Congratulations to the Washington Nationals, the champions of Major League Baseball (MLB). Our hometown World Series winners made us all proud. But before they even got off the plane bringing them back home from Houston (they won the big game on the road against the Astros), they threw my affection for them out the window by announcing they would visit the White House (hiss-boo) … all except pitcher Sean Doolittle (yes!).
I’m not an athletic person, though in junior high school I played Little League baseball. Baltimore Orioles hero Paul Blair was with us, headed for the Big Leagues. At first, we named our team at Los Angeles’ South Park, “The Pharaohs.” We had two uniforms: khakis and white T-shirts or blue jeans and white T-shirts. Then, when beverage maker 7Up came along with pretty, blue, matching caps, we accepted the name “Angels,” which was written on our caps.
By the 1970s, when the Dodgers moved to L.A. from Brooklyn and the Giants from New York City to “The City,” San Francisco, and the Athletics had moved from Kansas City to Oakland, Black boys a few years younger than me were proving less and less interested in the national pastime, despite legends like Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Maury Wills, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Reggie Jackson and Vida Blue. Despite all those very visible legends of the game as role models, Black boys were turning more to football and basketball as sports to pursue.
Before MLB moved teams to the West Coast beginning in 1958, Los Angeles had the original Angels, in the Pacific Coast League. The team’s home was Wrigley Field, a short bicycle ride from where I lived. I went to a lot of their games and never really noticed that they didn’t seem to have any Black players. Who cared? It was just baseball, and it was fun to watch Angels like slugger Steve Bilko and pitcher Chuck Connors (who later starred in the TV western “The Rifleman”).
The contact sports played with the large brown balls became the preferred sports for young Blacks whose skills excelled in them, leaving aside to white players sports like baseball and tennis and golf, played with small white balls (read psychiatrist Frances Cress Welsing’s “Balls Theory” to get more on that pre-Tiger Woods, pre-Williams sisters analysis of the games we love to play and watch).
Professional sports today represent just about the only spontaneous, unscripted, live events that happen right before our eyes on national television. The outcomes are always unpredictable and usually exciting to watch.
Recently, Washington has indeed become the “District of Champions,” with the Nationals, the WNBA champion Washington Mystics, the 2018 NHL champions Washington Capitals and D.C. United, recent champs of Major League Soccer. Congratulations to all those winning players.
I remember when champions, interviewed immediately after winning the final game, would be asked, “What are you going to do now?” And they would reply, “I’m going to Walt Disney World.” But now, with this scoundrel presiding as president, now the first thing they seem to talk about is how many team members will visit and how many will boycott the visit to the White House to be served warmed-over burgers and fries. The Golden State Warriors got themselves uninvited to the White House when several of their most prominent players (Steph Curry among them) announced they would not go.
I wish that’s what the Nationals players had opted to do. After all when The Donald showed up in a luxury suite at Game 5 of the World Series, he was greeted with boos and chants of “lock him up” when the fans in attendance saw his mug on the Jumbotron. After Game 7, a fan at a D.C. watch party interviewed by a local news station could not get censored fast enough because it was live television when he said “We have an a–hole in the f—ing White House” as the correspondent recoiled in horror, and the station switched to another shot.
That shows the temperament of the local citizenry towards the president — fans from around the DMV say, “Boo!” “Lock him up!” My sentiments exactly.
So now I can save the money I might have spent on team apparel. Nope. Not me.
I know my support will not be missed, what with all the appreciation the team is getting for their record-breaking, miraculous victory. But nevertheless, thanks to their eagerness to hug up with the ugly resident of the White House, I’ve got no more use for my hometown baseball team.