Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Just A Friendly Game Of Baseball? (Article from 2006)

I wrote an article for a magazine at the request of someone who was a user/reader at the old and the publication folded before the article ever even got printed about the diminishing Black presence in major league baseball back in May 2006. Since no one ever got to read it (or even proofread/edit it!) I decided to post it while I rewrite some other stuff. Since the writing of this article Barry Bonds has passed Babe Ruth and hatred for him is even worse than it was at the writing of this article. Enjoy:

The thing that kills me the most about all of the talk concerning Barry Bonds passing Babe Ruth's home run mark (714) is that few people are taking into account that Barry Bonds is fighting MULTIPLE demons in his chase of a milestone. Not only is he going to pass Babe Ruth, a player that is thought by most sportswriters and baseball historians to be the greatest baseball player ever (he was well on his way to being a Hall Of Fame pitcher even before he was turned into an outfielder) but he was one of the most beloved sports figures in history.

He revolutionized the sport of baseball with the home run, he was as charismatic as the day is long and fans and the media alike loved him, he lead the Yankees to numerous World Series titles and Yankees Stadium, the most celebrated ballpark in America (next to Fenway Park and Wrigley Park) is called "The House That Ruth Built". Baseball truly became America's Favorite Pastime because of him and he was largely the reason the Red Sox thought they were cursed...

You are probably wondering right now "PD, what the hell does this have to do with anything?"..Chill, I'm almost there. Babe Ruth was many things, he was also a well known and documented bigot. He refused to play in All Star games or exhibitions against Blacks or Negro League players for fear that their elite pitchers would make him look buffoonish. Ruth KNEW when a pitcher was good and he wanted NO parts of the Negro Leagues elite pitching talent.

In a book known as the definitive authority on Black baseball "Only The Ball Was White" it tells stories in which Babe Ruth would offer autographs or do something to break up exhibitions so as not to face those pitchers. Meanwhile, other Big Leaguers would jump at the chance to play these Negro League players, Ruth was vehemently against it. He was a user of the "N Word" as well. We will always wonder how Josh Gibson would've done against MLB pitching for a full season or what Rube Foster would've done to hitters in the majors...we will never know...but we DO know how Ruth a league with no Blacks or Latinos present... they were all dominating the Negro Leagues!

Now that Barry Bonds is passing Ruth Major Legaue Baseball sees NO REASON to commemorate or celebrate this feat. Barry Bonds is son to Bobby Bonds, a great talent who was dubbed "the unluckiest man in baseball history" once. His godfather is Willie Mays, a man who came up in the old Negro Leagues the hard way and is regarded as the SECOND greatest player of all times BEHIND Babe Ruth. He was beloved by the fans and media alike..but he knew not to press Ruth's record. Luckily, his skills seemed to diminish greatly near the end of his career and he finished at 660 home runs..Who knows? The "Say Hey Kid" may have received the same hatred and animosity that Barry Bonds now receives had he threatened Ruth's records. Luckily, Mays never got to find out.

The man who holds the record of 755 home runs? Henry "Hank" Aaron. A former Negro Leaguer as well who faced death threats when he approached and passed Babe Ruth's record back in 1974. All of these men contributed stories of overt and covert racism in baseball, heartaches, and they helped to motivate a young Barry to greatness. He had a weird relationship with his often gone, alcoholic father as well. This created a man who was introverted, focused and who appears sullen and moody to outsiders and especially sportswriters, journalists and reporters. He knew what to expect from a life in baseball and he was prepared for the worst. He had a chip on his shoulder from the helped to fuel the fire that made him go.

The steroid controversy is ANOTHER factor...or is it? When Mark McGuire was knocking them out of the park America rejoiced! When he reached 70 in a season the baseballs sold for $3 million dollars and $500,000+ as he broke more and more records...Bonds HR balls the season he broke the record with 73 a season went for significantly went for a paltry $17,000...and this was BEFORE the widespread steroids/performance enhancing drug inquiries! Is race a factor in the general apathy that many baseball fans and writers feel as Barry Bonds closes in on Ruth's record? HELL YES!!! A powerful Black man who doesn't go for reports with their smirks and okeydoke questions who goes to work and does what only some people DREAMED possible on a baseball diamond should be appreciated and admired instead of picked apart and analyzed.

Steroids CANNOT turn you into the kind of hitter Bonds is. Performance enhancing drugs CANNOT give you a better baseball IQ. No clear or cream can help you be able to help your teammates with their own hitting mechanics and improve them as players. None. Bonds NOW is better than Ruth THEN. DEAL WITH IT.

As a side note, the hate that Bonds receives is fully picked up on by younger children and teens. It pretty much tells young Black males that "THE SPORT OF BASEBALL DOESN'T WANT YOU!" This is ONE of the many reasons why the Black player in baseball is dissappearing at an alarming rate. With the advent of Hip Hop Culture, some sports just seem to fit in more with it. In the hood, ANY empty space or park can be used to play football...all you need is ONE BALL and you're good to go. In the hood, there are basketball courts everywhere, ten people can play with ONE BALL.

Economically, basketball and football fit in fine. Plus, you can still be your individual self and bring your style and personality and it fits within the framework of the sport and makes you more marketable. Baseball needs a diamond, gloves, bats, protection, etc. MOST OF THOSE ARE NOT IN ABUNDANCE IN THE AVERAGE URBAN NEIGHBORHOOD...Besides, whose going to pick baseball over football and basketball when you're a kid in an urban area that doesn't have the option of having his mom sign him up for soccer or teeball, etc? None of the kids I know that aren't Latino!

In Latin America, baseball and soccer are the equivalent of basketball and football in the urban areas in America. It provides an opportunity to get an education, become rich and improve their families station in life. Traditionally, Latinos and Chicanos (who also participated in the Negro Leagues) have played baseball, they haven't received the same type of scrutiny or ill feeling as their Black american brethren, either. Their numbers increase as the Black players decrease significantly as the years go on. This is a GOOD thing in my opinion...however, to former players like Bob Gibson, Willie Mays and the like MLB isn't doing ENOUGH to keep the Black my opinion, there is NOTHING THEY CAN DO.

Delmon Young was the first player picked in the baseball draft a while back. He has recently received a 50 game suspension for throwing a bat at an umpire. This event is a death knell for the future of Blacks in baseball...I don't ever see players turning down basketball or football contracts for baseball ones the way Jackie Robinson, Dave Winfield, Kenny Lofton, or other players did in the past. I don't see Black athletes ever FIGHTING for the right to play in Major League Baseball. I personally love the sport (I loved it more as a kid), but I never realistically DREAMED of playing...Shit, when I was a kid Black people wouldn't DARE venture to Fenway Park and Jim Rice was the ONLY brother for years on a squad that was the LAST to intergrate!

Black free agents didn't want to come to Boston because of the history and the Yawkeys (THIS is the TRUE reason why the Sox didn't win in 86 years, NOT the "Curse Of The Bambino"!). Kids now want to be like Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Chris Paul, Marcus Williams, Vince Young, Reggie Bush, Marcus Vick, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, LaDanian Tomlinson, Priest Holmes, or Larry Johnson. None of them want to play a sport that seems to not want them or appeal to them at a basic level.

The sad part is that when I have kids and we watch a game of baseball, the same game that I watched with wonder and awe as a child as I watched Ozzie Smith, Mookie Wilson, Willie Reynolds, Jim Rice, Dave Winfield, Don Baylor, Tim Raines, Harold Baines, Kirby Puckett, Reggie Jackson, Willie Stargell, Lou Whitaker, Kevin Mitchell, Cecil Fielder, Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, Ken Griffey Jr., Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Dave Stewart, Oil Can Boyd, and Vida Blue play and realize that by the time my child watches it there will be about only 60 players or less on major league starting rosters on more than 30 teams and only around 8 or 9 percent of the league will be Black players. Also, by that time Barry Bonds will be the All Time Home Run leader...and be most likely hated by most baseball fans.

I'll just tell them that a long time ago players fought and clawed to have the right to play in this league more than 60 years ago just to leave it on their own due to general disinterest in favor of the NBA and NFL. Hopefully, I'm wrong about all of this...unfortunately, I'm afraid I'm not.


Dedicated to my late uncle Billy Adams.

This article was written on May 6th, 2006. I recieved word that it would never see the light of day and I posted it on my MySpace blog on May 11th, 2006. One.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Not Again! AKA Just When You Thought It Was Safe...

I had two finished blogs and an outline for a documentary on my laptop and it once again died on me. I'll have to rewrite all of that shit now. I had a fully written music review blog (Jay-Z, Witchdoctor & Undersea Fam) and a rant about something or other (The Wii Store game selection quality or lack thereof). I just got back from the Red Sox parade and there is no light on the power supply/AC adapter. I'm screwed. I'll try to make up for it starting tomorrow.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Hunt For Red October: Mission Accomplished AKA 2007 Is The New Impossible Dream Season

Congratulations to the 2007 AL East, AL & World Series Champions on an unprecedented wire to wire season of domination. Congratulations on having the most dominant postseason in MLB history (numbers wise, not record wise). Fans and media alike doubted many of you throughout the year and said that you couldn't win it all with the talent assembled on this roster. You never panicked when things got hot and your backs were against the wall. In regards to tough decisions, the management stuck to their guns, never waffled or wavered and in the end proved the detractors and nonbelievers all wrong. Enjoy this one Red Sox Nation...there may be more coming soon. Thank you for giving Red Sox fans of all ages worldwide a dream season they'll never forget, I'll see you all at the parade tomorrow.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Revenge Of The 80’s presents V

I was in the 3rd grade the day I saw a crazy ass teaser ad on NBC for some new mini series called “V”. After that ad ran for a good week it generated a huge buzz and this show was the talk of the playground. No one could wait for the show to start to see what it was actually all about. The day came for the show to premiere and I was watching along with all of my brothers when it aired back in May 1983. The show was about how one day these huge motherships began appearing and hovering over major cities all over the world. It was estimated that there were about 50 of them and they had yet to communicate with anyone.
Finally, a ship came down with an ambassador in it to address the people of Earth. The people suspected that the aliens would look like...well, aliens. When a humanoid male stepped off the ship wearing what looked like a uniform inspired by Michael Jackson, people were surprised.

When the representative spoke to the throngs of assembled people and media he let them know that they were just visiting Earth because there were in need of some minerals and chemicals to sustain their dying homeworld. In exchange for helping them out, they’d share the secrets of their advanced technology with Earth and help solve some over their planetary crises. Sounded good to the people assembled...but one man was skeptical.

His name was Mike Donovan and he was a cameraman working for a major network. The female news correspondent he was assigned to became the media liason to the Visitors so he got to see them up close and many things were off with them. They worked closely with some of the Earth’s most brilliant minds in all fields of knowledge and as time passed they were confined and isolated from the rest of the world as the Visitors kept them close to work on their issues. Several scientists began to ask questions and requested to study the Visitors themselves before helping them first...many of these scientists and doctors turned up missing.

Mike Donovan steals aboard one of the huge Visitors motherships to see if he could uncover some things...what he discovers is that the Visitors are lying. They aren’t human at all, they are actually reptillian creatures that wore masks made of synthetic skin to give them human appearance. They also eat live meat like rodents like rats by dropping them into their mouths and their jaws unhinge to swallow them whole. The first time the audience at home saw that scene, it was guaranteed money in the bank.

Mike Donovan (played by the Beastmaster himself, Marc Singer) records some of this footage and immediately goes to his closest friends to tell them what he witnessed. Few of them believe him and the ones that did didn’t work closely with the Visitors and saw the footage for themselves. With the aid of some of his work colleagues he cut together an expose to air on the network at peak viewing hours. He reached out to his mother who worked closely with the Visitors and even sponsored their efforts and told her not to trust them but she didn’t listen.

Before Donovan could air the segment, the Visitors aired an alert announcing that Donovan was an anti-Visitor terrorist and a fugitive from the law. Donovan went on the run immediately and there it was...America was hooked. The miniseries was a ratings bonanza and at the time it was the highest rated original miniseries of all times. NBC had a runaway hit on it’s hands.

Later on in the story, the Visitors began taking humans and converting them by using a mind control technique. Soon, there were many subversives and converts among the humans all over the place. A few doctors and private citizens start a small ragtag rebel movement (later called The Resistance) and it was led by Dr. Juliet Parrish (played by Faye Grant).

Among the resistance members were also characters played by Robert Englund before he became Freddy Kreuger (I’m your boyfriend now!), Richard Lawson back when he looked like a member of The Time (777-9311!) and a young Michael Wright about a decade before he became Eddie King Jr. (Nights like this...I wish...raindrops would faaaaaal).

The Resistance took on Mike Donovan and they eventually began to make some headway by capturing some Visitors and discovering that the Visitors also had a resistance group called the Fifth Column that didn’t agree with the Supreme Leaders commands. They discover that the Visitors want to steal the Earth’s water supply and use the people as cheap labor and ultimately as food for the Visitors.

This show became a huge overnight phenomenon and soon people were requesting merchandise and wanted more. Once they caught wind that there was going to be a scene featuring an alien birth, the buzz went through the roof and even more people watched the following segment. As I watch it now it looks mad cheesy but I was on the edge of my seat when I saw it for the first time almost 25 years ago.

After the initial two parter aired viewers requested that it be aired again. They call came down that another miniseries should be produced immediately. V was officially a phenomenon and the next year the second part (called V: The Final Battle) aired on NBC.

As far as the story went, the Resistance was able to raid some sights and receive some alien technology, weapons, ammunition and supplies with the aid of the members of the Fifth Column. From there the birth of some alien twins yielded a mostly humanoid girl that had some reptillian DNA and a mostly lizard boy that died after he was born. After Julie and some other Resistance scientists studied the dead twin, they discovered what killed it and synthesized it into a substance called Red Dust. They also created an antidote for members of the Fifth Column so they would live after the Resistance struck.

After exposing the Visitors as aliens out to invade Earth on national television, the Resistance received a big boost of support. They eventually were able to do some sabotage to the Visitors ships and spread the Red Dust all over the globe, thereby making the Earth unsafe for Visitors as the Red Dust was toxic to them and killed them on contact.

As Julie and Mike led the Los Angeles Resistance, they developed a relationship. Eventually, the Visitors kidnapped Donovan’s son and used him as bait (then they converted him using their mind control techniques so he’d be a spy). By the end of the second miniseries they captured Dr. Juliet Parrish and the series ended with her in the conversion booth being brainwashed by the Visitors.

This cliffhanger made the public clamor for more of the V saga. They didn’t want to wait another year to find out what happened, either. NBC greenlighted a V series and made sure they got to filming and writing as soon as humanly possible to capitalize on the V craze. The writers were forced into producing without having proper time to prepare. The network also wanted to save some money by reusing shots from the miniseries and effects and effects sounds from the miniseries as was obvious when the series actually aired, though.

The television series, while being entertaining overall fell short of the standards set up by the mini series’. The network was seeing dollar signs after pulling in huge ratings and didn’t focus on quality control enough. The creator of the series, Kenneth Johnson was feeling that the show was being watered down and forced as the strain of producing a weekly hour long sci fi drama with a dwindling budget became a chore more than a passion project.

The shortcuts visibly affected the final product and the public got sick of V being shoved down their throats by NBC. Another thing that hurt the show was that they couldn’t get a good licensing deal done to create toys like the ones the kids played with on the series. When the V toys were finally produced they were 12” rather than G.I. Joe or Star Wars figure scale (3.75 inches or 1/18th scale) and they only made figures of the typical Visitor. They didn't produce any likenesses of Diana, the Visitor commander, Mike Donovan, Julie Parrish, or any of the other popular character. Toy sales were abysmal.

After just 19 episodes aired, the series was canceled in 1985. The V phenomenon hadn’t yet died as Kenneth Johnson continued writing novelizations that explained the back story he was never allowed to develop by NBC executives and the DC comic book still sold fairly well until it was discontinued in 1986.
Kenneth Johnson was set to bring back a new V series in 1988 but talks fell through with NBC. He instead developed Alien Nation for the fledgling Fox network and got it made into a weekly series the next year.

Next month, he drops a novel called V: The Next Generation after writing V novels for more than 20 yeras and he’s currently in production for a new V series set 20 years after the events that transpired in V: The Series to drop in the first half of 2008. I guess nothing from the 80’s can ever just stay there, huh?