The story of the first black major leaguer. Maybe. Kinda.

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Fascinating article at Slate today about William Edward White, who played a single game for the Providence Grays in 1879. The significance? White was the first black man to play a game in major league baseball.

Or was he? That’s the subject of the article (the fact of White’s lone game has been reported for over a decade). You see, White was born to a white father and a mixed-race mother who, at the time, was his father’s slave in pre-Civil War Georgia. By law and general social rules of the time, that made White black.

But White’s father and mother — who stayed together as a family and raised White — sent him north for his education in the 1870s and, as was often the case for mixed-race people of the time, White passed as white. Indeed, he did so for the rest of his life, being listed as white in his educational records, census records and death certificate. And, one presumes, the Providence Grays — who picked White up from Brown University for his single game — assumed he was white as well.

Which leads to the interesting philosophical/social/historical question of whether or not one should consider White to be the first black baseball player. On the one hand you can say it’s merely a matter of biographical/genetic information: White was partially black and, per the understanding of the times, would be considered black by all who knew his heritage, ergo he was. On the other hand, we don’t laud Jackie Robinson simply because he was able to be slotted into a demographic group when he played. He laud him for his bravery and leadership in breaking a barrier and visibly and forcefully righting a wrong. White wasn’t likely trying to do anything other than live his life and play some baseball. Which he did, based on the available evidence, while thinking of himself as a white man.

There’s a lot of interesting discussion in the linked article from historians and the like. It’s a truly fascinating conversation about identity and race and social convention. And, of course, baseball.

Drew Smyly has a torn UCL, will undergo Tommy John surgery

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Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports that Mariners starter Drew Smyly has a torn UCL and will undergo Tommy John surgery.

Smyly was diagnosed with a flexor strain in his left elbow at the end of spring training. He had been on the shelf since then, but was throwing bullpen sessions. He was set to throw his first simulated game today, but that was scratched after he said his arm didn’t feel right in his last throwing session. The Mariners called it “a little setback.” A reexamination shows that this is not little, obviously.

The Mariners acquired Smyly in January for outfielder Mallex Smith and two minor leaguers, and were expected to utilize the lefty as a core member of their rotation in 2017. Now he’s going to miss all of this season and, given that he’s on a one-year deal, will be released by the team at the end of the season. Odds are that he’ll be unable to pitch for most of 2018.

Tough break.

Miguel Montero to be designated for assignment

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A play in three acts:

I.

Miguel Montero talks smack about his teammate

II.

A team leader talks smack about Miguel Montero

III.

The Cubs get rid of Miguel Montero:

This is rather surprising. As I said in the last post, I figured he’d apologize today and it’d all be in the past. Guess not. Even more surprising: we learned earlier this week that the key to good clubhouse chemistry is having a teammate everyone hates. Guess that only works for the Giants.

Montero is making $14 million this season, so the Cubs are definitely eating some money to make a headache go away. They’re also losing some offensive production, as Montero has hit a nice .286/.366/.439 on the season. His terrible defense against opposing baserunners mitigates that, of course. And the whole “pissing off everyone in the clubhouse” thing isn’t exactly working out for him either, so here we are.

Oh well, have a good one, Miguel.