I am a lifelong baseball fan and a die-hard Chicago White Sox fan. I am African American. I’m the senior combat sports editor here at Sporting News who has an unhealthy appetite for all things baseball. Once again, I am an African American who has spent much of his life searching for baseball to spark the interest of my teammates because I would love to share the beauty of the sport with others.
Tim Anderson’s home run against the New York Yankees at the Field of Dreams Game on Thursday night became that cultural landmark he was waiting for, one that will endure.
But if I’m a prisoner of the moment, I don’t care if I never get a parole hearing.
Living in this moment where an African American is at the center of a sport where African Americans make up only 7 percent of the players in Major League Baseball was euphoric for me.
Watching my teammates, who never cared much about sport, sharing the various gifs and memes was an emotional moment. He forced people on social media to talk about a 28-year-old African-American from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who defied the odds, became a star along the way, and accepted the role of leading voice in the Major League Baseball African-American community. Baseball.
FAGAN: MLB needs to capitalize on the Field of Dreams concept
As they say: You couldn’t have written a better script. But the way this script developed for me is very different than how it might have worked for others. This was not just a game. This tree bore the fruit of a cultural meaning that few writers could sum up in words. But I will try.
And I almost missed it for being stupid and booking twice for a meeting at the same time as the game. However, it turned out that nothing would have changed.
Frank Thomas changed my fandom
So how did I become a fan of the White Sox? Follow me for a moment.
I was born in New York and spent my early years worshiping Mets stars Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. They looked like me and brought a different culture to this lily-white sport I was seeing. But Strawberry went to the Dodgers and I moved to Las Vegas. He needed a new team.
I was watching a White Sox game, I always thought jerseys were cool, when this mountain of man walked up to the plate. Due to my obsession with professional wrestling, I was immediately struck by the size of this enormous human being named Frank Thomas. I became obsessed when I realized that I combined patience with power. While everyone else was drawn to the cultural phenomenon known as Ken Griffey Jr., I loved Frank Thomas because he defied expectations of what a man of his size, height, and skin color should be doing in baseball.
In August 1990, I became a fan of the White Sox and never looked back.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have friends who looked like me and loved baseball as much as I did. I obsessively played baseball video games and bought The Sporting News (true story!) To play fantasy baseball by hand in the pre-internet era. I desperately wanted my White Sox to have an interesting factor that I could introduce to my friends and say, “See? That’s why I love baseball.” There wasn’t much of that, other than Robin Ventura being strangled by Nolan Ryan after taking the mound in 1993. And my team was on the wrong side of the joke.
Meanwhile, the Yankees spent the late 90s provoking my ire as George Steinbrenner built his evil empire. The Yankees’ fitted cap became a cultural icon. But I was always drawn to White Sox shoes, which I thought were cooler because of their connection to Hip Hop culture when Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre and MC Ren made White Sox shoes a part. of the NWA outfit. Someday, the White Sox would have their chance against the Yankees.
When it was announced that the White Sox and Yankees would be playing at the Field of Dreams Game in Dyersville, Iowa, on August 12, it immediately became a date to watch.
That was, until I double booked a meeting at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas.
And that also meant I was hanging out distracted by my phone and prowling around the casino looking for a screen to watch the game.
Earlier in the week my Tim Anderson “Field of Dreams” jersey arrived in the mail (see below). I planned to use it at home for the game, but decided not to use it in my meeting. I should.
The 2021 White Sox have offered more hope than we had since the magical 2005 World Series starting team. This White Sox team is different. It speaks to me culturally in a way that other versions of this team have not. From the quiet confidence of José Abreu to the boisterous personality of Yermin Mercedes and the booty of Eloy Jiménez’s unbuttoned jersey revealing his gold chains, these White Sox are built like any White Sox team that has preceded them.
But, for me, it’s always been about Tim Anderson.
He was one of us. And by us, I mean that he looks, walks, talks and acts like a product of the Hip Hop community.
“I don’t see it as a responsibility,” Anderson he said in a 2020 interview with USA Today on being the new leading voice for the MLB African American community. “But it’s something I’m very proud of. I want to represent the black community and everything that comes with it.
“I’m going to keep playing the way it’s supposed to be played, I’m going to keep being me, I’m going to keep growing the game, and I’m going to keep getting the black community to support me.
“I’m going to let everyone know, ‘Hey, we got a black playing baseball.’
And Anderson let him know. His now-infamous bat flip on April 17, 2019, sparked intense dialogue about whether bat flips belonged to the sport. But, for me, the conversation went deeper than that. It was about expression in sports, and culturally that has often gone hand in hand with blackness.
Win at the Wynn
So here I was at this meeting with one eye on my phone. My friend and co-host of the podcast was with me and he happens to be a huge Yankees fan. And there was another guy there hosting a Yankees podcast. Kinda cool, though I was outnumbered.
But as I looked at my phone, the White Sox were already up 7-3 after Seby Zavala hit a home run between right-center field. With our bullpen revamped, anchored by Liam Hendriks and the addition of Craig Kimbrel, I thought the game was over. My co-host too. So we chatted a bit with everyone at the meeting and decided to finish.
That was, until my friend barked an expletive that caught my attention.
“‘Oh shit,'” he said. I looked for a television on the casino floor and saw a replay of Giancarlo Stanton decimating an 88 mph pitch from Hendriks and depositing it in the corn in left field.
I waited all season for this moment and the Yankees, with their $ 325 million man, were going to take it from him. It felt like the Evil Empire had bought victory in the main regular-season game of the year. Because, you know, it’s the Yankee way.
My podcast partner smiled at me. I had to take it easy because the Yankees needed the win more than my White Sox. But, alas, he wanted the White Sox to win this game.
Little did he know that it laid the foundation for the moment he was waiting for. The moment when I can introduce baseball to people who look like me and say, “This is great.”
We headed to the sportsbook to get a clear view of the larger screen showing the game and arrived just in time to see Zavala fight his way on a 1-2 count to earn a ticket at the bottom of the ninth. .
And then Tim Anderson left the circle on deck and headed for the plate. The Yankees’ Zack Britton first pitch found Anderson’s bat. The sound it made was loud enough to cut through the noisy betting house as heads snapped up and turned to the giant screen. There was no question where this ball was headed and Anderson knew it too. Everyone knew as soon as his bat came out.
I needed this.
We needed this.
RELATED: Anderson On Game Winner: ‘I Knew What I Was Looking For’
I’m not sure what I said exactly, but it was strong. Here I was, a black man at a sportsbook playing dumb with a black athlete from my favorite team, absolutely hijacking the spotlight from the sports world and focusing it on himself as he danced around the bases.
And I never cared less what people thought of me than I did at that very moment.
I don’t expect it to completely change the perspective, but it is a universally memorable moment that captures Anderson as Anderson is. The immediate recognition that the game was over as soon as the ball left the bat, the jubilation as he circled the bases with fireworks lighting up the Iowa skyline, his team waiting for their leadoff bat, a black man, at home plate. .
A dialogue started on social media, as even non-baseball fans were held captive at this time. And nothing else was happening in sports, as preseason football and the NBA Summer League were over, leaving Anderson’s moment in baseball history isolated. I was proud to be a baseball fan. And it was my team with a player who is the ambassador of our community that ended an epic night.
He longed for that unique moment that he could bottle and present to non-baseball fans. Finally I got it.
If ever there was a visual element to put in the National Museum of African American History and Culture, this is it.
This is how our children should view baseball history.
– Andreas Hale (@AndreasHale) August 13, 2021
This is how our children should view baseball history.
Perhaps this would be to them what Frank Thomas was to me. A landmark that forever changes your story.
You can’t delete it. It’s here and I love it.
I am happy for Tim Anderson.
“We made history tonight,” Anderson said.
Yes we did it.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.