Baseball will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.
- Walt Whitman
I'm a bad former sportswriter. Bad with a capital B.
I can't believe I almost let one of the biggest milestones in the 137-year history of professional baseball slip away without even a simple post.
Effa Manley was one of 17 Negro League legends elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame Monday, becoming the first woman ever to be elected in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.
Manley was a co-owner of the Negro League's Newark Eagles from the club's founding in 1936 until the team disbanded in 1948, killed by the end of segregated baseball.
Today, baseball fans live in an era when just about every slugger in the game is suspected of using banned substances, a time when ball players are as overpaid as the owners willing to cut enormous checks to just about anyone who can catch.
Manley's induction into the Hall should serve as a reminder to fans everywhere that baseball, from Jim Thorpe to Jackie Robinson to Ichiro, is often bigger than itself when it comes to understanding what America really looks like when all the differences are stripped away like old paint from an outfield wall.
Sure, watching the Super Bowl can be exciting. But I'm sick of watching overpriced ads and aging rockers instead of a football game.
Hockey? Note to the NHL ... Call me when you become relevant again, on either side of the 49th Parallel.
With baseball, there's this sense of something historic, something immortal. Like a clutch hitter nailing that perfect pitch in the bottom of the ninth, timing is everything in baseball.
I can't think of a better time to finally enshrine a woman into the hallowed hall of Gehrig and Ruth, of Brooks Robinson and Honus Wagner.
Manley, known for her dedication to civil rights and the fair treatment of players, will now share baseball's Mount Olympus with the likes of Ty Cobb, Cap Anson, and scores of other players who, while amazing ballplayers, were rabid supporters of baseball's version of Jim Crow.
I'd call electing a black woman to Cooperstown during a week that begins in Black History Month and ends in Women's History Month as close to perfection as any historic moment can get.
NewsHour with Jim Lehrer (Feb. 28, 2006 transcript)
National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY (Press Release)
Effa Manley Bio (Negro League Baseball Players Association)
Baseball, Black History Month, Hall of Fame, Effa Manley, Negro Leagues, Women's History Month