We had a requirement to graduate high school that made no sense; study two years of a foreign language or algebra. Whatever, I never asked any questions. It seemed easy enough.
Spanish class, like I guess any language class featured simple dialogues through the use of being verbs. There was no escaping public conjugations and making fools of ourselves; asking questions with vocabulary learned in class. We went round and round the room; toothbrush, toaster, socks, ham.
“What’s your favorite TV show? Do you have a brother? Do you like ham. Yes, I like ham. No I don’t like ham. What city were you born? Do you brush your teeth every morning?”
Real simple stuff. Real. Nothing clever or creative. The valley girl, punk, rebel, jock, valedictorian all steamrolled of their supposed “special” differences. No one was unique anymore. We were all stupid.
As it turned out, none of us became friends, but we passed each other in the hallway without the same breakfast club tension. We were all just trying to get by. It made discussions in other classes about race and religion…we’re all equal rhetoric almost insulting as if connecting with someone was that easy. Under all those layers, there were assholes everywhere; all shapes and sizes.
All the infatuations and seductions and conversely all the hatred at first sight, all the billboards and images and fancy words and clever word play seemed so empty. This connection thing was hard work requiring time and shared experience
I thought about that Spanish class last April when David Ortiz stood at Fenway Park dishing out Che Guevara like war cries of “patria patria patria-Boston strong.” I thought about how Boston took a chance on Ortiz after being released by the Minnesota Twins in 2002 and how 11 years later, he was the most popular man in Boston.
Yeh, a black man from the Dominican Republic was a Red Sox hero, the same Red Sox that refused black players 12 years after the Jackie Robinson fact. Ortiz was there in 2004 when the Sox tied the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth, won in the 12th and then reeled off 7 consecutive wins for the franchise’s first World Series in 86 years. Ortiz was there in 2007 and again last season…three World Series in nine years. David “Big Papi MVP” Ortiz hitting over ..688 in the series.
And to think that just 10 years ago Ortiz was hanging on the edge of his career; drafted by the Mariners, traded to the Twins and released by them despite hitting 38 home runs over two seasons. The Twins said he was too fat or something. and that no one was interested in a trade, so they released him.
Ortiz hit something like 8 home runs in his first month on the Red Sox; 31 for the season, a trip to the playoffs and then the following year, 2004 happened. That team featured Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Pedro Martinez. All three of them born in the Dominican Republic. All three of them black.
Rewind the calendar 60 years ago and of course, there were no black players on the Red Sox. That would be 1944, three years before Branch Rickey played his hand and called up Jackie Robinson. But rewind 50 years and the Red Sox were still without a black player. It wasn’t until 1959 that the Red Sox and Tom Yawkey Inc. surrendered to the trend and signed Pumpsie Green.
Robinson called Yawkey “one of the most bigoted men in baseball.” Yawkey apparently had plenty of opportunities to sign not only Jackie Robinson, but Hank Aaron and Willie Mays as well, but turned them down. An outfield of Ted Williams, Aaron, and Mays is something to drool over, but I prefer the silver linings in Yawkey’s southern ways…. Aaron as a Milwaukee Brave; Mays a New York Giant.
I heard words like hypocrisy and irony tossed around after Ortiz finished his Boston Strong speech. It was nothing Ortiz said, just cold hearts bitching about what Boston and Yawkey had done. But Yawkey passed away in 1976 and what exactly did Boston do? They just handed over the keys of its city to a black man, not even born in the United States. Boston changed.
The Star Spangled banner made more sense. I don’t live in an emancipated world. I see waitresses with three inches of flab under both biceps and don’t think to myself, “the kingdom of heaven is within.” I think Supertramp-Breakfast in America Album cover and super size me, but i get lucky every once in a while. Time awards me something stronger. It shakes my spine. This obese lady and I could dance a crazy end of the world dance if someone would just press play.
Boston got lucky too. They got time and a hero to put that Bambino Curse nonsense to rest once and for all.