The Lost Soul of Pee Wee Reese

by John McSheffrey

One of the perks of having a website is giving voice to writers who don’t have a forum for their work. Here is a column from John McSheffrey, a very good writer with a very good baseball soul.

Am I baseball fan?  Undoubtedly.  A Red Sox fan?  Beyond words.

I am however, far from being a baseball historian. In fact I would have to confess to falling in love with much of the folklore of the game; that is stories rooted in fact but over the years have taken on a life of their
own.

One moment that has transcended the game is the story of Pee Wee Reese standing beside and embracing Jackie Robinson in Cincinnati. 

As legend goes, the Brooklyn Dodgers were playing the Cincinnati Reds in Robinson’s rookie year and he was facing horrific abuse for being the first player of color in the MLB. When the Dodgers took the field, the crowd ripped young Jackie Robinson with a barrage of racial taunts.  Rather than let his teammate stand alone, All-Star Pee Wee Reese walked over and put his arm around him in support.

Varying versions have the moment happening either in ‘47, ‘48, ‘52 or perhaps not even at all.

While the actual facts are foggy, the abuse that Jackie took and the tremendous bond that he and Pee Wee formed are rock solid facts.  As for the moment it’s much like Babe Ruth calling his shot; an event that has helped define the magnificent game of baseball. There is even a statue out front of Brooklyn Cyclone’s field honoring the moment.

I am reminded of this story because on Thursday the Boston Red Sox, or should I say some of the Boston Red Sox will be attending a ceremony at the White House honoring their 2018 World Series championship.  

Manager Alex Cora and players Xander Bogaerts, David Price, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rafael Devers, Hector Velazquez, and Christian Vazquez will be skipping the visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave for reasons obvious to all. 

Since the beginning of President Trump’s tenure, players of color, and in some cases entire teams are opting to pass on the ceremonial visit. Who can blame them, as the racial and anti-immigrant messages coming from the Executive Branch leave little to the imagination?

Five of the eight World Series starting positional players and their Manager will not be at the White House on Thursday. Many of their teammates and the team’s leadership will; all white with the exception of JD Martinez a strong supporter of Donald Trump.  Not a single white player or member of Red Sox team leadership has opted (as of Tuesday) to not to attend the White House. Not one has the heart or soul of baseball Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese.

On Thursday, take a moment to remember back 70+ years, Pee Wee Reese embracing Jackie Robinson as the crowd hurled racial epithets, and ask ‘how far has our country actually come?’