Hot Air Today

Barack & Me

Here’s a chuckle: Yesterday I portrayed Barack Obama as a paper tyrant. This morning I checked my email and — whaddya know?! — I got a message from none other than the President of these United States.

Yup. The sender line read Barack Obama. And the first sentence of the message was Michael: I wanted to talk to you directly.

Now, don’t get your shorts in a bunch over this, natch. He didn’t go on to say, Listen here, jerk, if I were wearing jackboots, I’d plant one right in your vast ass.

Obama

I assume. I didn’t read the missive. I’ve been getting emails from the Leader of the Free World ever since he began running for prez back in 2007.

The funny thing about getting so many campaign beggings and exhortations from the Obama camp, many of which are purportedly signed by the Kenyan-in-Chief, is that if the man himself ever did really send me a personal email, I’d ignore it out of hand.

So, personal to Barack Obama: If you need to contact me, call me. You’ll have to leave a message because I never answer calls from numbers I don’t recognize.

Forgotten Fact: Ernie Banks Was Black

The single greatest Chicago Cub of all time is being honored at the White House this afternoon.

Ernie Banks — originator of the sobriquet, The Friendly Confines, the poet who sang, Let’s play two! — will receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

I loved Ernie Banks almost as much as I loved Ron Santo. He was the personification of optimism itself. Before his 15th season in the big leagues, he announced, “The Cubs will be in heaven in 1967.” The next season, he predicted, “The Cubs will be great in 1968.” The season after that, he said, “The Cubs will be fine in 1969.”

Banks

Ernie Banks

These pollyannish pronouncements, mind you, came after a two-decade run of utter incompetence by his beloved employer, the Chicago Cubs. Hell, the city would have thrown a parade down Michigan Avenue if the Cubs had even achieved mediocrity.

Ernie’s spirit was never broken, though. Playing baseball even for a lousy team and earning a hefty paycheck for doing so must have seemed as sweet a deal as any kid who grew up in the Jim Crow South could have imagined.

Ernest Banks was born January 31st, 1931, in Dallas, Texas. His hometown was ruthlessly segregated in those days and for many, many days thereafter.

Dallas Morning News columnist Kevin Sherrington has a nice piece this morning about what Ernie Banks meant to Dallas, and what Dallas meant to Ernie Banks. On the one hand, neither meant much to the other. Then again, Dallas and Ernie meant everything to each other. Read it to get a little picture of Dallas’s — and Texas’s — enduring relationships with its black daughters and sons.

By the time Ernie was 24 years old, of course, he’d become the toast of the nation’s second city. He never spoke about the prejudice and bias he experienced in Dallas. Then again, he never spoke much about anything negatively.

Banks preferred to look on the bright side. He might have been characterized as an Uncle Tom in the strife-ridden ’60s, if only the militants and radicals who threw around labels like that had thought for a moment about him. Ernie never really was seen a a black man in baseball. Bob Gibson was black. So was Curt Flood. Roberto Clemente. Even Willie Mays.

Flood

Curt Flood

Ernie? He was Mr. Cub.

No, he wasn’t a civil rights trailblazer. No one ever knew where Ernie stood on issues like voting rights, open housing, integration, and so on. No one ever asked him. He lived in a world that seemed to be higher than that, a world where blacks and whites played a kid’s game together in the sunshine.

The rules were the same for a cracker from the South and a skinny but supremely powerful Negro from Dallas.

For a few hours each summer afternoon, Ernie made us forget about racial bigotry, interposition and nullification, law and order, poverty, and cities on fire.

I idolized the militants and the radicals, sure. But Ernie provided me a regular, albeit brief, respite from all that was ugly in a very ugly time.

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