Sunday, February 28, 2010

Black History Month Heroes - Mr. Mertle in "The Sandlot"

Baseball. That quintessentially American game that once enraptured the entire nation when it was known as "America's pastime" is now but a shadow of its former self.

Like the washed up prize fighter in Raging Bull, baseball is a sport that has out-lived its usefulness and limps along on the glories of yesteryear and the memories of past great players in the bygone era of Pre-Obama America.

Don Henley sang a 1980s classic Boys of Summer, where he promises that "his love will still be strong, after the boys of summer have gone". SBPDL believes this song is of little relevance anymore, for the boys of summer are long gone as baseball fades into the realm of obscurity and of minor societal significance.

Ratings have been slumping for years and the deep disconnect fans have with the current crop of players competing on the diamond fail to rouse the same sentiments of loyalty that baseball players once commanded:

Baseball’s national networks felt the effects of a baseball season with only one significant pennant race and a dearth of compelling story lines, as Fox and ESPN saw their ratings decline.

Fox saw its Saturday afternoon numbers drop 10 percent to a 1.8 rating/2.74 million viewers. Fox ended its regular season Oct. 2 with a 1.2/1.7 million average for a Saturday afternoon schedule that had just one game with postseason implications. That’s 48 percent off 2008’s numbers, when the last weekend of the regular season featured three games that had playoff implications for Fox, drawing a 2.3 rating.

Baseball, we were told through the Black muse in Field of Dreams, is the one constant throughout American history... baseball has marked the time. The game had the ability to transcend generational gaps between family members, as grandfather-father-and son could attend a contest and quietly understand that the event unfolding before their eyes was a reflection of simpler times and the ultimate manifestation of innocence and youthful ambition.

Baseball is no longer these things, as the old stadiums where moments were immortalized are being torn down in much the same way Pre-Obama America is continually denigrated in the hopes that the current product being peddled won't be unfairly compared to the product it replaced (from an article written 12 years ago in The Weekly Standard):
This neglect by the media is nothing more than a reflection of popular taste. Fifty years ago, the three top sports in America were baseball, boxing, and horse racing. Horse racing has been displaced by legalized gambling and casinos. Boxing has descended to the point where the average person can't name the heavyweight champ. And baseball is living on its memories. In fact, the NBC Game of the Week for many years used to begin with the slogan, "The Tradition is Here, the Memories are Waiting." The game had not yet begun and it was already slotted for memory. Adrift in the age of TV, overtaken by football and basketball, baseball lives in, and off, nostalgia.
Remembrance of days past occurs when one steps on the baseball diamond, especially the fields of youth where dreams of heroic feats once filled young minds. Hitting the home run on a 3-2 pitch in the ninth inning to become the hero by winning the World Series was a fantasy for young men more universal then the desire date the most super of super models.

Striking out on those dreams occurs for most, but those dreams linger hauntingly in the stillness of every spring morning when young men gather to toss the ball around and take batting practice, with dreams of future glory filling their heads.

Rarely is it that we understand the importance of certain moments that will have lasting impact and one day be considered the most significant seconds, minutes, hours of our lives. They pass into memory with a joy reserved for lovers, but our recalled with melancholy fondness much later.

That was the glory of baseball, a sport which has seen better days and aspires for a return of proper importance.

One movie showcases the glory that is baseball and the games immutable bond of dreams and friendship with young men and it's appropriately named The Sandlot:

The film is told through the perspective of Scott Smalls, who is reminiscing on his first summer in Los Angeles. In 1962, Smalls moves with his mother and stepfather to a new neighborhood, and struggles to make new friends. One afternoon, he decides to follow a group of neighborhood boys, and watches them play an improvised game of baseball at a small field, which they call the “sandlot.” Smalls is reluctant to join their game because he fears he will be ridiculed on account of his inexperience.

Nevertheless, he chooses to play with them, but fails to catch a simple fly ball and properly throw the ball back to his infielders. All the other players, except for Benny Rodriguez, begin to jeer Smalls for committing defensive miscues, prompting him to leave the sandlot in embarrassment.

Benny, who is the best player in the neighborhood, shields Smalls from the insults of his peers, and invites him to rejoin their game. He proceeds to give Smalls advice and helps him earn the respect of the other players. In time, Smalls is accepted and becomes an integral part of the team.

As Smalls continues to play with the team, he begins to learn many of the customs of the sandlot, while experiencing many misadventures with his new friends. He learns that players avoid hitting home runs over the sandlot’s fences, as the property beyond them is guarded by a ferocious dog, called “the beast.”

One day, Benny hits a ball so hard, that he ruptures its leather, causing the balls entrails to come out. The group cannot afford to buy another baseball, and is forced to retire for the afternoon. However, Smalls runs to his step-father’s trophy room, and steals a baseball autographed by Babe Ruth, in hopes of preserving the game. The team is impressed with Smalls’ gesture, and allows him to have the first at bat with the ball. He proceeds to hit the ball out of the sandlot, but is shortly enveloped by fear once he realizes that he has lost his stepfather’s ball. The situation is further worsened when Smalls realizes that the ball was autographed by Babe Ruth, and is almost irreplaceable.

Smalls and his friends begin engineering elaborate plans to recover the ball from the beast. After five failed rescue attempts, Smalls prepares to accept his fate. Around the same time, Benny has an enlightening dream, where he is visited by Babe Ruth, who encourages him to run into the sandlot, and use his speed to recover the ball and escape.

Ruth leaves Benny with the words, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” Benny rallies his friends the following morning at the sandlot, and prepares to recover Smalls’ baseball. Using his PF Flyers, he steals the ball from the Beast, and successfully manages to elude the dog as it chases him through town. At the end of the race, the Beast is injured after a fence collapses on it.

Smalls feels responsible for the ordeal, and helps the Beast (whose real name is revealed to be "Hercules") escape the rubble. Benny and Smalls then decide to tell the dog’s owner, Mr. Mertle (James Earl Jones), about the ordeal. They eventually learn that Mertle was a professional baseball player in 1927 and was a friend of Babe Ruth. Mertle, whose career was shortened after he was blinded by a stray pitch, agrees to give Smalls a ball signed by Murderers' Row – several of the best Yankee hitters in the late 1920s. In exchange, the boys are to visit Mertle once a week to talk about baseball. Smalls proceeds to give his stepfather the ball that Mertle gave him.
"Your killing me Smalls"... these words, spoken Hamilton "Ham"Porter as expresses incredulity over Scott Smalls lack of baseball acumen (he though Babe Ruth was a girl) showcase the bond baseball once had with young American males in Pre-Obama America.

Remember, in 1962 - when the film is set - the United States was 90 percent white and 9 percent Black, a far cry from the racial breakdown of the population now.

Baseball, a game rarely played by Black people now despite the prodigious efforts by Major League Baseball (MLB) to get inner city youth active in a game they care little for, can trace its decline in importance to the erosion of the white majority.

Black people were once denied the opportunity to play in the MLB, a great travesty of injustice that they are shockingly on a path to replicate as Black players in baseball are close to being a mere 7 percent of all players.

It wasn't until 1947 that Black people broke the color barrier, a feat performed by Jackie Robinson and one so important that Black History Month is routinely awash in reproducing this moment for a genuine lack of any other milestones or inventions worthy of celebrating.

Guilt is a powerful weapon and Black History Month instills an untold amount of guilt into the minds of impressionable white children who find the lack of significant Black contributions to world and American history puzzling, but with the knowledge of historic white oppression continually beat into them from Crusading White Pedagogues they become programmed and equipped to understand unpleasant realities through the eyes of future Disingenuous White Liberals.

The Sandlot refuses to wallow in the muck of white guilt and dares to tarnish the legacy of Jackie Robinson - a moment so powerful that his N0. 42 jersey has been retired by every MLB team - by casting James Earl Jones as the owner of Beast and the wise, erudite recluse who once played professional baseball.

However, if he played in 1927 then he would have been the first Black person to play professional baseball. Although stricken with blindness due to an errant baseball, the character of Mr. Mertle was a heroic Black baseball figure that predated Jackie Robinson by nearly a score.

His very presence in this beloved children's film has potentially damaged the obvious myth of Jackie Robinson, and thus, the No. 42 jersey is of no need for further retirement and should be eligible to adorn the back of one player from every team this 2010 season.

Stuff Black People Don't Like invites Mr. Mertle to the batters box of fictional Black History Month, for his inclusion in the film The Sandlot has the ability to confuse young people watching that have constantly been told about the inherent evil of whiteness.

Shockingly Mertle is a Black man and he played professional baseball in the roaring 20s. He is the true hero. More interestingly, the film took an actual photo of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx and airbrushed in Mr. Mertle's face on Foxx's (go to 3:29 of the first video to see this for your own eyes!!!)!!!

However, baseball is a game incapable of escaping the glorious memories of yesterday and will always be haunted by what it once represent. Resurrection of Pre-Obama America is impossible and it is becoming increasingly obvious that baseball was wedded to that particular institution.

So goes America, so goes baseball. An immutable bond exists between the two and both find themselves behind the count in the ninth inning, with two outs.


Anonymous said...

Yo cracka, you dont nuffin about da black coomunity. Did you know we been to Jupiter and colonized it? I been der and we fly on magic carpets and use cars made out of crystals. Can you crackas do dat? I aint neva seen no cracka fly on magic carpet be fo. Except Aladanin but Aladnin be tappin that fine piece of hoochie ass named Jasemine.

Ya see crackas be jealous of us because we be forever invent sheeit dat yall takes credit fo. Whats up wit dat? We aint neva did dat to yall. In conclusion, we in Jupiter and colonized it but to punish yall cracks fo stealin our inventions we sent yall some ignorant blacks to deal with. We might consider taking them back but then they come here and smoke up all our weed.


Anonymous said...

What? I do not understand your drivel.

Anonymous said...


I'm quite sick of these "black history month" posts. Truthfully, I think that may have been half the point to this "black history month" tangent you've been on.

In a way, I agree with the use of "pop culture" in your annotations of 'American' society. On the other hand, you have used far too much jewish material to make your points.

What's next?


Stuff Black People Don't Like said...


Black History Month Heroes will be an ongoing feature here.

Hollywood shapes opinions. Movies and television shows have much more influence than any book or tract ever will.

Thus, the need to discuss Black characters in film.

What's next? A return to the good old chronological ordering of SBPDL. You must remember, we have a backlog of 400+ entries, plus the daily grind of Black Run America always provides pressing stories in need of discussing.

Stay patient... a new site design is underway. I have found a web designer who is going to create a new site to complement this one, with many more features (including the long-delayed videos and podcasts).

Thanks for being a fan Dave.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Black History Month is educational and necessary for all races. Just like Hispanic History Month and you whites shouldn't be complaining. We learn your history everyday so stop being so greedy. (This only applies to you racist whites and especially the SBPDL. All you other non-racist whites keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

ok I'm no saint but I'm a white 14 year old buy and my opinion was always that we were all together in this nation and we don't need seperete months to opreciate ourselfs. but i understand that the black race has gone through HELL from my white brothers along time ago, almost 100 years. but i don't think that us whites have all year we don't even have a single day that is labeld white history month. i beleave in one race and that ladies and gentlemen is the humen race. we all need to stick together thrugh tough good or worse.