Yankees: Racism rears its ugly head, One player can only shake his head

Justus Sheffield Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Justus Sheffield Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Yankees watched from afar as events unfolded in the city of Boston this week with a torrent of beanballs, suspensions, and one epic reminder that a few do not leave their racist beliefs at their doorstep when they attend a ballgame.

Yankees pitching prospect, Justus Sheffield, thought he had left all remnants of his upbringing in Tennessee behind when he signed a contract to play professional baseball that would carry him to other parts of America and away from reminders about racism.

Sheffield’s contract with the Yankees has carried him to Trenton, New Jersey where he is a starting pitching pitcher for the Double-A Trenton Thunder. Considered one of the Yankees top prospects, he’s made five starts for the Thunder splitting two decisions and is striking out batters at the rate of one inning.

But this week, his mind was far from baseball as he tried to make some sense out of what occurred at Fenway Park when a fan, or group of fans, hurled racist insults and a bag of peanuts at visiting Orioles outfielder, Adam Jones.

Mark Sanchez, a writer for the New York Postinterviewed Sheffield this week and came away with some compelling thoughts from the young man, including the following:

"“I have in my lifetime gone through instances where racial slurs have been thrown around,” said Sheffield, who’s thriving in Double-A Trenton to start this year. “Growing up, there were instances where parents, who grew up in that era, didn’t appreciate their daughter dating a colored [person], any type of ethnicity person. I definitely kind of grew up in that type of environment, which is pretty crazy now, being here, that we have to discuss this and go through that.”"

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To deepen the conversation, I happen to work as a teacher in the New York State prison system where the word nigger is freely and continuously used as a manner of speaking by inmates in my classroom. They tell me that it’s a term of endearment, but only when used amongst themselves.

Which leads me to wonder what Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King would be thinking if they could witness and be present in my classroom today.

To his credit, Sheffield would have none of it, as explains:

"“There’s been instances where I’ve heard the word thrown around more freely. And I’ve nipped it in the bud right then and there,” Sheffield said. “It’s just one of those things, I don’t know if people just feel comfortable, or from where they’re from it’s normal to them. But it’s one of those things that I don’t think should even be in today’s vocabulary. It’s not good for the game. It’s not good for today’s world. It’s just crazy how we’re in 2017, and these instances just keep coming up.”"

Yes, these instances do keep coming up. And while Major League Baseball and the Boston Red Sox did everything they possibly could to erase the scar, they cannot erase the fact that the incident occurred.

Adam Jones, despite being the recipient of a standing ovation from the Red Sox Sox faithful the night following the incident, can never be expected to erase it either, because it happened to him, personally.

Even more disconcerting, though, is a story that appeared in the Chicago Tribune in which former Red Sox pitcher, Curt Schilling, is quoted in his usual buffoon style saying:

"Then there was Curt Schilling, who said Thursday that Jones was “lying” about the treatment he received. “If somebody did say, we’re going to see it and hear about it, and I would apologize to Adam Jones for doubting him, but until then, I think this is bulls–,” Schilling said on his Breitbart radio show (via the New York Daily News).“I think this is somebody creating a situation.”"

Thanks, Curt. That really helps.

CC Sabathia, a Yankees clubhouse leader, and one of 62 black players in the major leagues today is quoted in the following Tweet:

Erik Boland

@eboland11

Sabathia said it’s talked about among black major leaguers: “we know. There’s 62 of us. We all know. When you go to Boston, expect it.”

What occurred in Boston is not only a black mark on baseball. It’s a black mark on all of us if we are willing to accept the fact that we are still, despite the wishes of our Founding Fathers to “form a perfect union”, as imperfect as ever. Harder though, we must try.