April 15, 2016
I have never written a political column, or Blog. Today is no different. However, our athletic teams, individual sports, and various achievements are loaded with the accomplishment of those who came to this country, or their progeny.
I, myself, am a first generation American who has benefitted by working in the Sports World for most of my life. All sports have benefitted from immigrants.
America has been built by immigrants. The quote from an Emma Lazurus Sonnet tells the complete story about America and Immigration. It is inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty which stands as a beacon of light in New York Harbor. It is often the first sight that a new immigrant sees upon arriving in America.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free”.
The Saturday Evening Post, one of the outstanding magazines which was started 300 years ago by Benjamin Franklin was responsible for introducing America to many great authors for the first time…among them, Edgar Allen Poe, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jacques Kirouac .
At the height of its popularity in the ‘40’s and the 50’s, it lived up to the reason it was founded… to write about the morals, the integrity and the social values of a nation. During World War II, its covers were graced by the paintings of Norman Rockwell.
Rockwell in one series, “The Four Freedoms” reminded us what America was all about. The four separate covers artistically captured “Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear”.
The Post in its way chronicled American History in the making- reflecting the distinctive characteristics and values that define the American way. So now, with Baseball Season underway, I am reminded of the many conversations that both Norman and myself as fellow natives of Massachusetts felt that nothing told the story of America better than Baseball… in our case, the Red Sox.
Even today. This maxim remains true. Twenty-eight percent of Major League Baseball Players on the 25 –man opening day rosters were born outside of the United States according to the commissioner’s office. Only three seasons; last year , plus the years 2002 and 2005 had more foreign born players.
Years ago, I spent time with Tommy LaSorda, the Dodger’s Hall of Fame Manager in the Dominican Republic. At the time, he was running Baseball Academies, Training Camps and schools. While all the time he was looking for potential Baseball players to bring to the United States. Wherever he went, the newspapers covered his every move and legions of youngsters followed “El Tomas”.
He believed fervently that the Dominican held the key to success for many established teams. At the time, he was alone. Today, it’s a different story. The Dominican Republic numbers 89 players among the 750 on Major League rosters, or 12% of all players.
In the general economy, the number of jobs where U.S. Citizens might be replaced by immigrants becomes a hue and a condemning cry by politicians everywhere. Still it is worthy to note one never hears complaints about “immigrants” taking jobs away from Americans in the major leagues. Baseball men consider the competition for roster spots to be fair and based only on merit.
I believe it was Tom Hanks in the movie. “A League of Their Own” who said, “There is no crying in Baseball”.
We should never lose sight of the fact that America is a Melting Pot. Our ancestors came from all over the world and all were seeking the Four Freedoms that Norman Rockwell so adroitly painted.
Increased competition from foreign-born players has not resulted in lower salaries for native ballplayers. As a matter of fact, salaries have quadrupled from those of 1990 according to an analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy.
A sustained or increased quality of play to which foreign-born players have contributed has helped Major League attendance rise from 55 million in 1990 to over 75 million today.
That’s all well and good, but foreign players, or players of foreign heritage from all over the world have contributed to the growth and enjoyment of the game for many years.
Where would the game be without the Italian contingent which included the DiMaggio brothers (Vince, Joe and Dom), Yogi Berra, Joe Garagiola, Billy Martin and even Roy Campanella (whose father was Italian)… or those whose families came from Eastern Europe like Hank Greenberg , Sandy Koufax and Mo Berg, (who also was our first Atomic spy)? Today, there is also a great influx of Asian players… for example, Ichiro Suzuki whom I wrote about in a previous Blog is among them.
No baseball column about Baseball immigrants would be complete without mentioning the great Ted Williams whose genetic makeup was Hispanic (Basque), Russian and American Indian. Not only was he a great ballplayer, but he lost 4 of most of his productive years as a Marine Pilot heroically fighting for the United States.
Please do not look on this Blog as frivolous. I fully understand no one can equivocate being a ballplayer with being an unskilled native- born laborer who stands to lose his, or her job to an alien who will accept lower wages and work longer hours.
The point of this column that I am trying to make, I hope, is to go back to the principle that in America if one wishes to work, one can and possibly still succeed by working hard. I also realize that immigration today presents numerous problems such as Security that we never had to face before.
However, the next time someone complains about immigrants “taking jobs” from Americans, tell them to try playing Major League Baseball. Here, unlike the rest of the economy, the number of jobs are fixed and limited, yet no one complains about immigrants.
IF ONLY IT WERE THAT EASY????