That’s probably the most sensible way to view the reports Wednesday of how the Jackie Robinson West baseball program on Chicago’s far southern edge is now negotiating with the entities known as Cal Ripken Baseball and Babe Ruth Baseball (which is for older children through age 18) to be affiliated with them.
FOR IT SEEMS that if the Jackie Robinson baseball program that was created in the early 1970s to try to bolster baseball interest in inner-city neighborhoods is to continue, it no longer wants to be part of the Little League entity that many people probably think is a generic label that applies to all youth baseball programs.
The Jackie Robinson West team that won the U.S. Little League championship last year had ballplayers who lived in assorted southern suburbs, which means theoretically they should have played in suburban-based Little League programs.
But the reality is that the Jackie Robinson West program was more attractive to many of those kids because it is a city-based program with leadership focusing attention on African-American interests and concerns.
Many of the suburban players had dual addresses that theoretically made them eligible to play in the Jackie Robinson program, which is why Little League International officials initially said there was nothing wrong with the Jackie Robinson program.
PERHAPS IF IT had only been one or two players on that team last year, it wouldn’t have been much of a concern.
But when six of the 12 players on the Chicago-based squad that captured national glory came from places like South Holland (two), Dolton, Lansing, Lynwood and Homewood, it gave that bit of ammunition to the people from other Little League programs who were still bitter that they had lost to the Jackie Robinson team on the path to the Little League World Series and who started up the complaints that the DNAinfo.com website originally reported on.
Both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times reported Wednesday that Jackie Robinson league officials are talking with the officials overseeing the Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth programs that exist in Chicago and the south suburbs. Nothing is definite yet.
For it seems possible that local league boundaries could be drawn in a way that all the territory where the Robinson league team came from would be included. Or that some territory might be shared in a way that the local kids would get to pick which program they’d rather play baseball in.
NOBODY OUGHT TO have an objection to that concept!
The alleged act of “cheating” that supposedly occurred (which strikes me as being more a matter of other leagues being jealous that some kids chose to play in the Chicago-based league rather than their home leagues) would be legitimized.
Perhaps it would be best in that the Jackie Robinson program would be able to operate the way it does without someone trying to claim it is violating the all-sacred “rules” that govern this matter.
As someone who always had a hard time thinking of the league’s actions as being foul because they were being so open about what they were doing, this really does come to be the best solution.
PERHAPS IT REALIZES that the south suburbs have truly become an extension of Chicago’s South Side and that there is a certain back-and-forth of people and activities – rather than being the place certain people fled to because their “new” neighbors had the “wrong” complexion.
And if Jackie Robinson ball ultimately makes for a trifecta of baseball names honored with youth leagues, the real loser might well be Little League Baseball.
It would have the knowledge that it chased away an interesting championship ball club while trying to pretend that teams from Las Vegas, Nev. (national champions) and St. Charles (state champs) somehow won something of significance on the playing field.
Which ought to be the place where all sports disputes get resolved!