A guest post by our fantastic intern, Noemi:
Those of you Yankee fans out there have probably heard by now that Bob Sheppard, the long-time Yankee Stadium announcer, died yesterday at age 99. Among the heartwarming anecdotes and quips mentioned in his obituary and numerous articles memorializing the legend was a small detail that stood out to me which indicates the changing cultural backgrounds of baseball players from Sheppard’s start in 1951 through today.
In a tribute to him in the New York Times, George Vecsey wrote of Sheppard, “In an earlier time, when baseball was not yet comfortable with Latino players, he made sure to give Minnie Miñoso his tilde. Later, he delighted in getting the pronunciation right for Shigetoshi Hasegawa.”
Reading about Sheppard’s respect for these foreign players who were rarities in baseball at the time makes it all the more noticeable how times have changed. In tonight’s annual All-Star game, the 20 men that make up the starting rosters alone boast players of Japanese, Dominican, South American, African-American, biracial, and French descent, just to name a few!
The amazing array of nationalities and ethnicities that will be represented tonight are a real-life manifestation of the many Lee & Low characters of all kinds that play, follow, and cherish baseball. The hero of Bill Wise’s Louis Sockalexis was certainly an idol of current Native American player Joba Chamberlain, while Ken Mochizuki’s Baseball Saved Us tells the story of Japanese American kids embracing baseball long before Ichiro Suzuki became a star outfielder. Evidently, these stories aren’t mere fantasies but have really impacted the Major Leagues as well as the fans that love to track the stars who represent pride in their heritage.
If you watch the exciting midsummer classic tonight, take a minute to revel in the fact that not only are players from rival clubs coming together as teammates for the night, but that baseball greats of all backgrounds, colors, and languages have the equal chance to be acknowledged by America’s multicultural national pastime!