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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Slate: Baseball’s First Black Player Lived His Life as a White Man

The William Edward White story…

Until she was contacted last month, White’s only grandchild, Lois De Angelis, said her family had been unaware of White’s role in baseball history, and of his racial background. De Angelis, who is 74 years old and lives in Grayslake, Ill., said she knew that her grandfather worked as an artist and had been published in the Saturday Evening Post or another magazine, and that he was separated from her grandmother, who worked as a secretary for Sears. Beyond that, De Angelis said she knew nothing about William Edward White.

White’s wife, Hattie, lived until 1970. De Angelis doubted that Hattie would have known White was one-quarter black, at least before they were married. “My grandmother was very prudish, very English,” she said. Neither Hattie nor De Angelis’ mother, Vera, ever mentioned why Hattie and White had separated, De Angelis said. Perhaps, she speculated, White left the household because Hattie discovered his racial history. “That’s funny when I think of my grandmother,” De Angelis said. “She would die if she knew it.”

So where does that leave William Edward White? Baseball pioneer or baseball footnote? When he trotted out to first base at Messer Street Grounds in Providence, White may have been the only person who knew that a black man was playing in the big leagues. And even that assumes White thought about the fact that he was black, or even partly black. In the racially bifurcated America of the times, “you were black or you were white,” Hobbs says. If no one else knew—if society couldn’t respond and react—it’s reasonable to question whether White should be recognized as the first African-American major-leaguer.

Or maybe that’s a distinction without a difference. American history and its precision-loving subset of baseball history are filled with the sort of ambiguity that complicates the search for convenient, ironclad “firsts.” This much is indisputable: On June 21, 1879, a man born a slave in Georgia played in a major-league baseball game. A black man named White played for the Grays. Factually and figuratively, that seems right. And it seems worth celebrating.

Repoz Posted: February 05, 2014 at 08:57 AM | 740 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history

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   701. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 02:47 PM (#4662947)
Sorry, this is indeed an absurd and hilarious comment.


Again, though, I'm referring to the history of the characters, which dates back to 1961. Feel free to laugh that off, & maybe it's of no importance whatsoever, but even so it exists, regardless of the fact that it's going to mean nothing to the average moviegoer. I'd say the same with regard to a movie based on a source I'm perfectly clueless about myself, like ... I dunno ... some video game or manga, though as it happens I'm unlikely to have any interest in such an adaptation.
   702. PreservedFish Posted: February 26, 2014 at 02:47 PM (#4662948)
Disappointed at lack of superhero-style head scarf.
   703. PreservedFish Posted: February 26, 2014 at 02:49 PM (#4662952)
Again, though, I'm referring to the history of the characters, which date back to 1961. Feel free to laugh that off, & maybe it's of no importance whatsoever, but even so it exists, regardless of the fact that it's going to mean nothing to the average moviegoer. I'd say the same with regard to a movie based on a source I'm perfectly clueless about myself, like ... I dunno ... some video game or manga, though as it happens I'm unlikely to have any interest in such an adaptation.


I agree that the history exists, and that's it's important to some people, and that those people are perfectly justified in thinking that it is important. As I've said on this thread I am in YR's corner, I support the fanboys that dislike seeing even superficial changes to their favorite characters. What's silly is saying that the average moviegoer is "ignorant of history" if he isn't aware of the intense details of a comic book character. "Ignorant of history" is more like, I dunno, not knowing what Pearl Harbor was.
   704. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 02:51 PM (#4662954)
Say hello to Ms. Marvel. (Replacing a white woman.) The character has been around for 37 years.


I gather from TFA that she is indeed replacing a white character, Carol Danvers, who is apparently becoming the Marvel version of Captain Marvel (who I think was a black woman for a few years there, BTW, though lord knows I could be wrong). No one's pretending that Carol Danvers, white woman, woke up one day & was a 16-year-old Muslim girl, which is sort of what's happening with the movie's Johnny Storm.
   705. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 02:53 PM (#4662956)
"Ignorant of history" is more like, I dunno, not knowing what Pearl Harbor was.


Please recall that the person responding to you works on an Air Force base for a woman who had never heard of the Bataan Death March when it came up a few months ago. (And who twice now has double-checked with me about whether Obama has an apostophe, like O'Shea.)
   706. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: February 26, 2014 at 02:57 PM (#4662960)
And now you're rubbing in the fact that I sold my copy of the Burning World CD (& maybe the vinyl, too ... can't remember) on eBay when times were even tighter than usual a few years ago, aren't you?

Monster!


Well, damn, at least it was only The Burning World. :-) (Which I still like, granted.) And hey...new album in May! Can't wait to see how they follow up The Seer, which was actually my introduction to them. Backtracking through all their work has been a pleasure.
   707. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 02:58 PM (#4662962)
What's silly is saying that the average moviegoer is "ignorant of history" if he isn't aware of the intense details of a comic book character.


Agreed, I suppose, but is a character's race really an "intense detail"? To me, that would describe, say, knowing how Nick Fury got his eyepatch or something of the sort. (Does the Samuel L. Jackson character have an eyepatch? No idea.)

Snoopy is a dog, not a platypus; Charlie Brown is white, not black. Maybe those are "intense details" (granted that those two characters are vastly more iconic, for lack of a better adjective, than Nick Fury)?
   708. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 02:59 PM (#4662967)
Well, damn, at least it was only The Burning World. :-) (Which I still like, granted.) And hey...new album in May! Can't wait to see how they follow up The Seer, which was actually my introduction to them. Backtracking through all their work has been a pleasure.


Which is news to me. I had no idea they'd done anything since, hell, the early to mid-'90s. Must investigate.

Burning World is probably my favorite thing of theirs, offhand, along with Children of God. They would've been touring behind the former when I saw them at Tipitina's in '89.
   709. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 03:01 PM (#4662970)
Snoopy is a dog, not a platypus; Charlie Brown is white, not black.


Black Charlie Brown is named "Franklin".

(Charlie Brown in drag is named "Lucy", if you hadn't noticed)
   710. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 03:04 PM (#4662975)
Black Charlie Brown is named "Franklin".


Thanks -- was trying to think of his name but blanking on it. Kept thinking "Roy," which IIRC is some acquaintance of Peppermint Patty's.
   711. PreservedFish Posted: February 26, 2014 at 03:08 PM (#4662980)
Agreed, I suppose, but is a character's race really an "intense detail"?


No, I overplayed my hand there.
   712. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: February 26, 2014 at 03:09 PM (#4662982)
Which is news to me. I had no idea they'd done anything since, hell, the early to mid-'90s. Must investigate.

Burning World is probably my favorite thing of theirs, offhand, along with Children of God. They would've been touring behind the former when I saw them at Tipitina's in '89.


Whooooa, what? Yeah, they got back together in 2010 with a pretty good album called My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, and then knocked everybody on their ass with The Seer, which, well, here's Gira's sell of it: "It's the culmination of every previous Swans album as well as any other music I've ever made, been involved in or imagined." Which is pretty ####### accurate. It's 2 hours, has three monster tracks (the title track is 32 minutes, and the album's final tracks, "A Piece of the Sky" and "Apostate," clock in at 19 and 23 minutes, respectively), covers everything from acoustic folk-ish numbers to drone to noise to post-rock to industrial to a hellish, squealy free-jazz number, etc., etc., and is utterly brilliant from start to finish. One of the best albums I've ever heard. I have no idea how they'll follow it up, but I can't wait.

Here's "A Piece of the Sky", possibly the best, most beautiful thing Gira has ever recorded.
   713. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 03:10 PM (#4662983)
I gather from TFA that she is indeed replacing a white character, Carol Danvers, who is apparently becoming the Marvel version of Captain Marvel (who I think was a black woman for a few years there, BTW, though lord knows I could be wrong). No one's pretending that Carol Danvers, white woman, woke up one day & was a 16-year-old Muslim girl, which is sort of what's happening with the movie's Johnny Storm.


I would love - LOVE - if part of the new reboot of "Fantastic Four" was that whatever gene-shattering tragedy that turned our heroes into the freaks of nature they become also resulted in the previously white Johnny Storm waking up on fire and black. They could CGI the pre-mutation skin tone of the actor currently cast, I'm constantly amazed at how technology seemlessly integrates into film now (I didn't know until recently that the character cast as "Bane" in the recent Batman film was covered with tattoos digitally removed from the final print). This could add a whole heap of subtext to the plot.
   714. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 03:10 PM (#4662984)
Just hit Google Image & found out that at least the Samuel L. Jackson version has the eye patch. Christmas isn't quite ruined.
   715. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 03:13 PM (#4662991)
Whooooa, what? Yeah, they got back together in 2010 with a pretty good album called My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, and then knocked everybody on their ass with The Seer, which, well, here's Gira's sell of it: "It's the culmination of every previous Swans album as well as any other music I've ever made, been involved in or imagined." Which is pretty ####### accurate. It's 2 hours, has three monster tracks (the title track is 32 minutes, and the album's final tracks, "A Piece of the Sky" and "Apostate," clock in at 19 and 23 minutes, respectively), covers everything from acoustic folk-ish numbers to drone to noise to post-rock to industrial to a hellish, squealy free-jazz number, etc., etc., and is utterly brilliant from start to finish. One of the best albums I've ever heard. I have no idea how they'll follow it up, but I can't wait.


Just in case I needed further proof that I've been pretty much living in a cave for the last decade or so as far as music is concerned, this proves it.
   716. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 26, 2014 at 03:16 PM (#4662997)
The information that the FF reboot is not going to be Marvel Studios reduces by 2/3 the likelihood that I'll watch it before it gets to Netflix.
   717. Greg K Posted: February 26, 2014 at 03:21 PM (#4663000)
Please recall that the person responding to you works on an Air Force base for a woman who had never heard of the Bataan Death March when it came up a few months ago. (And who twice now has double-checked with me about whether Obama has an apostophe, like O'Shea.)

A friend of mine taught at a school where a fellow teacher didn't know who Hitler was. Which, while not being quite as bad as not knowing who Frank Robinson is, is still troubling.
   718. PreservedFish Posted: February 26, 2014 at 03:23 PM (#4663004)
A friend of mine taught at a school where a fellow teacher didn't know who Hitler was.


No way. I'm calling BS.
   719. Greg K Posted: February 26, 2014 at 03:26 PM (#4663009)
No way. I'm calling BS.

Yeah, it is second hand information. I think it's possible he said she had heard the name and knew he was generally a bad guy, but had no idea about the specifics.

To be fair, it was a school in a tiny town up in the Northwest Territories. His qualifications for teaching math was a film degree, so it's possible she was a "teacher" in the loosest sense.
   720. BDC Posted: February 26, 2014 at 03:31 PM (#4663016)
But had she heard of Wayne Gretzky.
   721. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: February 26, 2014 at 03:34 PM (#4663020)
No way. I'm calling BS.


There is a reasonable chance that my youngest son doesn't know who Hitler was....

Of course he's 4
   722. Srul Itza Posted: February 26, 2014 at 03:48 PM (#4663033)
the history of the characters, which dates back to 1961


Which is sort of the problem. When Nick Fury, Agent of Shield started, there was no problem with having the character be a WWII veteran, the same guy who was the leader of Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos. That becomes a little dicier with a war that is 70 years or so in the rear view mirror (although the comics "solved" it by having Fury take some sort of youth serum).

It is now over 50 years since Marvel got into the superhero business. Marvel didn't want to do the "stuck in time forever" thing that DC had done, so Peter Parker eventually graduates High School and College -- even if its takes him decades to do it. But if you are going to do modern movies, at some point you have to "start over", like Marvel did with "Ultimate Marvel." Once you do that, all bets are off as regards the past. It also allows you to take advantage of the new science fiction and stop making everything the result of radiation.

I read comics fairly regularly from the early 60s to the mid-80s. Anybody else ever shop at the Million Year Picnic in Cambridge? Finally gave it up when I spent 2+ years on the road doing litigation.* I have not been tempted to go back and try to catch up.

Since re-booting is pretty much unavoidable, I have no problem viewing the movies as a new interpretation of the characters.

*And no, my mother did not throw out my comics. My father stole them and sold them, to finance his gambling habit. Probably just as well. Kept him from losing the house for another year.
   723. Bitter Mouse Posted: February 26, 2014 at 03:51 PM (#4663035)
Because Comic history is sacred after all, I feel compelled to link to this.

There are few comics characters that have as much history as Hawkman. That’s not just because Hawkman has been around longer than most superheroes, but because DC has given him several histories — different origins, major retcons and other nonsense that has made him one of comic’s most baffling characters, and here’s how. Please note: DO NOT THINK TOO HARD ABOUT THIS. THIS WILL NOT MAKE ANY SENSE.


Yes it is a different comic company (DC and not Marvel), but the idea that Comic Book characters don't get changed, mutated and retconned all the darn time is silly.

EDIT: There was another similar article recently about a different character (Maybe Ms. Marvel), but I couldn't find that one as easily.
   724. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: February 26, 2014 at 03:57 PM (#4663040)
(Charlie Brown in drag is named "Lucy", if you hadn't noticed)


That's crazy talk. Charlie Brown is a depressed loser. Lucy is a big-mouthed bully. They're nothing alike.
   725. Lassus Posted: February 26, 2014 at 04:10 PM (#4663048)
I have not been tempted to go back and try to catch up.

I was pretty hard-core for awhile but gave it up for novels and due to $$$. That being said, various trade collections are very worth it and require none of the same time commitment. Fun stuff, if you're on the beach looking for old-timey reading.
   726. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 04:15 PM (#4663052)
That's crazy talk. Charlie Brown is a depressed loser. Lucy is a big-mouthed bully. They're nothing alike.


Detectives believe alcohol is involved.
   727. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 04:17 PM (#4663054)
the idea that Comic Book characters don't get changed, mutated and retconned all the darn time is silly.


Of course it is. And yet Hawkman, over the course of all those seemingly random revisions, still looks pretty much the same as he always has; he's still white, male & flies around wearing a pair of rather large wings & a hawk-like cowl.

Or at least that was the case as of about 3 years ago, the last time I looked at anything (issues of JSA) in which he appeared. For all I know, with this New 52 nonsense the character is now a Ganymedean slime mold, assuming he/she/it/they still exist(s) at all.
   728. Bitter Mouse Posted: February 26, 2014 at 05:14 PM (#4663092)
Of course it is. And yet Hawkman, over the course of all those seemingly random revisions, still looks pretty much the same as he always has; he's still white, male & flies around wearing a pair of rather large wings & a hawk-like cowl.


Sure, but I think what planet/plane of existence a character comes from is more fundamental to a character than whether they are black or white or a green slime mold. Captain America is my favorite character of all time, and as a Cap fan boy what was important to me is that they kept true to the spirit of the character in the movie. And they did, it was awesome. Keeping him blond haired or white or whatever was not the most important part, the essence of the character was. And nothing in the Human Torch requires anything racial at all, it is not relevant to the character in any strong meaningful way (IMO). That is all I am arguing for.
   729. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 05:19 PM (#4663096)
(Charlie Brown in drag is named "Lucy", if you hadn't noticed)

That's crazy talk. Charlie Brown is a depressed loser. Lucy is a big-mouthed bully. They're nothing alike.


They *look* alike. Why? They're twin manifestations of Charlie Brown's personality - depressed loser AND big-mouthed bully. Charlie's inability to ever kick that football makes perfect sense now - nobody is holding it in the first place.
   730. Bitter Mouse Posted: February 26, 2014 at 05:28 PM (#4663102)
They're twin manifestations of Charlie Brown's personality


The first rule of Peanuts club is you do not talk about Peanuts club.
   731. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: February 26, 2014 at 05:39 PM (#4663111)
In death, a member of project mayhem has a name, his name is Snoopy.
   732. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 05:54 PM (#4663131)
And nothing in the Human Torch requires anything racial at all, it is not relevant to the character in any strong meaningful way (IMO).


Except that he happens to be the brother of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman. It's not impossible for a black man & a white woman to be siblings, of course, but it does raise questions about WTF is going on, it seems to me ... though maybe YR & I are the only ones here for whom that's the case. Changing or eliminating that familial relationship would seem to me to be a more sensible approach than pretending that there's no elephant in the room.

But hell, again, maybe there's not. Maybe Frank & Brooks Robinson are brothers. Maybe one of them is a woman, even, & can turn invisible, & the other one can burst into flames at will. No one died & left me an expert.
   733. Srul Itza Posted: February 26, 2014 at 07:31 PM (#4663198)
And nothing in the Human Torch requires anything racial at all, it is not relevant to the character in any strong meaningful way (IMO).


Except that he happens to be the brother of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman.


And therein lies the biggest problem with the Human Torch -- he does not have any real character other than being a "hot head", and his largest defining attribute is that he is some other character's brother.

Frankly, I think the original Human Torch, who was an android, had more personality.
   734. Lassus Posted: February 26, 2014 at 08:15 PM (#4663208)
It's not impossible for a black man & a white woman to be siblings, of course, but it does raise questions about WTF is going on, it seems to me ... though maybe YR & I are the only ones here for whom that's the case. Changing or eliminating that familial relationship would seem to me to be a more sensible approach than pretending that there's no elephant in the room.

I have a close friend from Berkeley from college who I'd known for an easy 10 years before I met her sister, who she had talked about. She was Vietnamese, which was a shock. Then Jo said "she's adopted" at which point the WTF was over. Five whole seconds.

YR's point of tokenism makes some kind of cynically adolescent sense, I suppose, if he's getting bored with the luxury tax and needs something else to latch onto; but the idea that there can be no familial relationship between two people of different races as if an elephant MUST be in the room is just kind of dumb. It doesn't have to change or eliminates ANYTHING. Sibling relationships and closeness can be brought across incredibly easily, unless you're going by some blood rule. I know full siblings who stopped speaking in their 30s, so whatever.
   735. Greg K Posted: February 26, 2014 at 08:57 PM (#4663222)
I have a friend who's father is Chinese and mother is Jamaican. He looks 100% Chinese and his sister looks 100% Jamaican, which is always amusing when they are introduced to people.

I would imagine it wouldn't be an elephant in the room scenario. Presumably there'd either be a one-line "adopted" explanation at the outset, or perhaps adoption will play a large role in how the character is sketched out. Or perhaps they'll be step-siblings like Shannon and Boone in Lost and we'll get several reminders of that fact throughout to make the scene where they inevitably bang just slightly less creepy.
   736. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 26, 2014 at 09:05 PM (#4663232)
I know this kid went to high school with me. Daddy was a Copeland. His brother's daddy was a Johnson. Two ####### didn't look #### alike. BFAM and all that. Both were white, though, so either could be the Human Torch I guess.
   737. Srul Itza Posted: February 26, 2014 at 09:12 PM (#4663237)
Then Jo said "she's adopted" at which point the WTF was over.



Bruce Banner: I don't think we should be focusing on Loki. That guy's brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him.

Thor: Have a care how you speak! Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard and he is my brother!

Natasha Romanoff: He killed eighty people in two days.

Thor: He's adopted.
   738. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: February 26, 2014 at 09:17 PM (#4663238)
They're twin manifestations of Charlie Brown's personality


Wait, Susan Storm can't have a brother who's black, but Linus has a sister who's half of someone else's personality?
   739. PreservedFish Posted: February 26, 2014 at 09:48 PM (#4663250)
They're twin manifestations of Charlie Brown's personality


How often is this true? In Sex and the City the other three girls were all characterizations of certain aspects of the main character's personality.
   740. Howie Menckel Posted: February 26, 2014 at 09:56 PM (#4663254)

"I would love - LOVE - if part of the new reboot of "Fantastic Four" was that whatever gene-shattering tragedy that turned our heroes into the freaks of nature they become also resulted in the previously white Johnny Storm waking up on fire and black."

The opening of Chuck Berry's biography is him as a very young kid seeing the firemen at a neighborhood fire in East St. Louis. Because Chuck had never seen a white person, he recalls, he thought the firemen had been rendered "white" from being burned in the fire.

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