Here is an op-ed that I've written for the Chicago Tribune on the Jackie Robinson West Little League scandal:
guess I knew it was coming. I had seen reporter Mark Konkol's stories in DNAinfo Chicago about the
controversy over potential rules violations by the Jackie Robinson West All-Stars, the team that
brought us all such pride and happiness last summer as it marched to a U.S. championship and the finals
of the Little League World Series.
But it still hit me like a sledgehammer when I read the bulletin on my cellphone Wednesday morning
saying the team had been stripped of its title and all of its victories.
I cried. For the kids. For the community. For myself.
When I was a kid in the 1950s in Texas and Kentucky, we played baseball for hours every available day.
America's pastime was our daily delight.
And as we would take the field — in somebody's yard or at a local park — we would each shout out which
of our big league idols we were that day.
"I'm Jackie Robison!" was always the most commonly heard cry. (For some reason we always elided the
"n" in the middle of his last name.) The only name that even came close in popularity was that of Willie
Jackie Robinson was the embodiment of all our pride and hopes and ambitions. He was for our generation
what Joe Louis and Jesse Owens had been for an earlier generation of black youth — a hero who had
crashed through every barrier white society had erected and forced it to acknowledge his greatness. He
was our champion.
So the choice of Jackie Robinson's name for the Chicago Little League team was freighted with
significance for me, and, I suspect, for many other black men of my generation. And when those kids
performed with such grit and skill — and success — my heart soared. Surely, I felt, these kids are worthy of
that name on their uniforms: "Jackie Robinson."
This scandal — this fraud — in no way diminishes those kids. They played their hearts out, and they
deserved better than this belated disgrace.
As for the adults who perpetrated the fraud, I don't know why they did what they did. They'll have to
answer to their own consciences for it. But I have to tell them that I am taking this thing very, very
personally, because, still, after 60-some years, "I'm Jackie Robison!"