highlights are goals of this trek was:

Visit Montreal

Experience the Amtrak/Acela

Go to the CITIFIELD Rotunda, home of the New York Mets

CitiField pays homage to Jackie Robinson and even though it is the home field for the New York Mets, the stadium resembles historic Ebbetts Field which is where the Dodgers played.

Visit the new Jackie Robinson Museum in New York City.

This venue just opened and luckily we timed our trek to be able to see the exterior. Luckily one of management staff saw us peering through the windows and came outside to tell us about the museum. It is easy to find and right off the “canal” street subway stop as the entrance is on Vartick Avenue.

Visit the Capitol and go to Statuary Hall to see the new statue of Dr. Bethune. This indeed was the historic highlight as it was recently installed.

This installation had been delayed for over a year due to the insurrectionist and Trump acolytes who damaged the Capitol after falling prey to Donald Trump’s hustle that the 2020 election was stolen. Anyway, there is a process to enter this sacred building. Your congressional rep must coordinate your visit and you will receive a letter (via email) granting entry. The statue of Dr. Bethune representing the state of Florida is magnificent and very historic as she replaces a confederate general (each state is allowed two statues).

TO SEE FULL CEREMONY CLICK HERE

Visit Metropolitan AME as they just recently started back to having full worship.

Built in 1838 this historic cathedral is one of our must-stops when in DC. Due to Covid they recently started in-service worship so we were blessed to be able to be in attendance.

Visit Brooklyn to see where Judith lived

Arriving in 1972 this is the spot she called home and it had been years since she last saw the property.

Visit the Goodman League at Barry Farms to see some playoff games.

The housing projects were removed four years ago but the spirit of the Goodman League remains. It is outdoor basketball at its finest and represents more than just a game played within the rectangular courts. The diversity of the community is on full display. Miles Rawls and his team bring a first-class operation for all who are bold enough to go “inside the gates” at the BF arena to take part in this cultural phenomenon.


PHOTOS these are some of the images captured – CLICK LINK

Our Foodie experience

As you can imagine burning 94 miles requires a lot of fuel so yes we did lots of eating and drinking. Some spots were our favs and of course part of trekking or globetrekking is experiencing new venues. Most are good and a few were just terrible so in fairness we attempt to communicate accuracy……..based on our perspective.

Rita’s Italian Ice

Rhode Island NE, District of Columbia

Rita’s was a great find by Renie. Even though they are franchised you will appreciate their consistency. We opted for their famous Gelati which is 1/2 Gelato & 1/2 shaved ice – refreshing and outstanding.

Ooh’s & Aah’s

5933 Georgia Ave Washington, DC 20011

Oooh’s & Aaah’s specializes in soul food or down home southern – very tasty.


Ben’s Chili Bowl

1213 U St. N.W. Washington, DC 20009

A DC institution and one of the best half-smokes to be found.


Dallas Bar-B-Que

241 W 42nd Street New York, NY 10036

Known for tasty Q and amazing cocktails. Located in Times Square a great find by Angela.


Jimmy’s Seafood

6526 Holabird Ave, Baltimore, MD 21224

Jimmy’s is a Baltimore institution known for their great crab presentations.


Cheesecake Factory at the Live in Hanover

7002 Arundel Mills Circle Hanover, MD 21076

Located in the Live Casino complex, great selections at affordable prices.


K Coffee & Bagel – 7th Avenue & 34th Street – Times Square, NY

Located across the street from the Moxy, this is a great option versus the more fancy coffee shop located next door.

Bergen Bagels

473 BERGEN STREET – Brooklyn, NY

Great options and muffins as big as your head. Plenty of variety at affordable prices.

Sylvia’s

328 Malcolm X Blvd New York, NY 10027

A Harlem institution, Sylvia’s has earned its reputation. Food is great and a nice variety of southern specialties.


Citifield Stadium

41 Seaver Way – Flushing, NY 11368

We opted for the philly cheesesteak which was very tasty and topped it off with a Brooklyn lager.

Aloha Poke

50 Massachusetts Ave NE Union Station, L027, Washington, DC 20002

A great light lunch while waiting for the train.

Legasea at the Moxy

485 7th Ave. (at 36th St.) New York, NY 10018

A bit pricey but great presentation. Now, the rolls are the best I’ve had in years.

BF Coliseum vendor

Barry Farms Housing Project – Anacostia, District of Columbia

This is one of my favs for all of those hard-working folk who bring great food to those watching games at the Barry Farms arena. Slim only serves platters and you get bang for your buck and during this trek his homestyle mac and cheese complete with his country crust made for an unbelievable meal. What a bargin for $20 bucks.

Sweet Home Café

1400 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20560

This is a must-stop. I opted for the southern fried chicken, mac and cheese and greens.


Jab’s Ice Cream

A great change of pace. Shaved ice seemed a bit pricey but it was hot/muggy and this offering was very tasty while hitting the spot.

Alexandre et fils

1454 Rue Peel, Montréal, Qc H3A 1T5

A very nice cafe in Montreal. Service was outstanding and fish and chips was tops as was the chilled wine. The cesar salad was very tasty as it came with bacon bits.

Le Centre Sheraton

Their cafe is adequate but could use some creativity in their menu selections.

Monopole’s

This is a historic venue but they are in desperate need of some find tuning. We opted for the pizza and chicken tenders and while tasty we were disappointed of the limited menu selections or everything being one dimensional of either being fried or baked in a pizza over.

Wahlburgers

Very tasty but a bit pricey.

Café Vasco da Gama

1472 Peel St, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1S8, Canada

A great cafe and coffee bar. I was able to grab some Lily espresso sets.

Vin Scully – A Reflection


The “Great Scully” retired from the Dodgers in 2016. Die-hards like me knew at the time he was a bit ill, if not up in age. Selfishly we held out hoping he would physically be here forever or up to the end of our lives. He passed yesterday as the news came while we were watching the Dodgers v Giants game at Oracle Park. Coincidently, it was Oracle (at the time A.T.T.) where he called his last game in 2016.

Vin Scully was a genius. You can peruse the internet for all type of tidbits and facts. I’m 70 and in 1959 I believe I attended my first Dodger game at the iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. I vaguely remember but I learned about Vin by listening to games with my grandmother. Over the years, I was guilty as charged as I took many transistor or portable radios to the games I attended, just to hear Scully. Today’s announcer’s have a lot to learn…..if they are serious about their craft and strive for excellence? Unlike today’s parody’s, he wasn’t “just” a cheerleader for the home team or some partisan hack – he called the game as he saw it. Specifically in baseball, he knew what fans wanted to hear and in listening to games there are critical elements that supersede normal chatter. With Scully you knew he was consistent in making sure you knew the inning, the count and the score. Incredible.

Scully at the Shell station

As my working career was winding down I went to work with a fortune 100 company that had a campus/office space in Calabasas. The year was 2013 or 2014 and it was either February of March. While grabbing lunch I decided to get some gas as well so I headed down to the Shell station on Las Virgenes just south of the 101. After pumping my gas I noticed a lad behind me who was wrapping up pumping his gas. Lo and behold, it was the “Great Scully.” We exchanged pleasantries and as bad as I wanted to ask him for a picture, I refrained because in my gut I knew he treasured his privacy. We briefly chatted about spring training and the prospects for the upcoming season. That brief encounter may appear nerdy or inconsequential to some but for me it was priceless and something I will never forget.

Today I wanted to pay my respect so I trekked down to the ravine and was pleased to see other fans doing to same. Also I hustled over to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and there was Vin’s start on the north side of Hollywood, JUST EAST OF 6678 Hollywood Blvd.



On August 5th, 2022 the Dodgers returned home to host the Padres who made noise earlier in the week as the trade-deadline ended and they grabbed some extra talent in their bid to catch the Dodgers or at a minimum make the playoffs. A sold-out crowd packed into the Ravine as the team honored Scully with pre-game festivities, capped by a spectacular fireworks show. As a fete to Vin, the Dodgers rolled past the Padres 8 – 1.

92nd MLB All-Star Game – Celebrating Jackie Robinson


The 92nd Major League Baseball All-Star game pulled out of Los Angeles this past Wednesday morning and is now headed to Seattle Washington for next year’s summer classic.

The game this year had several significant twist for Dodgers fans like us. For the first time in 42 years the game was back at Chavez Ravine. The number 42 also represented the coveted number worn by Jackie Robinson. Just as important the game was played on July 19th which happened to coincide with Mrs. Rachel Robinson’s 100th birthday.

For us it was a great experience. We participated in several days at the CapitalOne Ballpark Experience which took over the Los Angeles Convention Center and adjoining L.A. Live complex. We also attended the Home Run derby which was a great exhibition, although as a die-hard baseball fan I must admit some of the duels appeared tainted with manipulation………ummm.

We kicked off the final event by attending the All-Star game. The representation of fans at the game wearing their favorite team gear was just as impressive as the simmering heat. Here are some pics of our experience.

CapitalOne Ballpark Experience



As a person who appreciates the history of the Negro Leagues it was great to attend a panel themed “The Life & Legacy of Jackie Robinson.” To truly understand the impact you would need to familiarize yourself with his stint as a member of the Kansas City Monarchs.

CLICK HERE TO SEE FULL VIDEO

The world remembers Jackie breaking the color barrier in 1947 but another key reason why owners were reluctant to integrate was the huge sums they were making from the popular Negro Leagues who used major league stadiums to play while they were on the road. They were making money hand-over fist, for basically doing nothing but opening the gates. Once they let Jackie in and the other great players followed, the Negro Leagues waned and the owners lost that source of income they had enjoyed for all of the years.” Bob Kendrick, Executive Director Negro League Baseball Museum.


As mentioned we were able to attend the popular Home Run Derby thanks to Jackie from MLB who gifted us with tickets.


We contemplated on going to the game as for month’s we pondered if the tickets would be out of reach for our budget?It was decided the event was too important to pass up so we made adjustments to make sure we could witness the game, as if it took 42 years for the game to land back at the Ravine, more than likely we would not be here physically the next time it was awarded to the Dodgers. Normally we are in Loge 130 but we opted for the right field pavilion for a different experience.


The game was important but the one issue for us was whether Mrs. Robinson would be in attendance? We have seen her numerous times at the Ravine as over the years she has consistently appeared. Even at 99, looking glamorous and regal she was present this past April 15th. Here is a special clip prepared by MLB “Celebrating Rachel”

CELEBRATING RACHEL – CLICK HERE

Understandingly she did not make it but Mookie Betts summoned all players to the home plate area and asked the 54,000+ fans to join him in wishing her a Happy Birthday.


Another highlight was having Denzel Washington, who is no stranger to Dodger Stadium give a poignant presentation on Jackie Robinson.

Denzel tribute



Finally, I haven’t been able to locate the clip but as soon as I do it will be posted. MLB’s Harold Reynold’s featured a special about the Legacy of Jackie Robinson. It featured Spike Lee, President Bill Clinton, Bo Jackson and Bud Selig. IT IS A MUST SEE.

What ever happened to South Los Angeles Martin Luther King, Jr. Little League?


“A decade of excellence”

a perspective

[caution – this is a lengthy post]

If you ask people if they played organized little league baseball in their youth, most will affirm with a yes response. The facts are while many youth played some sort of organized baseball, odds are especially if they lived in urban parts of our country, they did not play Little League, Inc. baseball. The game of baseball is straightforward, and most cities offer organized leagues commonly known as park ball. On the other hand, Little League, Inc. baseball has a different protocol of how the leagues operate.  Typically, as the civil rights movement became somewhat of a social equalizer, just as people fled urban centers rather than face integration and to share power, resources and responsibilities there was an exodus and the suburbs became their oasis. As they fled, so did their institutions as well as jobs and other infrastructure. Those left behind were defined as urban. Little League, Inc. embraced the movement and they became well known in most suburban communities. Ideally you would not know the difference of play or league structure, and some would argue what is the big deal?

When I moved back to Los Angeles in the early ‘70’s, 39th & Western Avenue was a popular hotspot with Ray’s Café serving up legendary breakfast fare.  Over the years the community changed, and the popularity shifted as blight became the order of the day. As of this writing we have been residents in West Adams for forty-five years. My daughters were born in 1977 and 1982. Despite the blight which redefined the corner, there was a park on the southeast corner. It was nothing more than a large vacant grass lot with some playground equipment. What it also had was smooth concrete pathways. In the late 80’s it was the perfect venue to teach my daughters how to roller-skate.

The 90’s rolled in and in April of 1992 there was the Los Angeles Riots.  In the aftermath leaders were attempting to legitimately engage the community and create something positive from what was a negative reaction following years of neglect.

The exact date escapes me, but it was either 1993 or 1994 and I was operating Professional Realty Mortgage which was a community-based brokerage. At the same time our youngest son, Fred IV was nearing five years old. I heard about this little league being created which would occupy the grass lot on 39th Street. What really drew my attention was the theme of the league would be based on Negro League names. More important the league was to become part of the Little League, Inc. franchise and the first, charged with setting an example so that other leagues could spawn in urban centers across the nation. It was a gesture to create opportunity for youth.

While the venue was being prepared, Harvard Recreation Center was selected as the temporary home location. We met some of the organizers and I agreed to coach my son’s T-Ball squad. Of course, my wife, Judith was also involved and served as assistant coach.

Mark Durrell and members of his family, including professional ballplayer, Art Burke presented a great vision of offering local youth a once in a lifetime opportunity to not only play youth baseball but be part of the prestigious Little League, Inc. organization.   South Los Angeles Martin Luther King, Jr. (SLAMLK) baseball league was born.  They were supported by Eighth District Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Los Angeles Police Department. In addition to the commitment provided by Little League, Inc., they leveraged the support of Peter O’Malley, owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers who appointed Vice President of Community Relations, Tommy Hawkins to serve as liaison to undergird the league.

The excitement of the league demonstrated what could happen with the proper investment and leadership. There were at least 500 youth that first year.  True to form, the team names featured several prominent Negro League teams. They also featured Sammie Haynes who played for the Kansas City Monarchs and was spent his time sharing the legacy of the league. His affiliation allowed the league to feature various players to share their stories with those in the new league. It was quite a site to see the youth and their parents beam at being in their presence.

The promise of creating a dedicated field was like a dream come true. It was going to be like comparing day and night to the traditional open dirt fields offered by local parks. Art Burke took charge of the development and made sure it had the components of a professional field. As an example, since it was a Little League, Inc. franchise there was a scoreboard, grass infield, dugouts symmetrical fencing, a concession stand, announcers’ booth and other amenities that had never been seen, at least not in the ‘hood.

Difference between Park Leagues and Little League, Inc.

Baseball is baseball. I get that but park organized leagues are operated by park/city staff. That is not a terrible thing and while many take pride in their job it simply is much different than the requirements of Little League, Inc.  Most know it through its internationally acclaimed Little League World Series, which is held annually in Williamsport, PA. To get there the road starts at the local level or the District level through its Tournament of Champions series as the winners in respective divsion’s (Minors, Majors, Juniors, etc.) advance. To play in that series teams must be part of a Little League, Inc. franchise. Playing youth park baseball does not reach that height or prestige, although the play is perhaps just as competitive.  Another factor is Little League, Inc. is operated on a 100% volunteer corp. which relies on sponsorship and a concession stand whose revenues provide the league with day-to-day operating capital. The Conrad Hilton Foundation stepped up to provide the core $250,000 funding for the field, thus the name “Conrad Hilton Little League Field,” however there were other organizations who also contributed.

Another critical point is park baseball has access to the many public fields. Little League, Inc. baseball as a private organization using some public space but their fields are owned outright. The experience that SLAMLK was attempting to achieve was putting a Little League field in a public park. It is also worth mentioning youth baseball was already being played at parks within a mile of Conrad Hilton Field, notably Denker Recreation Center and Harvard Park.

The maintenance issues

Even though the city has tremendous resources in maintaining their parks, maintaining a manicured baseball field requires extra focus. While dirt and grass and other components might appear basic, there is a protocol in keeping it groomed so that each game features a fresh look. That is another area where our volunteer corps delivered. From dragging the field, to cleaning up the stands to finely cutting the grass, etc. are necessary steps in maintaining the standard we committed.

Nevertheless, through Ridley-Thomas’ support we were able to bridge a positive relationship with our needs and the city. Again, the experiment of creating a Little League, Inc. venue with the city was worth the sacrifice. SLAMLK was the first and Little League, Inc. committed five additional venues throughout urban cores in the United States (L.A., Houston, Harlem, Florida, etc.). Unfortunately, we assumed the type of support Ridley-Thomas provided would remain constant or assumed from whoever represented the area. Most volunteers accepted the challenge and were willing to make the sacrifice of spending countless hours doing their work if there was the appropriate undergirding. It was a lot of work. We would spend two to three hours per night and at least five to eight hours each Saturday and Sunday to make sure the league could operate.

A bump in the road

Harvard Park was a success and we moved into our cathedral called the Conrad Hilton Little League field in 1996. I forget what exactly happened but if I am not mistaken the 1997 year was postponed to complete some infrastructure.  The parents and players were devastated having to halt play and the feeling of another “dream deferred” settled in. Either way, there was no baseball and local leadership under Durrell became stalled. Professionally he was a Sergeant with the Police Department and had a lot going on, so the league became secondary. As previously stated, a little league field requires ongoing maintenance and before our eyes the jewel became a nightmare. It became unrecognizable as blight settled in. We alerted Mark Ridley-Thomas of the condition and the prospects of losing the momentum the league had built, as well as the reputational damage that “people in the hood” do not take care of investments and run them into the ground.  It was somewhat of an embarrassment considering the major investment so many had made to uplift the community.

The restart

In late 1997 we received a call from Martin Ludlow who had been directed by Ridley-Thomas to reorganize the league, including installing fresh leadership. Ridley-Thomas also made a major step in appointing one of his deputies, Noel Pallis as our liaison to ensure our needs were met as well as developing a positive relationship with Parks and Recreation staff.  He came to our home and laid out his vision while soliciting our support.

In somewhat of a tense environment, he transitioned leadership from Durrell and set a new path for the league. His work ethic was impeccable, and we rallied the community to give us another shot. I elevated from coach to Vice President of Operations and Judith became manager of the Concession stand. In addition to the community, we needed to restore credibility with the sponsors and Little League, Inc. Martin was the face of the organization. He brought in Bruce Saito to handle our finances.  Other board members had various task to generate funding. My task was to handle the day-to-day activities to make sure the operations was smooth including being a direct link in communicating with the parents.

We did not have space at the park to house the equipment to maintain operations.  My residence was approximately 1.5 miles from the field, so Judith and I agreed to house the equipment in one of our garages. I know many would not make this commitment, but Martin was a rare breed and had no shame getting the tractor mower from the garage and driving it south on Western Avenue to the park. Again, this was necessary to keep the grass properly manicured. It is somewhat laughable as of this writing as we did this for approximately six months until we could afford a larger trailer which was placed on site at our field.

Critical to the restart was Ridley-Thomas committing the same type of support her provided to Durrell and his team in starting the league. He conveyed to Little League, Inc. executives his commitment to turning things around.  In turn, they also understood what was at stake. They appointed Tom Boyles who was Western Regional Director and Marcel Van Gerwin who was the Administrator for District 25 to “take us under their wings.”   We were one of seven leagues within the district.

The field was restored to its majestic level gaining positive notoriety throughout the city and throughout District 25.  We elevated Sammie Haynes as a permanent part of our operation. Through his assistant, Marie Goree it was magical to see him come to the park in his wheelchair, with limited vision but willing to share the gifts and tradition of the Negro Leagues.

South Los Angeles Martin Luther King Little League was back in business. Our concession stand was fully operable, our field was in immaculate condition and our announcer’s booth featured youth led by the young Angelo Golden, II.  We developed a cadre of players who gained firsthand knowledge that operating a league required more than just players.    We had pre-game activities as well as post-game activities.   In between innings we featured music which was a delight to the crowd. Another key attribute of our league was getting the community to understand and accept what we were trying to accomplish. Urban lifestyles are full of characters from all levels of society. Most are incredibly positive, but some can be problematic.  Also, because we were using a public park all types of people would congregate. On weekends and near the outskirts of the park impromptu musicians would assemble and play. As you might imagine they would also be consuming their favorite beverage of choice or smoking something which at the time was considered illegal. It must also be mentioned there was a liquor store directly across the street from the park. These types of elements would intimidate those not familiar with urban life. We reached out to those on the periphery to accept the league as part of them. We stressed it was something they could take pride in being a part of. They understood music so I reached out to them asking if they could play the national anthem? Nowhere in Little League circles did you have actual musicians play the anthem. But that was the reality at Conrad Hilton field. It was quite a collaboration and moment of pride for all.

Our district supervisor was so impressed with our progress, he appointed our venue to host the Girl’s Tournament of Championship series. Keep in mind we were the “urban” league and part of the group which included more established or affluent areas such as Beverly Hills, Malibu, West L.A., etc. Our league featured Black and Hispanic players. The other leagues featured White players. The lifestyles were different but that is one of the unique things about sport or in our case; baseball is baseball. Several leagues balked at Marcell appointing our league as host. They were fearful of all the negative urban ills they had grown to accept. A few dismissed the fact our field was more pristine than their own and were not willing to travel south of the I-10 freeway.

Marcell assured them there would be no issues. But in fairness, he was that type of proactive person who saw the good in people versus the bad.  On the other hand, the leagues who agreed to field their team heard about our field as well as the “color” and pageantry we offered, and the way youth participated in announcing the games. For them that was something positive they were willing to sacrifice so their players could experience the joy of what we offered.

I forget the name of the league but there was a game scheduled on Sunday. The opposing team decided to forfeit rather than show up. The manager of the team who fielded his team called me and pleaded if I could dress the field and include all our protocols, specifically having the announcer call the names of the players and coaches so they could assemble on the baseline. He and the families were very appreciative as they understood this was a pinnacle of something the players would never forget.

April 1998

Our field had become extremely popular. We did not realize it at the time it was built but we should have opted for a different configuration to allow for two fields instead of one.  Our divisions included Tee-Ball, Minor, Majors and those over twelve who were Juniors played at Harvard Park.  That again was an oversight of those not familiar with how Little League, Inc. operates. They require additional infrastructure to accommodate those needing a larger field such as Juniors and Seniors. Despite the oversight we were grateful of what we could offer.

I forget the exact day, but I was on the mower cutting the outfield grass and my phone rang. It was the Wall Street Journal who mentioned Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley had provided my number to get some comments as Major League Baseball was commemorating Jackie Robinson breaking the color-barrier. The person on the line wanted to know my thoughts of why there was a sharp decline in Black people playing the game.  I forget my response, but the game had changed with respect to access. Then again, that was one of the reasons Little League, Inc. created the initiative in developing our league. Many in urban communities accepted the fact the National Basketball Association did a better job in marketing the sport to youth. Also, it must be noted it is easier to put up a basketball court than a baseball field. So, youth had options. We were steadfast in our commitment to introducing the game to the new crop of kids flooding into the community.

Martin Ludlow was a trailblazer. He had credibility in organizing but shared the same passion I and others had in taking our league to heights many might only dream about. Through Ridley-Thomas, Ludlow made sure we had the budget and necessary items to successfully operate. On rare occasions some ill-informed parents questioned his motives or deemed him an “outsider.”  I was the day-to-day face of the league and cautioned them not to lose sight of the big picture. Despite what some may have felt, there was no doubt he delivered for the league. We had many discussions. Again, as a political consultant he knew the ins and outs and though that connection was able to leverage support for the league. He eventually decided to step out of the shadows of being the “behind the scenes guru” for politicians and put his name in the hat for an open seat. Thus, he won and was seated as the Councilman in the neighboring Tenth Council district. Due to time restraints he needed to step down but committed to unwavering support to keep the league running. I was elevated to run the league as its president.

Lights shine in the ‘Hood

As the league was nearing the year 2000, we were outgrowing our field. Remember youth are in school during the day. We had to wedge three divisions with multiple teams into one field. Like minds can achieve things some consider impossible. Martin and I played baseball and understood the game as well as operations. Additionally, Dwight James was just as knowledgeable as well as other coaches and supporters. It was determined getting lights on our field was the realistic approach to expand play and accommodate the required schedule. Again, one might think that would have been part of the initial infrastructure but for whatever reason it was not. There was fear of urban issues or being out at night in certain areas of the city? As mentioned, we were operating a Little League franchise at a city owned park and any consideration for obtaining lights would have to come from our resources. Martin went to work and after consulting with Musco lighting was able to secure a $40,000 grant from Fairmont tires. The rest is history and to the chagrin of naysayers who professed kids playing night baseball in South L.A. was too risky, we were set to take the league to the next level.

The ceremony was flawless as on a Sunday night we had the president of Little league, Inc. fly to our field as well as Tommie Hawkins and other supporters to “turn on the light switch.”  The park was packed, and the players delighted those in attendance. Thus, night baseball on 39th & Western was no longer a dream but a reality. Through the years of play there was no negative issues as people who prior to the league opening knew the dangers of venturing out at night, discovered newfound satisfaction and safety.

The $10,000 gift

As mentioned, operating the league always required money. This was more apparent as our quest to keep moving the league higher.  Dressing the infield with the same dirt/clay used at Dodger stadium is not cheap!    In the late ‘90’s the Broadway abruptly left the Baldwin Hill Crenshaw Plaza.  I think it was around 2001 I was doing some work on the field and received a call from a public relations organization indicating our league was the recipient of a $10,000 grant.  I could not believe it as at the time our cash position was very perilous.  I was instructed to come to an office on west Third Street to pick up the check. Anyway, I was told the donation could not be publicly communicated and the donor was Walmart as they were preparing to take over the spot left by the Broadway.

I did not fully grasp it at the time, but Walmart was a political issue in Los Angeles because they were considered non-union.  For me, I did not care as my concern was making sure our players had the necessary equipment and infrastructure to compete.  They wanted to do a press-op at the field and officially vocalize their contribution. It was a nervous time for some in our league leadership as they were pro-union and being seen with Walmart management presented a conflict. We got through it, but everyone understood what was at stake in securing support for the league.

Interestingly after the Walmart grant, we continued to receive support from local businesses, particularly the local Burger King on Western and MLK. Honda had me meet them at the field and unloaded several vans which were full of equipment and gear. During those years we were on the move and on one occasion Little League headquarters arranged for a truck load of equipment to be delivered. The only problem was we did not have the space at the park so it was agreed they would come to me home for delivery.  A large truck drove down Harvard and unloaded gloves, bats, balls, bases….everything you could imagine.  It is no wonder what my neighbors thought was being unloaded in the middle of the street?

The racial dynamic

You would think people appreciate sport as fair play and have the motivation to conduct themselves with integrity. Unfortunately, that is not the reality. We would caution parents who tended to use their kids for their own desires. As great as the sport of baseball is, some youth will profess their most unpleasurable moments were playing the game and being harassed by their parents. Thus, it is not uncommon for some to recant their worse experience in growing up was playing baseball.

Starting a league is tough, especially by Little League, Inc, guidelines. Your recruitment is defined by geographic boundaries. They do make exceptions but that is rare. Once we restarted the league, some saw us as easy prey, especially those with nefarious intentions.

A parent of a player would show up out of no-where claiming to have just moved into the area

Another factor is the league is public and new leagues must play close attention to create fairness. Some adults prey on new leagues and show up with a team already in place. Out league was built on an open draft system to prevent manipulation for teams trying to stack their squads with the best players. Try as one might, you still have issues. There was this coach who was hell-bent on having “an all” Mexican team. We eventually caught on to his hustle and escorted him out of the league. On occasions a coach would show up at the field claiming they were unhappy at their current park league and asked he we would have them? Usually after explaining our commitment to Little League, Inc. regulations which made us different than “park baseball” they would recant and move on. We did make one or two exceptions based on the managers commitment to integrate their team with regular players. In the end it worked out, but it was still remarkable how adults would use youth for their own satisfaction of trying to secure a championship.

In 2001 the league was in good standing. Little League was ready to move to their next commitment in locating a field in South Los Angeles. Wrigley Park was selected and even though as a city run venue youth were playing baseball, it was not the same as official Little League.  Our leadership was charged with nurturing the league as well as demonstrating an example on how to successfully operate. The biggest cultural challenge was getting them to understand our operations was 100% volunteer. They were paid staff and while I am sure they enjoyed developing the youth, it is one thing to get paid to do a job and another to do a job because of the passion you have to participate. The biggest challenge was getting them to understand the nuances, protocols and documentation required. In other words; no hanky-panky would be tolerated just to win a ballgame.

The decline

All good things end, sooner or later.  Ludlow had moved on in his political life. I was with a new company so my time at the park became limited. In 2003 we reached our pinnacle as our Minor League team led by Coach Manny and Coach Frank achieved runner-up status in the district’s coveted Tournament of Champions. It became the pride of South Los Angeles. Ridley-Thomas arranged for the team to be honored during a City Hall meeting. Later in the year Ridley-Thomas was termed out as council member and moved on to State government.  He assured us his replacement would maintain the same commitment he provided. Surprisingly, Bernard Parks was Chief of Police when the league originally started so he knew full well the premise of why the league was created. Interestingly he replaced Ridley-Thomas. We did meet at City Hall with his staff and left with the understanding we would continue to receive support. Unfortunately, that did not happen so operating the league without solid council support was the death knell of our operations. As previously mentioned, the time requirement alone is exhaustive. Some in our organization felt the blow was initiated on purpose as the city could reclaim the field and whatever infrastructure was present and simply rebrand it from Little League, Inc. to park baseball.

Sadly, we acquiesced, and some might label it as abandonment while others might label it as a takeover. Either way, the league came to a streetching halt and the rest is history.

If you’ve made it this far, THANK YOU for taking time to read. It is lengthy due to the complexity and historic nature of the topic.

In addition to those who have been mentioned there were countless parents, coaches, community folk and other who gave their heart in making the dream of Little League, Inc. first urban league a reality. Dwight James, Wayne Kimbrough, and his wife. Angelo Golden, Janet Golden and their two beautiful children. The Randy Robinson family. O.T.. Ramirez, Deon and his brother Marcus, Coach Frank and Coach Manny, Selwyn & Doris Terry, Umpire Mike, Chili, Bill Taylor and his three grandsons and so many more that I cannot remember after all of these years.  It was a great decade, and we were proud to exhibit what could happen when a community supports an initiative.

Hopefully in all that we tried to do, we brought a smile or two along the road and allowed youth and grow up with a positive experience while playing little league baseball.

Jackie Robinson Day 2022 – 75th Anniversary


[Chavez Ravine] Today marks the 75th anniversary that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball (MLB). The impact and folklore of Robinson’s achievement is historic.

Robinson’s playing career ended in 1957 and as the team was preparing to locate to Los Angeles he was traded to the Giants. He traded his glove and spikes for white shirts and suits and became the first African-American in corporate America by becoming Vice President at Chock Full of Nuts.

MLB normally accommodates the Dodgers by making sure April 15th is a home game. We will join the throngs at Chavez Ravine (Dodger Stadium) as they take on the Cincinnati Reds. In addition to the pregame festivities and the thousands who will gather around his statue it will be quite a game to see all players, managers, umpires and field personnel dawn number 42. We remember Jackie!!!!

Postscript

For those lucky to be in attendance it was a memorable pre-game salute. For those who may have missed it the clip below pays homage to Jackie Robinson

A trip worth making – The Olympic Black Power Salute Statue


TO VIEW SOME PICTURES FROM OUR TREK

CLICK ON THIS LINK

Back in the day

I was in the 11th grade at Ganesha High School and while in Mrs. Anderson’s Spanish class I met James R. Bell. I know he passed the class………I can’t remember my grade??? LOL. Anyway we have been friends since and as you can imagine he is part of our broader family. During the years we have been fortunate to make many historic treks. Recently he joined Judith and myself as we made the journey to San Jose to see remnants of “speed city” and the Olympic Black Power statue which is on the campus of San Jose State University. Of course Tommie Smith and John Carlos made history in 1968 and it was heartfelt to see them bronzed in the statue funded by students.


As a early teen I was watching the 1964 Olympics. They were in black and white. The finals of the 4×100 men’s relay was about to start. As the starting gun sounded the sprinters took off and somehow the favored U.S. team was in trouble and appeared to be headed to defeat. As anchor Bob Hayes took the baton he tracked down all runners ahead of him and miraculously the Russian sprinter who surely thought he would be the first to touch the victory tape was stunned to see this ebony image zip past him. It was a historic leg of the relay race that has to go in history as a legendary comeback. Hayes was known as “Bullet” Bob Hayes and from that race earned the distinction of the fastest human. I was mesmerized.

In 1968 my track and field appreciation had matured so at 16 I had an understanding of the Olympic games as well as the anticipated boycott. The rest is history as while the men’s 200mm victory stand celebration exploded around the globe, all three runners sacrificed something very few could imagine. Their story is an important part of history. The Triumph and the Victory.

In 2005 San Jose State University supported to students who funded the status symbolizing the victory stand. There are several statues of this moment but the “Olympic Black Power Statue” is special as this was the campus Tommie Smith and John Carlos attended. The track team was known for its prowess everyone knew it as “speed city.”

During my stint at the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee it gave me great joy to see Peter Uberroth extend a hand to recognize the greatness of people like Tommie Smith and John Carlos as they too were appointed as staffers. I didn’t have a relationship with Tommie Smith as management of the games were all over the city. However, I did have a relationship with John as he visited my office at Expo Park and our subsequent office at Manual Arts. We attended several community events together and of course he brought his torch from the opening torch relay. It was magic.

Ricardo Gouvela aka “Rigo 23” did an amazing job in creating the statue. I was surprised at its height as well as the attention to detail.

If you have never visited the site, I would encourage you to do so.

To gain more information on this history

The 2005 Statue Ceremony
With Drawn Arms
The John Carlos Story – Book Unveiling

There is much more so just do a Google search of items you feel have legitimate authorship

#42 Jackie Robinson Day v2021


Today is Jackie Robinson Day. All players, field personnel and umpires from ALL THIRTY Major League Baseball teams will have the honor of wearing Jack’s #42 jersey. For those who have a bye today, they have been granted permission to celebrate their game tomorrow. The Los Angeles Dodgers will be hosting the Colorado Rockies at the Ravine. Adhering to Covid-19 protocols there will be approximately 19,000 (28%) fans in attendance.


50 Years + later, Tommie Smith receives recognition



October 16, 1968 is well over 50 years ago. Tommie Smith captured gold while setting a world record in the men’s 200 meters final with a time of 19.83 at the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City. Worldwide 1968 was an iconic year.

At the time Smith’s gesture was seen as one of the worse sins a person could make. That is based on the perspective of Olympic officials and many who were in denial of world-wide social unrest, particularly right in the United States. It took years and for some over a half-century to understand and finally recognize the importance of the gesture made by Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman in accepting their medals.

“With Drawn Arms” came out in 2020. It was a great piece produced by Glenn Kaino. It is noted in the documentary that Olympic athletes are usually featured on the Wheaties Box. Unfortunately Smith was passed up. It took over 50 years as someone from Wheaties must have been paying attention or perhaps it was nudging by Kaino but the box recently came out. I was in Panama in December 2020 and received an email from Wheaties that the commemorative box would be produced and advance orders were being taken. The production is outstanding and three months later my box arrived today. By the way, it was even full of Wheaties!!!! Either way, as an Olympic aficionado, particularly the ’68 games I am honored to add the box to my Olympic memorabilia.


TO GET YOUR SPECIAL BOX CLICK HERE

How Gov. Brian Kemp handed the MLB All-Star Game to Colorado


Professional Sports is a huge business.  Major League Baseball (MLB) is near the top of the heap when it comes to money-makers.  Yet, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp may have positioned himself for the 2021 “Bonehead of the Year” award when he agreed and signed into law the hat trick created by state legislators and voting officials in the disguise of voter protection.  Senate bill 202 professes to be a bill designed to correct flaws in the voting system.

Even after being publicly humiliated by U.S. President Donald Trump, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp somehow agreed to adopt his ridiculous claims.. Photographer: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

THE PROBLEM

On surface just about everybody agrees there is nothing wrong with correcting something that is flawed.  The problem is during the recent 2020 general election Kemp and voting officials all agreed there were no issues on the voting process.  Sure, there may have been some minor adjustments needed but none rising to the level of needing a new law?

They vehemently protested when the sly Donald J. Trump started his charade of irregularities.  To boot, the courts threw out or ruled against the numerous cases by Trump and his allies that something was amiss.  Kemp, the legislators and voting officials apparently misunderstood who Trump was.

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Abraham Lincoln

Trump built a career on hustling (taking advantage of people) and adopting gangster-like moves way before he decided to run for the presidency.  The problem is many people did not know who he was and felt, “how bad could it possibly be?”  His moves did not change.  He merely brought the same style during his term as president.  As hustlers do, once the race for the 2020 presidency heated up, he went into action.  He threw out all sorts of insinuations and ridiculous banter to cloud the issue of fairness.  This was done as a type of insurance policy as surely, he wanted to win but just in case he was on the losing end, he would have created some protection or justification that he was somehow harmed.

TOPSHOT – US President Donald Trump looks for anybody who will adopt his BS. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Even though I haven’t forgotten once the 1996 Olympics was over, the stadium was supposed to be named after famed slugger – Henry Aaron.  Instead, ego or some other calamity overcame team owner Ted Turner and he named the stadium “Turner Field.”  To add insult to injury less than twenty years later officials agreed the stadium needed to be moved and relocated to a more favorable part of Georgia which offered easier access to their predominate fan base.  Nothing is wrong with that – business is business, although I’m still not convinced something nefarious occurred because they left the “hood” for greener pastures.  Truist (SunTrust) stadium is in Cobb county and actually not that far from the old location.  It’s a great venue with all of the modern amenities needed to attract a wider swath of fans who might like baseball but really appreciate the developments that have restaurants, bars that add to the fan experience.  Plus, the stadium features a great plaque and memorial to Aaron.

Everybody seems to want to chime in on this issue.  Your political perspective pretty much dictates your opinion.  As a matter of fact, those who embrace a conservative ideology such as writers David Harsanyi and Jeff Greenfield have penned recent articles stating moving the games from Georgia is a mistake.  Worse, they point out MLB has been tricked or bullied by those with a “left-wing” ideology!  What?  They point to Colorado having some voting guidelines which some might consider suppressive.   What they fail to realize is unlike Georgia they did not change laws after swearing everything was alright.  So, what they try and communicate to their readers is what some might call a “red-herring.”


There are thirty MLB teams and each one thirst at the opportunity to host the All-Star game.  When they selected Truist to host the 2021 event it was a no-brainer as it was fit to be a great host.  Then came the darn 2020 general election which included voting for president.  By normal standards the election wasn’t even close.  It was just a matter of counting all of the ballots.  Lo and behold Joe Biden snakebit Trump for the presidency and the cous de gras was Joe Ossoff and Rafael Warnock turned everything upside down by capturing the two Senate seats.  Immediately after professing everything was copasetic, someone must have tinkered with the legislators and Kemp’s water?  They immediately went to work and inadvertently bought into Trump’s malarky (Biden) and other’s that the voting system was indeed flawed.

Perhaps, it is like Minority Leader Mitch McConnell waking up and realizing it has been the donations from major corporations which fueled his ascent to power?  MLB surely woke up.  They realized the new law was a ruse where you give one but take two or three or however you define it, the outcome is to make voting more difficult for a certain part of the electorate.  By another definition that is called voter suppression.  Most will confess, in political races you don’t need to win by a zillion.  A couple here, a couple there and even though it may be a close race, victory can be had.  Many corporations sided with MLB and promptly issued their public outcry that the new bill was a solution looking for a problem.

ATLANTA, GA – Trust Park had been selected to host the game until legislators tinkered with the voting process. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
DENVER, COORS Field – Selected to replace Atlanta as the site of the 2021 All-Star game. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Poor Jared Polis who is the Governor of Colorado was minding his own business.  I mean it is April and Christmas has long passed and won’t return for a couple of months.  His state was already on MLB’s roster to host an upcoming All-Star game.   However, since Kemp couldn’t muster up the courage to maintain his position that Georgia’s recent election was in order, he kowtowed to those like Trump and other malcontents and the result is his gift to Polis.    

Jared Polis, front, celebrates. (Photo by Josh Lawton/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images)

MLB quickly ratified the move and the rest is history as Georgia is left wandering like Rip Van Winkle felt once he awakened.  “What the hell just happened????” And to add insult to injury Kemp’s move forced MLB to demand Atlanta Braves players cover over any and all All-Star logos.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – APRIL 04: The All-Star Game logo is covered up on the right sleeve of manager Brian Snitker #43 of the Atlanta Braves during a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on April 4, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Atlanta was scheduled to be the host city of this year’s All-Star Game, but MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that due to Georgia’s new voting laws, the league would be moving the game elsewhere. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)