On Martin Luther King Jr. day, we’re very pleased to bring you a guest blogger submission from Todd, our friend from Yankees For Justice.
“I’ve been blogging for about a year and I haven’t missed a game at Yankee Stadium in a lot longer than that,” he says. “My name appears at the end of each post only because I’m the one who writes it all down. The stories belong to everyone in the neighborhood and the opinions are filtered through my best friend Michael Allen and my online friend Murphydog.
“These are stories about people who owe everything to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I know that because we all owe him everything. He once said:
“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”
The Bronx agrees.”
Here’s Todd’s post:
People ask what draws you to the Bronx and you say it’s everything.
It seems too complicated and maybe a little sad to say that things are alright in a neighborhood where so much is wrong.
But you want to explain that it isn’t just about disappearing parks and dirty air and blackouts and crowded trains and busted sidewalks and peeling paint and trash heaps and rats.
So you start with a story about the kids who play baseball in parking lot 15 at the corner of River Avenue and East 165th Street.
You describe a line drive that split the outfielders just last week. Standup double you say. And then you have to tell them that there are only standup doubles on that field because it’s not really a field. It’s a parking lot that fills with cars on game days, but it’s the only place to play now that construction of the new Yankee Stadium has gobbled up most of the ballfields in the neighborhood.
Maybe they think progress is more important than people so you don’t mention the old men who play dominos in Joyce Kilmer Park and how the police came in undercover because they heard some were betting on games.
Maybe they think gambling is wrong and perhaps they even like cops. So you don’t tell them about the guys who work the streets before games because they probably don’t like ticket scalpers, either. And they wouldn’t understand why men that turn a profit off tourists then turnaround and give their unsold tickets to locals who could never afford to see a Yankee game.
People around here can be hard to define because they come from everywhere. Many of the newest are from West African countries like Mali and Senegal and Ghana and Nigeria. They wear Yankee hats because they know it’s important even if they aren’t sure exactly why, yet. They are drawn to baseball just the like the waves of immigrants that came before and their kids play in parking lot 15.
You could tell them about the guys that hang around Juan Carlos’ coffee cart every morning.
Javier is an old left-handed pitcher from Puerto Rico who has lived on Walton Avenue for more than 30 years now. Then there’s Jon from Highbridge who works on a loading dock and hustles up extra money for baseball tickets by driving a cab on weekends. There’s also Jose who delivers pizzas in the winter, but can set you up with the best seats at Yankee Stadium in the summer.
Of course, you tell them about Henry because he’s at the Stadium every day. He is always the first to arrive and the last to leave. You might spin the story about the rainy day when everyone left and the cops even took down the barriers, but Henry wouldn’t leave because Hideki Matsui was still inside.
Maybe they would think it’s foolish to take baseball so seriously, but they didn’t shake Matsui’s hand.
And they don’t know Earl who lives in Harlem, but watches most games at the bowling alley across the street. After the last out he walks over to the players’ gate to see the guys come out. “Almost like being there,” he always says.
But Earl is there just like the rest of us who smell of cigars and stale beer and urine and sweat and roasted meat and perfect french fries.
And on summer days and nights when the trains and streets rumble and groan and scream and rattle you know that everything will be alright because they are playing baseball in the Bronx.
And sometimes baseball is all that matters around here.