Sunday, May 28, 2006

SPORTS: Boston and the Black athlete

The Boston Red Sox were legendarily the last major league baseball team to integrate, when infielder Pumpsie Green joined them in the late 50's ... AFTER I was born. As a kid, my Pumpsie Green card was one of my favourties. Nothing about Pumpsie being black, just loved the name.

Later, as a I grew older and became a little more aware of the importance of Green's presence ON that card, I formed an opinion of Boston as a hard place for black athletes. Sure, the Celtics were a tribute to Bill Russell, the Jones boys and Satch Sanders, but I just got the impression that Boston was as provincial as a Northern states city could get. Even when Russell got the head coaching job after Red Auerbach retired to the cigar-smoking section in the stands, I held fast to my notion.

Yesterday, talking to a New Englander, the subject came up. "Hmmmmmm," said my Bridge-playing friend. "Didn't Boston have the first black NHL player? Fellow by the name of O'Ree. Willie O'Ree I think. And you know Chuck Cooper broke the colour barrier in the NBA. You know, you can't paint us all with a tarbrush, when it was just the Red Sox management that was slow on the uptake."

And he was right. Sorry, Boston.