WORLD OF THE NEGRO BALLPLAYER
The Private World of the Negro Ballplayer (SI, March 21), is a welcome oasis in a desert of the usual superficial, sentimental coverage of Negro and white relationships in sports. We, father and son, are happy to see that a popular magazine like SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is leading the way with a serious, sociological analysis of the professional and personal problems of the Negro ballplayer.
However, certain clarifications are in order.
1) Mr. Boyle states that most of the Negro ballplayers are " 'race men' who prefer to keep away from the whites." This is not quite accurate. Students of race relations "have noted the tendency of minority-group individuals to withdraw into a kind of "protective insulation" because of the fear of rebuff and the uncertainty of acceptance in social relationships. This is an understandable human reaction to an ambiguous situation.
2) The generalization that Negro entertainers seem to be more accommodating and more accepting of segregation practices as compared to more militant race men in the baseball world needs modification. Compare, for instance, the militant Lena Home in the entertainment world with the accommodating Roy Campanella in the baseball world. Another factor here may be the fact that Negro entertainers usually perform before white audiences whereas Negro ballplayers have the support of mixed audiences.
3) When Jackie Robinson first broke into the big leagues, most Negroes became Dodger fans because he was the only Negro ballplayer at that time. Now there is a more wholesome division of interest among Negroes in all the clubs. This is based on loyalty to an individual rather than to race alone.
4) Because Negro ballplayers are no longer a novelty and are taken for grant ed, many fans do not "see" a Puerto Rican in left field but rather Orlando Cepeda; they do not "see" a Negro in center field but the great Willie Mays.
Perhaps in time the wholesome fraternity we now see on the ball field will be extended to other areas of interpersonal relations among ballplayers. Robert Boyle's very helpful article helps to hasten such a day.
Council on Social Work Education
New York City
By exposing and upholding the Negro ballplayer as a breed apart you have merely fertilized the bad seeds which exist in many minds. The Negro professional man will obviously be a "mullion" in the minds of many instead of the normal, educated individual he is.
The professional ballplayer, Negro or white, is quite different from the normal American. The nature of his job and his preoccupation with it make him so. This difference is, of course, enhanced by the peculiar position the professional athlete holds in the mind of the sporting public. The Negro athlete from the beginning is on the defensive. You mentioned that there are only 57 Negroes out of approximately 400 major leaguers. Growing up in a white man's world and being a "Number Two" citizen force him to be a "race man" merely to preserve his identity as an individual.
Your article is a damning criticism of organized baseball. The whole country is involved in a civil rights squabble which will obviously be a major issue in the forthcoming presidential campaign. Now you present facts which prove a sport which is idolized by countless millions promotes the principle of "separate but equal," which was ruled against by the Supreme Court in 1954. The situation is further disturbing when one realizes the extent to which sports influence our public values, especially among the young.
J. PHILIP PARK
The Institute on the Church in Corporate Society, United Presbyterian Church
Does every event have to have "race" written into it? One gets a little fed up on Althea Gibson's or Big O's problems; do you think Jerry West or Lee Shaffer never had any?
My whole point is a plea for tolerance, but in both directions, please, and don't try so hard to write something into a situation when that something didn't exist until you put it there.
Here's hoping for more sports coverage and less psychological analysis.
CAROL P. HENNINGER
The American Negro has resigned himself to defeat in the struggle to be recognized as a human being and strives only to be recognized by the world as an "American Negro." The low status and unique regard attributed to this position is passively accepted by the American Negro. The conscious and/or unconscious cognition of this leads him to forget that he is first and foremost a human being. Becoming clannish, appointing a group ruler and setting up a unique vernacular and a code of behavior only enhances the definition of the position the American Negro has put himself in. It appears to me, that the foreign Negro, to gain significance, seeks acceptance as a ballplayer and not as a Negro ballplayer. Also, I conclude that the American Negro has used the field of sports too much (and very few sports at that) in his struggle to attain a higher status. What of electronics, nucleonics, the political sciences, the arts and other cultural fields of endeavor? The American Negro is always seeking the rapid method of attaining success and position, and this status he attains is not on the same level with his fellows and is treated by them with an odd consideration.
To enlighten him, I have this to say: Change your perception of the situation and refuse to accept defeat, for your struggle for acceptance and recognition has just begun.
New York City
So much for the million-dollar inferiority complexes of our Negro ballplayers (SI, March 21). Mr. Boyle deserves praise for his brilliant research and fine article, although it did turn out to be a rather sad commentary on the way the average Negro mind apparently works.
This "Majestic Knights of the Sea" type of cliquishness is ridiculously immature, and I find it extremely disgusting. If I were a big league ballplayer (I am a Negro and proudly so) and "Big Daddy" Crowe waltzed up to me and mouthed his little race spiel as he did to Pinson, I am sure I would have politely as possible (Crowe is a big man, you know) told him I needed no unsolicited father-away-from-father.
Perhaps it is because each man, as an individual, doesn't have capabilities to build and maintain his own personal little shield that he slinks under the mass umbrella. There is a great deal to be gained in sticking together, but there is only negligible gain to be found in a, clique that demands blind loyalty.
I'll not be quite as naive as the illustrious Jackie Robinson, but I do think race consciousness is outrageously over-stressed among the athletes. It is time the Negro athlete grew up enough to realize that the very defense mechanism he uses against his natural enemy, "them people," marks him for ridicule. He doesn't need a big daddy who lays down the laws of the clan, unless he happens to be a lummox. Cliques are only for those who cannot think for themselves.
Big daddies may act with the best intentions, but they really aren't needed. Thank God for that army of generals in the Giant camp. Men, they are! Obviously, they all know how to speak for themselves and think beyond the 17-year-old stage.
Getting back to this Crowe-guided group, may I ask what they are trying to get over to Mr. Boyle? Are they bragging or griping or both? I noted an unfortunately typical attitude of the Negro player in the article. They apparently don't know what they really want. How any intelligent group (and here may lie the crux of the matter) can speak glowingly of its clannishness and its contempt for the Number Ones one moment and then do an about-face and grouse about having its lockers all in a row because "it seems that clubhouse attendants stress 'togetherness' too much," is beyond the comprehension of this 21-year-old.
The over-all attitude in the article pointed up one glaring flaw in some Negroes' personalities. They need thicker skins. Being easily offended, oversensitive, and having a misplaced chip on the shoulder must make living pretty miserable. It most certainly sets one apart.
Incidentally, I say send Professor Frazier's theory of the Negro "bourgeoisie elite" straight to the devil along with all the welter of other meaningless labels perpetrated by quasi experts. I also say "fa-a-a-a-ugh" to Mr. Mai Goode's attitude concerning the comment about NAACP. Thank God, that sometimes great organization does stir up trouble. I shout "Viva" to the little anthropology professor who didn't stand up when the ballplayer-god walked in. I'm a baseball fan, and I'll be damned if I'd rise at the entrance of any ballplayer, black, white or green with stripes. Shame on Howard U.'s guilty faculty members.
You may deduce correctly by this time that I do not like "race men" who beg the question of the U.S. racial situation, and I don't like coattail riders. Head-nodders, if you please. Therefore, here is one "club member" in very poor standing, probably, because I happen to pick friends, not according to what color they are, but because we hit it off together rather well. I've discovered we all bleed red, and I'm not the least bit shy to point up the fact in any company.
So really, fellas, you ought to buck up a bit and come out of the womb. The breeze is fine out here, and nobody cares whether your hair blows or not. The ones who do aren't important enough or intelligent enough to be cared about anyway.
Kennett Square, Pa.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article on the Negro in baseball. I enjoyed it, first, because I am a Negro and, secondly, because I am an athlete. Your article touched on many of the problems of the American Negro in athletics today. On our basketball team here at the University of Kansas this past season we had four Negro boys on the traveling squad, and next year there will be six and possibly seven. I am sure that everyone who read your article could not fail to be enlightened on the color problem. The one thing which seems most important to me is the quota of Negro athletes in sports, generally speaking. If a boy is good it shouldn't make any difference what color he is, and if the best nine players happen to be Negro, Chinese, Russian, or Mexican, I think that they should be the ones to play. Congratulations on a very informative and well-written article.