By Gary Norris Gray, Staff Reporter
Here are more examples of how Black athletes changed the games and continue to show their greatness under fire. Now think about the mental and physical issues white players and athletics never understand and never have to go through to play the game they love.
Major League Baseball had to change the game in 1968 after a few years of dismal hitting and dominant pitching with All-Star St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Bob Gibson being the point man.
Gibson had so many shutouts in one year baseball fans are still amazed 60 years later. Offensive play disappeared from the game and the fans were falling asleep at the games.
In 1968 MLB lowered the pitcher’s mound from 15 inches to 10 inches and shrank the strike zone to the top of the knees to the armpit instead of the bottom of the shoulders to the knees. Trying to create more runs on the field.
Bullet Bob’s 1.12 ERA also had a lot to do with the change. This was the best ERA in baseball history and it will never happen again. Only Boston’s Pedro Martinez in the modern times has come close with a 1.74 ERA in 2000 some 20 years ago. In 1968 Gibson had 13 shutouts and lost three games 1-0.
He struck out 268 batters in that season.
This man threw over 300 innings in back to back seasons and completed 20 games seven out of nine years that will never happen again. Seven starting pitchers had an ERA under 2 in 1968. With the new rules and new baseballs you can kiss this record goodbye too.
Boston Red Sox Carl Yastrzemski won the batting title with 301 average in 1968, one of the lowest ever, and the Yankees and Mets batted 214 as a team with 2 runs per game that same year. Something had to be done, this had to be fixed.
This was the state of baseball in 1967-68 and it was not pretty something had to give, so they lowered the mound and squeeze the strike zone. Even then Bullet Bob Gibson had three more outstanding years in St. Louis with double digits victories.
Baseball would not come out of this until the Summer of Love with Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire hitting homers in every park in 1998. Baseball is still trying to recover.
Black players changed the game of hockey before anybody knew it was a game that Black people played. The old (NHL) National Hockey League rules were the defensive players could not cross the second blue line or offensive blue line.
The Colored Hockey League CHL from Canada bypass this ruled and everybody joined the rush. Everybody had a chance to score. The NHL would later adopt these rules of the CHL to speed up their game.
In the early 90’s, players like Grant Fuhr (Edmonton), Fred Brathwaite (Calgary), Pokey Reddick (Winnipeg), Kevin Weekes (New Jersey) and the late Ray Emery (Ottawa) served as goalies because managers and coaches thought Black players could not skate, they were mistaken.
Black goalies are still in the league with Chicago’s Malcolm Subban (yup, P.K.’s brother), there are only so many other Black stars on the ice.
Boston Bruin forward Willie O’Ree broke the color barrier and tried to change all that in the old Boston Garden in 1961 being an everyday player and Black in the Hub city was very difficult.
Tony McKegney would follow in O’Rees footsteps in stints with Buffalo, Quebec, Minnesota, St. Louis, and the New York Rangers. Many Black players started wearing number 33 in honor of Chicago Blackhawk Captain Dirk Graham one of the best Black players in the NHL.
The Atlanta Thrashers had 25 percent of their team brothers in 2010-11. The Thrashers had Forwards, Nigel Dawes, and Anthony Stewart, Center Evander Kane, with defensemen, Dustin Byfuglien, and Johnny Oduya. That was a complete line. The League did not promote the team in Black populated Atlanta and moved the team to Winnipeg, then broke up the brotherhood with only Byfuglien left in middle Canada.
Many Black players are being told to conform to the league unwritten standards.. The question remains what are those standards and who is enforcing them.
The League changed the fighting rules in 1992-94 when big Black men started appearing on the ice and beating up the usual hockey goons. The new players were there to protect the team’s scoring stars. It worked, boxing is now limited on the ice the past five years.
Black players were told to play the WHITE way. Do not showboat on the ice what-ever that maybe. Defensemen P.K. Subban is the current target of this scorn in recent years because he won the Norris Trophy-Best Defensemen and is a very high scoring defenseman with flair.
P.K. should have been the captain of the Montreal Canadiens five years ago. There was a problem with that, he was not French Canadian and could not don the “C” of the red Canadien sweater.
GYMNASTICS & ICE SKATING
The international community had a very difficult time dealing with this young women’s moves on the balance beam. The powers that be could not believe what they were seeing. Instead of enjoying the moment and rewarding the accomplishment they punish the engineer who created the move. It would come to a close in 2018.
Simone Arianne Biles new moves in gymnastics came into controversy because nobody else could do them. It came into controversy because the committee thought it was too dangerous.
Her routines have unmatched difficulty and execution, and she was the only woman to qualify for all four event finals at the championships, being held in Stuttgart, Germany. But the difficulty value awarded last week to a her new beam dismount — a double twisting double back (two flips and two twists) — is causing controversy.
The same happened in international figure skating with Black French star Surya Bonaly being the first female in history to complete the back flip on ice and then a back flip landing on one leg.
She was told the move was illegal not to do it in the Nagano Olympic Games in 1998 and it cost her a gold medal. It cost her because nobody else could do it and that she was not the dainty little princess that the judges wanted her to be.
Bonaly just reinforced the notation that Black people are innovators that can never can be duplicated. She made the move that night because she had a leg injury wanting to finish the routine for the world to see, the world went into shock and Ms. Bonaly lost the gold.
Both ladies were punished for their action but as always the world finally comes to their side and supports them. Bonaly and Biles have etched their names in history with their own signature move, The Bonaly and The Biles.
San Francisco’s quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, change the face and the protest voice of the National Football League, kneeling for justice and equality in America and more representation of Black quarterbacks.
Individuals in very high places tried to change the narrative of Kaepernick’s protest but that did not work. Instead the Rules Committee changed the way quarterbacks would be tackled outside of the pocket.
The National Football League has struggled with Black leadership roles and Mr. Kaepernick just put the spotlight on the league in 2015-2016 with the lack of Black ownership, Black general managers, Black coaches, and Black quarterback, all leadership roles.
The NFL had five starting quarterbacks at this time. The numbers have not gone up drastically in 2020 the League has seven starting Black quarterbacks.
In a 2013 playoff game, the 49ers torched the Green Bay Packers 45-31 with number 7 rushing for over 181 yards and a 58 yard touchdown run that broke the Green Bay Packers comeback. Kaepernick threw for two more touchdowns in the victory.
Colin changed the running (mobile) quarterback image by making him another running back once he left the pocket. The League did not like this, The League wanted a stand-up pocket passer and in the glaring Green Bay-49er playoff game.
The League had to make the change to save space for the slow pocket passing quarterback who would have been phased out in time. The new rule stated when the quarterback runs outside of the pocket he was fair game, it passed in 2015.
In 2015, “The Rules Committee talks about this every year,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher told reporters on Thursday. “We have rules in the rule book that are very specific. If the quarterback is in a throwing position, he gets protection. But in the event that the ball is handed off, at that instant, there’s no telling whether or not he is a runner or not, so he loses that protection.
This rule was directly aimed at mobile quarterbacks, i.e. Black quarterbacks. In 2018 the rule once again was changed and modified because more brothers were playing behind center and the fans loved the action.
In the 2019 playoff season the Divisional Final Four, four of the eight quarterbacks were Black a quantum leap for the National Football League. Will it continue only time will tell remember we are five years removed from the Colin Kaepernick protest.
When Americans wonder why black people get upset even angry, it’s because of this kind of nonsense of changing the rules when it does not go the way you want it.
When African Americans and people of color overcome the obstacles and barriers placed in their path. The rules of the game are changed when people of color are successful and win, — this has been the history of America and sports.
Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian, Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston, Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor Pad Network, Disabled Community Activist. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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