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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

John Klima On Baseball's Blackout

You may have seen this article posted at BTF, but it's worth another link here, not least because John Klima asked me to drop a line about his fine nine-part series on the decline of African-Americans in baseball. Excerpt:
Lou Johnson was bouncing around the dugout. "You know how Henry Aaron used to run?" he asked. "Like this!"

All of a sudden, the 71-year-old Johnson seemed to no longer have sore knees. He practically pranced as he imitated the player they called Hammer. Johnson raised his arms close to his body, clenched his fists and pointed them down, and jogged a few feet with small, bouncy steps. He looked more like the Easter Bunny than he did the all-time home run king.

"Henry ran like that," Johnson said. "Some guys run like hell. Everyone's got their own way of running. When Hank hit and ran the bases, it was different. People can build it up and say (stuff) the way they want to."

Johnson is playful, but there is sorrow to this joy. He took a breath when he returned to the bench and thought over a question that plagues baseball. In an era when the game tries to cleanse itself of performance-enhancing drugs and distrust, while it promotes itself as the international game, baseball as an industry and as a culture has regressed with a radical blackout harkening to the days of separate but equal.

"It's hard to comment on that," said Johnson, who played for the Dodgers in the 1960s. "Everything changes but the sun and the rain. I will say this: baseball has not progressed much, not in terms of playing, but in terms of signing players."

Definitely worth reading.

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