Willie Horton and the Summer of 1967

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Willie Horton with the Tigers in 1975. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the summer of 1967, a riot enveloped a Detroit neighborhood for 5 days. It was one of the worst race riots in U.S. history, surpassed only by the L.A. riots of 1992. I am not a historian, so any summary I write of it likely would not do it justice. But it grew out of tensions between the Black community and the mostly white police department, which, according to the Encyclopedia of Detroit, “[l]ike many forces across the country… was known for heavy-handed tactics and antagonistic arrest practices, particularly toward black citizens.”

Early in the morning on July 23, 1967, approximately 82 people were arrested at illegal “unlicensed weekend drinking club,” known as a “blind pig.” A crowd of onlookers gathered to witness the arrests, and at least one person threw a bottle at police. After the police left the scene, looters began going through neighborhood businesses. By the afternoon, fires had broken out in the neighborhood, and the rioting and looting expended to other parts of the city. People in public places, such as Tiger Stadium, were told to avoid the area. The players, as well, were urged to leave the ballpark quickly after the game and go straight home.

One of those players was Willie Horton, who’d grown up in Detroit, in the neighborhoods affected. So, while still in his uniform, Horton did what he felt he had to do. He drove straight to the scene of the riots, pulled over, and stood on top of his car imploring the rioters to not lose their message about racial inequality through violence and looting. He urged peaceful protest, much like today’s athletes and activists called for in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

Many years later, Horton told the Detroit News how he felt in those moments: “‘It was scaring me. There were people on all sides of me. It was like a war. But a war isn’t supposed to be in your community.’” Despite his pleas to the rioters, however, the rioting continued. It can be hard to understand why these events occur – and how peaceful protests can turn to violence and looting. Sociologists who study social movements have theories, but theories don’t necessarily solve problems.

Systemic societal problems cannot be resolved by one person or in five days or through violence. While sociologists may not have all the answers, they do have some tools that can help. Sociology teaches us to try to see things from other perspectives. Willie Horton could see more than one perspective. Can we?

~ baseballrebecca




Speaking Out for Justice

A lot of emotions have been experienced and shared by people all over the world over the past few days: anger, rage, fear, anguish, frustration, sadness – profound sadness. Many of us are still at a loss for words, or just don’t know what to do to bring about justice, peace, and social change. Even if you don’t know what to do to help, keep praying, sharing, and teaching, and support those who can help the world change for the better.





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I am ANGRY. I am SAD. I am TIRED. Seeing a 5 year old yesterday wear a shirt say “please don’t shoot me” broke my soul in half. He shouldn’t have to wear that shirt. He shouldn’t have to be worrying about any of that. This is the world we live in!? I am BLACK. I have been racially profiled. I have been told “I can’t date you because my family doesn’t like blacks.” I have sat in hand cuffs because a cop felt threatened because he saw two black kids in a nice car. I have been told I am NOT black because I speak proper. I WILL not sit quiet knowing my platform. I WILL stand with the people who fight day in and day out to stop racism. I WILL have these difficult conversations with my WHITE BROTHERS. I WILL do everything in my power to explain and make them understand what it is to be BLACK in AMERICA. This has to stop. ENOUGH is ENOUGH. My brothers and sisters we HAVE to do better. STOP looking at the color in a man/woman and see him for who he/she is. This all starts with us. YES, the system is unjust but the system is also your brother that’s sitting next to you that can make that change for your children and generations to come. I encourage you all to go out there and stand with the people. March with them. Feel for them. We are hurting. WE ARE THE CHANGE.

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~ baseballrebecca




Sports Humanitarians

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Nelson Cruz with the Seattle Mariners in 2015. Photo by Keith Allison via Wikipedia.

Last week, ESPN announced the finalists for the 2020 Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award – and Nelson Cruz is one of them. The news release states, “Cruz has transformed the infrastructure of his hometown of Las Matas De Santa Cruz in the Dominican Republic. He has secured a fire engine and an ambulance, built a new police station and contributed wheelchairs and crutches, and he annually brings dentists and optometrists to a local clinic to provide checkups, medicine and eyewear.”

According to ESPN, the award, which is part of the ESPY awards, “is given to an athlete whose continuous, demonstrated leadership has created a measured positive impact on their community through sports. The candidate must embrace the core principals that Muhammad Ali embodied so well, including confidence, conviction, dedication, giving and respect. ” The website notes that the award was previously called the Sports Humanitarian of the Year Award; it was renamed in 2017 to honor Muhammad Ali. (Note that the Muhammad Ali Center has a separate award called the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award.) Previous MLB finalists have included Curtis Granderson (2017) and Yadier Molina (2019).

In addition to the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award, ESPN awards the Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award. The Los Angeles Dodgers are again finalists for this award, as they were last year. They were nominated for the 2020 award because of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation’s work to improve education, health care, homelessness, and social justice. The Dodgers have developed “Dodgers Reading Champions,” an online reading program, and the “Dodgers Dreamfields” program, which builds and refurbishes ball fields in underserved communities.

Other MLB teams that have been finalists for the Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award are the San Francisco Giants (2016), Chicago White Sox (2017), and Boston Red Sox (2018). The Giants won the award in 2016 for their work with the Junior Giants. The Giants created the Junior Giants in 1991 to help address violence in impoverished neighborhoods in the San Francisco area. The Giants Community Fund supports Junior Giants leagues in Northern California, Nevada, and Oregon, and provides assistance to community programs focused on education, health, and violence prevention.

These are just two of ESPN’s Sports Humanitarian Awards, which have been awarded since 2015. The 2020 ESPYS will be awarded on June 21.

~ baseballrebecca



Best of the Week: 5/17/2020 – 5/23/2020

Orioles’ great Brooks Robinson turned 83 on Monday and some of his friends and teammates threw him a birthday party on Zoom – which is one of the best things I’ve seen all year!

~ baseballrebecca

Happy Birthday to The Bee!

img_0140Happy Birthday to former Oriole, Al Bumbry, affectionately called “The Bee”!

Alonza Benjamin Bumbry was born on this date in 1947 in Fredericksburg, VA. Bumbry signed with the Baltimore Orioles in 1968 after graduating from Virginia State College (now Virginia State University). After 35 games with the Stockton Ports in 1969, he put his baseball career on hold to fulfill his two-year military service obligation with the U.S. Army. He was a platoon leader from July 1969 to June 1971 during the Vietnam War and earned a Bronze Star for his service. He returned to the Orioles’ organization in 1971, playing for the Aberdeen Pheasants in 1971 and for the Asheville Orioles and Rochester Red Wings in 1972.

Bumbry made his Major League debut with the O’s on September 5, 1972, and was named Rookie of the Year in 1973. Bumbry played with the Orioles for 12 years before signing with the San Diego Padres in 1985. He retired at the end of the 1985 season and was inducted into the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2002, he was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.

After his playing career, Bumbry was a first base coach for the Boston Red Sox (1988-1993), Baltimore Orioles (1995), and Cleveland Indians (1988 and 2002). He also was a coach for the minor league York Revolution and the Bowie Baysox. In 2012, the Baysox honored Bumbry with a bobblehead giveaway. In 2012 and 2013, Al’s son Steve Bumbry also played for the Baysox.

~ baseballrebecca

Who is Hiram Bithorn?

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Hiram Bithorn

If you’ve been watching the Caribbean Series this week, you’ve probably noticed that the games are taking place in Hiram Bithorn Stadium. But who is Hiram Bithorn? He was the first baseball player from Puerto Rico to play Major League Baseball. Bithorn played only four years in the Majors for the Chicago Cubs (1942-43, 1946) and the Chicago White Sox (1947).

Hiram Gabriel Bithorn Sosa was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, on March 18, 1916. He was of Danish/German/Scottish and Spanish descent. Bithorn was a natural athlete, playing volleyball and basketball in addition to baseball. At the age of 20, he signed with the Norfolk Tars of the Class B Piedmont League. He also played for the Binghamton Triplets of the Class A New York-Penn League in 1937 and  1938, as well as the Class AA Newark Bears in 1938. He also played winter baseball for the Senadores of San Juan, becoming the manager of the team in 1938 when the previous manager resigned only two weeks into the season. At age 22, he was the youngest manager in the Puerto Rican Baseball League’s history.

In 1939, Bithorn headed for the Pacific Coast League, playing for the Oakland Oaks that year and for the Hollywood Stars in 1940 and 1941. In September 1941, the Chicago Cubs drafted Bithorn and he made his Major League debut the following April. Although his record in 1942 was 9-14, he doubled his wins in 1943, going 18-12 with an ERA of 2.60. He was the league leader in shutouts in 1943 as well, with seven shutouts.

In 1943, Bithorn joined the U.S. Navy, serving at San Juan Naval Air Station in Puerto Rico. There he was also player-manager of the baseball team. He was discharged from the Navy in September 1945 and played for San Juan that winter, where he injured his hand in a game in February 1946.

Bithorn returned to the Cubs in 1946, but only won 6 games (and losing 5) that year. His contract was sold to the Pirates in January 1947, but he was put on waivers two months later and was selected by the White Sox, where he made only two appearances in 1947. Bithorn returned to baseball in 1949 after undergoing surgery in 1948. He played for both the Nashville Volunteers and the Oklahoma City Indians in 1949, which was his last year as a player. He was an umpire in the Pioneer League in 1951.

Bithorn attempted a comeback in the Mexican Pacific League in 1951 at the age of 35. Sadly, he was shot and killed after an altercation with a police officer in Mexico in December of that year. He was buried in Santurce on January 13, 1952.

In 1962, Puerto Rico honored Bithorn by naming the stadium in San Juan after him.

~ baseballrebecca


Ozney Guillen

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Ozney Guillen with the Tri-City ValleyCats (photo courtesy of LinkedIn)

The manager of the Colombian team in this year’s Caribbean Series is Ozney Guillen, son of former Major League manager, Ozzie Guillen. Ozney was born on January 3, 1992, in Boca Raton, Florida. In 2010 he was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 22nd round of the amateur from Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami Gardens, Florida. Instead of signing with the White Sox, however, he attended Miami Dade College and St. Thomas University. Ozney was not drafted in subsequent drafts.

In 2014 and 2015, Guillen played for the Normal CornBelters in the Frontier League. He next played for the Sioux Falls Canaries (2016), the Bridgeport Bluefish (2017), the New Britain Bees (2018), and the Ottawa Champions (2018). He also played for los Tiburones de la Guaira in the Venezuela Winter League in the 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19 seasons). His career batting average was .240 with 17 home runs.

In 2019, Guillen managed the Tri-City ValleyCats, the Houston Astros’ Short Season-A affiliate in the New York-Penn League. The team had their home opener on Father’s Day, with Ozney’s father on hand. The Valley Cats went 32-42 under Guillen’s guidance.  His season was not without controversy, though. In a game against the Vermont Lake Monsters in June last year, Guillen was ejected from a game after arguing with an umpire. He was ultimately suspended for two games for the episode for swearing at the umpire. In August, Guillen stated that he was “not a fan” of minor-league playoffs and preferred that his players get rest after the season. This caused several to second-guess his team’s losing record for the season. The Astros announced they would not retain Guillen for the 2020 season.

He currently manages Los Vaqueros de Monteria, who are representing Colombia in the Caribbean Series.

~ baseballrebecca





Stat-urday, 1/25/2020

I’m totally with that one guy that didn’t vote for Jeter. Perhaps he’s an O’s fan. Perhaps he remembers “The Incident.” I hope we never know who he or she is, so his/her secret hero identity can remain intact. However, when you buy tickets for when the O’s visit the Yankees during Spring Training, the Yankees never stop bother you. The last email they sent included the graphic below. I particularly like how it highlights that growing bald spot.

Happy Stat-urday!

~ baseballrebecca

Chico Carrasquel


Chico Carrasquel, 1953 Bowman baseball card

Shortstop Chico Carrasquel was born on this date in 1926. Carrasquel was the third Venezuelan to play in the Major Leagues. In fact, according to Baseball Reference, “[h]e was one of the first big league stars to come out of Venezuela and was a national hero in his home country.” Chico’s uncle, Alex Carrasquel had been the first Venezuelan in the Major Leagues.

Alfonso Carrasquel Colon was born on January 23, 1926, in Caracas, Venezuela. While still a teenager, Carrasquel played for the Venezuelan National Team, which won the 1945 Amateur World Series. The following year he joined the Cerveceria Caracas team of the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League. He hit the first home run in the league’s history.

Carrasquel was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949 and was assigned to the Montreal Royals. However, the team’s manager, Clay Hopper, would not play him since he didn’t speak English. Thus, Carrasquel was reassigned to the Fort Worth Cats. While there he hit .315 for the season and .364 during the post-season, helping the Cats win the 1949 Texas League championship.

Since the Dodgers had future Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese at shortstop, they traded Carrasquel to the White Sox, where he made his MLB debut on April 18, 1950. There, the language barrier was not a problem as Cuban-born White Sox pitcher Witto Aloma served as interpreter (the White Sox had traded Carrasquel’s uncle Alex to acquire Aloma). While with the White Sox, Carrasquel was selected as an All-Star in 1951, 1953, 1954, and 1955.

Carrasquel was traded to the Indians, where be played from 1956 to 1958. He was traded to the Kansas City Athletics in June 1958 and to the Baltimore Orioles in October that same year. In May 1959, he suffered an eye injury that left him with only fifty percent vision in his left eye. After a disappointing season, the Orioles released him in December. He signed with and was released by the Chicago White Sox in early 1960 and then signed with the Montreal Royals, but was released in April 1960.

Carrasquel continued to play in the Venezuela Winter League until 1967 and later became the manager of the Leones del Caracas. He also worked as a scout for the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets and later served as color commentator for the White Sox Spanish language broadcasts. He was also the team’s Community Relations Representative until 2002.

Carrasquel passed away in Venezuela in 2005. He was inducted into the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010. Check out Carrasquel’s bio from the Society of American Baseball Research.

~ baseballrebecca