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Page 16 BOSTON POST-GAZETTE, JUNE 7, 2013 Jackie Robinson Many of you movie goers out there maybe saw the "42" movie about the legend- ary Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson who broke the base- ball color line back in 1947. I was born in 1948 and by the time I truly understood what Robinson did for both baseball and America, he had been long retired. Sometimes I feel like I was born at the end of the dark ages when racism ran rampant across many parts of America. I always wondered where all the Black soldiers were in those World War II movies starring John Wayne. I was amazed and puzzled when I found out as a child during the '50s that our Armed Forces, the men and women who made up the ranks and risked their lives so that I might be free to grow up as an American boy had been a segregated force dur- ing our battles against Hitler and Nazism. We were fight- ing a world war to bring the ideals of democracy and per- sonal liberty on two fronts, yet back home we were our- selves far from reaching the same idea we were fostering overseas. I was three months old before President Harry S. Truman ended segregation in the United States Armed Forces. It took a war against Hitler to realize that Amer- ica wasn't all that it should be. It was a small first step and it would take 17 years before American society could stand up and say all of us were equal before the law and that all of us had the very same rights. The battle for an America unified by character and not color is a never ending battle. There is always room for improvement. I grew up in St. Philip's Parish in lower Roxbury back in the '50s and early '60s when Italian, Irish and Black Catholics lived together. It was far from, Selma or Montgomery or the Edmund Pettus Bridge. I have old photos taken during the Civil Rights struggles of young African Americans and their parents being hosted by fire fighters and police offic- ers unleashing their German shepherds into anxious crowds. They had committed no crimes except demanding their rights and were being treated as aliens from outer space. I know this is a baseball column and I need to return to first base again before I lose you. I can remember as a kid in the Sixties going to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox lose EXTRA Innings by Sal Giarratani Pumpsie Green was the first African American to play for the Red Sox. He is shown here with Earl Wilson (left), who pitched a no-hitter in 1962, the first by an African American in American League history. (Leslie Jones photograph, from the Leslie Jones Collection of the Boston Public Library, August 30, 1959) as they often did in those days. The Red Sox under Tom Yawkey were the last all- white team in baseball. Yawkey passed up on some great players like Robinson and Willie Mays because reportedly he was a good ole boy who didn't like Blacks. Finally, in 1959, he was pres- sured into signing a Black ballplayer by the name of Pumpsie Green, an infielder who couldn't play the infield nor could he obviously see the ball go pass him at bat at home plate. His fielding left much to be desired and his bat was too often very cold. Pumpsie was signed it seemed for one purpose -- to get everyone off Yawkey's back. Later, the same sea- son, Yawkey did sign Earl Wil- son, a catcher in the minors turned starting pitcher up in the majors. He was a real good ballplayer. He pitched in the starting rotation for several seasons with good success and he also was among one of the best hitting pitchers in the majors next to Cleveland's Jimmy "Mudcat" Grant. However, season after sea- son, very few African-Ameri- cans from Boston showed up at Fenway because of the reputation mostly earned that the Red Sox were a white team. Things didn't really change much until Yawkey passed away and only then could the team move forward. They started signing players based on skills not color and little by little the stands started showing a rainbow of colors too. The Red Sox had finally become all of Boston's baseball team. I never saw Robinson play but I do remember coming face to face with Minnie Minoso infielder for the Chicago White Sox. He was among the first five Black ballplayers who followed Jackie Robinson out onto the baseball diamonds of Amer- ica. Too bad we never signed Willie Mays. Too bad we passed up on so many in the Fifties when racism was alive and well in too many places. Some of my favorite ball- players were guys like Mays, Felipe Alou, Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Hank Aaron and so many others. It was amazing that America toler- ated the intolerable idea of having both the Major Leagues and the Negroes Leagues and neither the two shall mix. I still remember watching the Red Sox on TV playing the Kansas City Ath- letics when out of the visitor bullpen came an aging 59- year-old relief pitcher named Satchel Paige. He pitched two scoreless innings of relief against the Sox and I won- dered all that baseball fans had missed when Paige was 42 years old when the Indi- ans finally brought him up to the majors in 1948. He may very well have been the best pitcher of all time. Luckily, young people today live in a better America than the one I was born into. My generation truly was unique as we were handed outdated values and we built some- thing much better for us and the generations to follow. Young people have no idea what Jackie Robinson faced every day before he became a ballplayer and national figure. The Brooklyn Dodgers played the Boston Braves at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947 and half of the 27,000 fans in the stands were black. To some this remains just one baseball game on one day in time but to the bigger picture of what was America, it was the first day that America was forced to recognize that all men were created equal. Post- 1947 took America through racial struggles that led up to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but it all began when that first pitch was thrown to home-plate at Ebbets field on a long-ago but hardly forgot- ten April afternoon. Even if you never see "42" this summer, think about how far we have come since the end of World War II and since Jackie Robinson's days. We didn't get here by accident it took a struggle and that struggle continues on be- cause America strives to be better all the time. We grow in understanding the gift handed us by our Founding Fathers over 237 years ago. The Battle of Bunker Hill never ends for a living America. WHAT IS SO RARE AS A DAY IN JUNE? -- With apolo- gies to 19 th century poet James Russell Lowell, it cer- tainly seems to be that the days of the sixth month of the calendar year are no longer solely the province of warm, languid, sunny afternoons. No, now, as they have been for quite a number of years, they are also the culmina- tion of the hockey season, featuring the Stanley Cup Finals. And while the final round of the Cup playoffs routinely ends in June -- the B's won the 2011 Stanley Cup on June 13 in Vancouver -- the proceedings will con- tinue even later in the month this time around be- cause of the January start (and late April conclusion) to the regular season. The last possible date for a game in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals is June 28. That doesn't necessarily mean there will be a contest that day. To get to that date one of the Conference Finals series must go seven games and then the Final series must go seven games. But they will almost surely be playing on the first day of summer -- June 21. Is hockey still a winter sport? You would never know it by the length of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. AS THE SERIES WITH PITTSBURGH CONTINUED -- The continued future of the B's looked bright as the Eastern Conference Finals came to the Garden after opening in Pittsburgh where the B's took a 2-0 series lead. If, and of course that's an important two letter word, the Bruins downed the Pens and advanced to the finals, it looked like they might face Chicago, making the Stanley Cup Finals an his- toric matchup of original Six teams. We say historic because the Bruins and the Black- hawks have never met in the Stanley Cup Finals over the course of their long histories -- which date back to the 1920s for both teams. Chicago entered this year's playoff as the NHL's top- seeded team. The Bruins were seeded fourth. Of course, to set that up the Blackhawks have to do their part and defeat the defending Stanley Cup Champion L.A. Kings in the Western Confer- ence Finals. Chicago led 2-1 at press time. But as we all know, anything is possible in the NHL playoffs. Remember that the Maple Leafs were down 3-0 in games to the B's and came back to force a game seven before Boston's miracle fin- ish (two goals in the final 82 seconds of regulation plus the winner in overtime) ended their quest. The last time the Bruins and Chicago met in the play- offs was way back in 1975 when Chicago beat Boston 2-1 in a best-of-three prelimi- nary series. A year earlier, in 1974, the Bruins downed the Blackhawks 4-2 in the best-of-seven playoff semi- finals but were defeated in the Stanley Cup Finals, 4-2, by Philadelphia. Before that you have to go all the way back to 1942 when the B's downed Chi- cago 2-I in the opening round and then lost to Detroit 2-0 in the best-of-three second round. And here's something interesting: the first time the Brnins made the playoffs (i n 1927) the very first series they played was against the Blackhawks. According to the Bruins media guide archives, the B's played the very first playoff game in their history on March 29, 1927, downing Chicago, 6-i at Madison Square Garden in New York City because the Chicago Coliseum had already been booked for an event. How about that? Here's some Bruins trivia. The Bruins first playoff goal in history was scored at the 3:24 mark of the first period in that game when Frank Frederickson found the range. The Bruins went on to win 6-1. The B's advanced past Chicago in 1927, got by the Rangers but then were de- feated by Ottawa in the Stanley Cup Finals. By the way, the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs was played on April 13 in 1927. Something has been added since then -- two months or more of action. We're not sure that's been a positive development. Many in the media would probably prefer a Boston- Chicago series this year over one featuring the B's and L.A. It's a much shorter distance between the two cities and that would matter under the current 2-2-1- I- 1 format of the Finals. Remember in 2011 when the B's had to fly all the way to Vancouver for Game Five, come all the way back to Boston for Game Six and then fiy out to Vancouver again for Game Seven? That comparable long dis- tance haul to L. A. and back would be eliminated by a Boston-Chicago series. Also, the flights between the two cities are numerous, the rates are lower and thus more fans from Boston might be able to attend. Plus there's even a daily Amtrak train with a sleeper car for those that prefer land-based travel. SPEAKING OF ... A HAR- BINGER OF FALL -- While the present season contin- ues for the Bruins, those who follow hockey at Boston Uni- versity were given an early heads up on the 2013-2014 campaign via a newspaper ad that noted the "history of pas- sion, pride and tradition" of BU hockey. The season will highlight the first head coaching change for BU hockey in 40 years as Dave Quinn takes over for the retired Jack Parker. BU will play 18 home games at Agganis Arena, fea- turing contests against Bos- ton College, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Bentley.