A Yankees Thanksgiving Lesson


It was on a Thanksgiving weekend, many years ago, that I first heard Tony proclaim his love for the Yankees. ¨I´m gonna run out on that Yankee Stadium field,¨ he told me.  ¨You´re gonna hear them call out my name in the Yankees lineup.¨

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It wasn´t over the river and through the woods, but rather on the New Jersey turnpike that brought me to Grandmother´s house that Thanksgiving. Tony had come to visit as part of a church program that arranged for underprivileged youth to share Thanksgiving with church families.

For Grandma, it was a chance to teach me about life, and she had specifically requested a boy who loved the Yankees the way she knew I did. As I was to find out, Tony loved Mickey Mantle just like me. And he could rattle off all of the Yankees´ statistics from the back of baseball cards the way that I thought only I could do.

We quickly learned so much about each other. We threw snow balls and rode down a steep hill on a toboggan. We sat by the fireplace and drank hot chocolate. We talked about Joe Pepitone  and Ralph Houk.

You could say that we were almost exactly the same, with one exception. He was black and I was white.  But that made no difference to us. All we cared about was that we both loved the Yankees. We didn´t see black or white, we saw only pinstripes.

And over those few days of that Thanksgiving break we learned a lot of things. We learned that we both had dreams and the capacity to love and aspire. We learned that inside, there really wasn´t much difference between us. Then, as quickly as Tony came, the church van picked him up and took him away. I can still see him waving good bye wearing his Yankee cap and ear muffs.

I don´t know if Tony ever made the Yankees. But this Thanksgiving, I wonder, as he turns his television on, what he thinks about what he sees. A young man has died, and property is being destroyed.

I´m not looking to analyze what happened here. But I wish I could know if  Tony wonders,  since the young man was black and the policeman was white, if the insufficient progress that has been made in race relations during our lives is now gone?

It doesn´t have to be. We can respect each other and continue to build the bridge that Jackie Robinson and so many others has started . We can keep working at it, regardless of how far we have to go.

Wherever you are Tony, I wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving.