Sports

Levine: Jackie Robinson West A Good Baseball Story

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Trey Hondras of Jackie Robinson West is greeted by teammates after hitting a two-run homer against Las Vegas on Saturday. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Trey Hondras of Jackie Robinson West is greeted by teammates after hitting a two-run homer against Las Vegas on Saturday. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Bruce Levine Bruce Levine
Bruce Levine covers both the Cubs and the White Sox for CBSChicago.co...
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By Bruce Levine–

(CBS) — The Jackie Robinson West All-Stars who won the U.S. championship before falling in the Little League World Series title game are being short-changed on their place in history. The kids and their parents should be commended for the hard work and expertise they have put in to collectively doing something that will be remembered for decades to come.

Making this a race issue or comparing this story of a young group of African-American kids outkicking the coverage of what is expected is just flat out wrong. To say these kids’ parents are great examples of supportive black role models is obviously true. To say that this is a unique African-American big city occurrence is just plain ridiculous.

I grew up in the South Shore neighborhood in the late 1960s when Dr. King, racial unrest and the Black Power movement were just getting the ball rolling on equal rights for all men and women. I remember the Civil Rights bill that was passed in 1964. This timeline was 100 years after the Civil War was fought to end slavery. The high school I went to (South Shore) was 85 percent white in 1963, my freshman year, and 70 percent African-American in 1968. White people ran to other parts of the city and suburbs, not because of fear from racial interaction but under the notion property values would crumble.

What a joke that was! Houses and apartment buildings that my friends and family grew up in during the turbulent 1960s are nicer and better maintained now than 50 years ago when it was a lily white neighborhood.

Why I bother to point this out in correlation to the JRW story is only to emphasize that progressive South Side family units have been a function of the neighborhoods of Chicago and South Side for more than a century. Southern African-Americans migrated north to find work and acceptance, as part of the industrial revolution at the turn of the 20th century. The South Side of the city has been a trend-setter of progression and advancement in many of the sciences, arts and trades for decades.

More importantly, race relations and acceptance of equal rights for all races could be seen working in this area of the city long before other parts of Chicago and American urban areas became more progressive. I love the fact African-American kids are playing baseball instead of the sports that are more readily available to them on the school yard basketball courts. MLB and the Chicago White Sox (and the Cubs as well) have been supportive partners of inner-city baseball for the last 20 years. They get a lot of credit for putting resources and time into the promotion of the game in lower- and middle-income areas of the city.

The parents of JRW get a “thank you” and “job well done” from this corner. Yet to think this is the only positive story that is coming from the inner city of Chicago would be an insult to all the hard-working parents, grandparents and older siblings who contribute to this great metropolis and the heritage to people of all colors throughout the world.

I do not — and no one should — ignore the inner-city problems of senseless crime and murders of innocent children and law-abiding citizens. The good stories of success and kindness still blow away the negative headlines that dominate news highlights.

Congratulations to the young men and support group of the Jackie Robinson West champions. You have made us proud of the quality of baseball you play. As for the adults and older brothers and sisters who have stood behind these young men, a tip of the chapeau for your unselfish backing and being great representatives of the greatest city in the world.

This commentary was solely the opinion of the writer.

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