Outtakes: Sports Icon
wrote in The Nation, March 2, 2015, “The
Passing of Three Interconnected Icons: Earl
Lloyd, Minnie Minoso, and Anthony Mason:”
“The awful cliché that tragedy occurs in threes
became prophecy over the last week in the world
of sports. A trio of towering athletes died, two
from age and one decades before his time. These
three shared something powerful in common,
beyond their field of work. None were ever
formally recognized as Hall of Famers for their
play, yet all were truly iconic. They were the
kinds of players that young sportswriters made
pilgrimages to interview; the kind who could
either silence a room or cause attendees to
spontaneously rise to their feet. They also
shared a deeper sociopolitical significance
worth remembrance and appreciation. Their names
were Earl Lloyd, Orestes ‘Minnie’ Minoso and
Minnie Minoso, Major League Baseball's first
black player in Chicago, stands during
the national anthem before a Chicago White Sox
game. (AP Photo/David Banks)
The following scene was cut from
during the last major revision. But it was one
of my favorites.
Saturday Afternoon at Comiskey Park with C.J.,
Mae, Flo, and Alinda
With only a few blocks to go, C.J. pranced
alongside Mae, clutching her ticket. She hardly
knew which was more incredible, her first
professional baseball game or Mae finally
getting Saturday off. And just in time, too. C.J.
was determined to stay away from Flo.
Alinda and Flo were right behind them. Only
Alinda had followed Mae’s instructions on what
to wear. A blouse and slacks with a sweater
thrown over her shoulders. Flo—C.J. had to agree
with her on this—was dressed right for a
ballgame, in jeans.
Smells from the nearby stockyards pushed closer,
like the swelling crowd. C.J. covered her nose.
But she forgot the odor when she saw the words
over the arched windows of the main gate.
COMISKEY PARK. “Daddy,” she whispered. “I’ll
remember everything about this to tell you when
I come home.”
Inside, they made their way to the cheap seats,
green metal with spindly arms and legs. Leading
the way into their row, Mae took the second
seat. When Flo took the seat farthest away, C.J.
took the closest one. “That one’s Alinda’s,” Mae
said. She patted the empty seat between her and
Flo. “This one’s yours.”
C.J. moved over but stood, stiffly, staring out
at the people of all ages, whites and Negroes
“Bob Shaw’s the starting pitcher,” Mae
announced, lifting her head from her program. “C.J.,
“Maybe—” She settled herself with exaggerated
slowness. “You could go see do they need another
“Shaw’s good,” Mae said, one eyebrow
cocked. “But not as good as Early Wynn. Ain’t he
just got the best name?”
C.J. closed her eyes during the national anthem.
As the game got underway, she watched the
outfielders twitch in anticipation, imagining
how the grass felt beneath their feet.
“Go, Minnie, go!” yelled a man from somewhere
“Come back home where you belong!” shrieked a
woman down in front.
Still others took up the shouting. C.J. studied
the dark-skinned Indians’ batter.
“He’s fine to look on, ain’t he?” Mae
“But he’s on the other team. Why’s everyone
cheering for him?”
“He used to be on our team, ’til he got
When Bob Shaw retired the Indians, Luis Aparicio,
another dark-skinned man, led off for the White
Sox. The crowd roared their approval.
“Daddy would surely not believe his eyes,” C.J.
said. “Only thing he ever saw was a field of
Negro players in New Orleans. The time he got
the ball off Johnny Bissant—”
“Now that girl’s got class.” Mae elbowed C.J.
and pointed. “C.J., Flo, y’all look at her
outfit. What’d I tell y’all?”
C.J. followed Mae’s finger, past the overdressed
girl to the hotdog vendor climbing the steps
behind her. “Y’all hungry?”
“If you’re going to dress up—” Mae’s look
said clothes were far more important than food.
“You got to know what’s in style and what’s
“Sure,” Flo said. “I’ll buy.” She waved
her arm overhead, handed over money, and passed
hotdogs back down the line.
“Thanks, Flo.” C.J. concentrated for a moment on
peeling back the paper and making sure the
mustard didn’t drip. Her gaze returned to the
outfielders but wandered to the thousands of
seats ringing the field, then up to more arched
windows in the walls. “Wonder if baseballs go
that high? There’s kids all up in there, holding
gloves, just waiting on one to come their way.
Wanting to catch a ball like my daddy did—”
“What?” Alinda said when Mae and Flo
laughed as she wadded up her wrapper. “So? I
love hotdogs.” She brushed her hands together.
“Now, how y’all think we’re gonna do this year?”
“We’re in first place,” Mae said. “I reckon
that’s a good sign.”
“First place?” C.J. said. “When we talked on the
trip up from Poplar Springs, they were in second
“Where you been, C.J.? We been holding on
to first place all of August.”
C.J. looked left past Mae.
“It’s so,” Alinda said.
When C.J. looked right, Flo shrugged as if to
say she hadn’t known that either.
“We just may go all the way this year,” Mae
said. “It’s high time after chasing the dream
for so long.”
A dark-skinned White Sox player stepped to the
plate wearing number sixteen. He swung. Strike
“We want Minnie!” someone yelled.
Strike two. Others began to boo.
“Good heavens,” C.J. said when Mae joined them.
“You can’t boo one of your own.”
“That’s Al Smith.”
“He’s who we got when we lost Minnie in the
“He any good?”
“Not as good as Minnie.” Mae’s tone suggested
that seeing number sixteen strike out should
have said it all.
“Seems to me he will be, though. This
trading—that something he’d get a say in?”
“Then it doesn’t seem right—yelling at him.”
“We cheer when our favorite player comes
up to bat. When something ain’t how we like it,
we boo—real loud,” Mae said.
“That’s how it is in baseball.”
Minoso came up again, crowding the plate,
looking fearless. Shaw’s pitch struck him, and
he took a base. Until the ninth inning, neither
Minoso nor Smith got a hit. With one on and one
out, Smith hit a home run off a pitch by
Cleveland’s Bell. C.J. elbowed Mae. “What’d I
When they lost six to five, C.J. leaned back in
her seat, smiling and satisfied. “I got to say
it was a fine sight to behold anyways. I can’t
wait to tell Daddy about watching Al Smith do
“It was terrible!” Mae said. “Al Smith striking
out before, that probably lost the game.”
“Seems silly to me, caring so much about
“You just don’t get it, C.J.”
This time, C.J. looked only at Flo. Her shrug
made C.J. smile.
* * *