Setting: A high school classroom somewhere in South Carolina. First day of class.
Coach Jones: All right, good afternoon, welcome to History of Baseball, where you’ll have some fun, learn a little about baseball, take a couple of easy tests and make a good grade.
(Class murmurs approvingly)
CJ: Baseball is the quintessentially American sport. It’s been called the national pastime. We’ve been playing baseball since the early 1800s. It’s produced heroes from Babe Ruth to Mike Trout and hundreds in between. Baseball has inspired generations of Americans, adults and children alike, as well as millions of fans around the world. But just like America itself, baseball has had its bad actors and scandals. Over the next three months we’ll explore baseball’s most glorious moments as well as its troubled times, including the Black Sox scandal, the color line, the steroid era. …
(Light tapping at the door)
CJ (expecting a late student): Get your butt in here!
History Fairy: (A Tinker Bell-sized pixie flies into the room and lands on the desk. Speaking with a drawl that simultaneously evokes both Scarlett O’Hara and Henry McMaster, she begins) Why thank you ever so much!
CJ (Startled and confused): Uh, who … or what … are you?
HF: Oh, you handsome thing. Haven’t you heard? I’m a history fairy!
CJ: A what?
HF: A history fairy, silly boy! Think of me as the governor’s ears and eyes – just cuter! There are thousands of us, and we’ll be in every classroom this school year. We’re going to have such fun!
CJ: But this course is about the history of baseball. I really don’t think you need to waste your time.
HF: Oh, I wouldn’t be too sure about that. I’m here to make sure you aren’t planning to poison these young minds with Critical Baseball Theory.
CJ: Critical what?
HF: Critical Baseball Theory, pumpkin! It’s a Marxist plot to indoctrinate our precious darlings and turn them into Communist zombies who hate baseball, America and apple pie.
CJ: But these are high school students. We trust them to drive and work part-time jobs. Some of them will vote in the upcoming election. I think they are old enough to handle unvarnished American history. It’s really our obligation if we want them to be well-informed citizens.
HF: My land, Coach! Where did you get such a wild-eyed notion! If we sow even the slightest hint of doubt into these malleable minds, the result could be disastrous. We need to ensure that these students learn nothing but what a great, excellent, wonderful, marvelous, beautiful, shiny, happy, great country we are!
CJ: You said “great” twice.
HF: Worth repeating!
CJ: I’m just not seeing what would be so disastrous about teaching them the history of baseball, both the good and the bad. You know, telling them the truth.
HF: Oh, no, couldn’t have that. Too DAN-GER-OUS!! Nope, not happening. Besides, thanks to our great, thoughtful, intelligent, industrious, devoted, forward-looking, freedom-loving, great legislature, it’s against the law now.
CJ: You said “great” twice again.
HF: I know! Did it on purpose that time!
CJ: So you’re telling me I can’t teach about Jackie Robinson.
HF: Oh, my word, of course not. Do you want your school to be defunded? (Magically produces a scroll containing the state budget). Let’s see here. Yes, here it is, Section 1.105. You are banned from making any student feel, and I quote, “discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his race.”
CJ: But I’m a baseball coach. I spend my afternoons creating discomfort and anguish. It’s called weight training.
HF: No, no, you misunderstand. That’s still allowed. You just can’t say anything that causes discomfort.
CJ: Like, “Come on Whittaker, my grandpa could have fielded that ball. Move your feet!”
HF: Honey child, you are as dense as you are muscular. You just can’t talk about anything that might make children feel discomfort about, you know, being. …
CJ: Being? ...
HF: I’m really not supposed to say this out loud.
CJ: Being white?
HF: Shhh!! Now you’re going to get us both in trouble.
CJ: Robinson’s story is inspiring. No question there is a dark side. Blacks never should have been excluded from baseball. But it shows how America is trying to live up to its promise.
HF: Sorry, that’s a hard no on Mr. Robinson.
CJ: Do you know the story of Jackie and Pee Wee Reese?
HF: Pee Wee who?
CJ: He was the white Brooklyn Dodgers shortstop who befriended Robinson. There’s a great story of Reese hearing fans shouting racist remarks at Jackie early in his career. Pee Wee walks over to Jackie in the infield and puts his arm over his shoulder as a show of support. That image is so powerful that there’s a statue of it in Brooklyn.
HF: You know, that’s a lovely story. But I’m sorry, it’s illegal. There were lots of white fans and even some of Jackie’s teammates who wanted baseball to remain segregated. It might make some of the children in the class feel bad. It’s off the table.
CJ: Don’t you think that’s a little overprotective? I mean, doesn’t your side call the other side snowflakes for being so easily offended.
HF: Hush your mouth! That kind of talk will get us both fired.
CJ: How about Hank Aaron?
HF: Same answer. Hank got lots of hate mail. Too disturbing.
CJ: Satchel Paige?
HF: Dreamboat, please! He played for the Negro Leagues. Do you want to remind your sweet innocent angels that blacks had to have their own league for decades?
CJ: How about this? Baseball is and always has been a great, exciting, amazing, spectacular, terrific, thrilling, action-packed, great sport.
HF: Now you’re talking!!
Paul DeMarco is a physician who resides in Marion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.