Saying, "Happy Martin Luther King" day just doesn't feel right. And it is mostly because I lived through those days and they were not happy days. The world was upside down and upheaval was everywhere. It seemed that society was flying apart at the seams. Growing up in Bergenfield, New Jersey, we were somewhat shielded from the strife. Bergenfield was mostly Irish, Italian and Jewish at that time. But four miles away was a town called Teaneck and riots were occurring there. We heard about it and we were scared. But I am one that believes that celebrating Martin Luther King's life is the right thing to do. His cause was right and just. He fought it courageously and was gunned down way too soon.
So to honor his life today, the idea was to come up with an all African-American team of the greatest players at each position. That seems right too since it was Jackie Robinson's history-making introduction to the majors that opened the doors to others that have graced us with their play ever since. And Jackie Robinson preceded King and was a first step in what King and others were to accomplish. We still have a long way to go. Until all people are not only treated equally but that we all understand that all have the right to be created that way, we still have work to do.
Again, in honor of King and Robinson and with an eye on the grander themes than baseball, here is one Fan's thoughts on the all time African-American team. The criteria is based on statistics from 1947 to 2012. There is a debate if this list should include Hispanic players and it is a valid debate. But we can debate that another time. They were not included in this list.
We'll start with the outfield since this one is easy.
Not only were they the three best ever for their race, but they are probably two, three, four all time for all players. You can pick that order though.
Again, this is easy. It has to be the one and only:
Campanella's career was tragically cut short due to a spinal injury. But in his ten seasons, he packed in three MVP Awards. His offense for a catcher was great with a career .860 OPS, but he was also great defensively as he threw out 57% of all base steal attempts during his career. The rest of his contemporaries averaged 42% during that time.
Now it gets a little harder.
This one was extremely tough to pick. Allen played more first base than third and also played the outfield. But there really wasn't anyone else.
Fergie Jenkins a close second.
There was nobody else that was close.
There you have it. One Fan's all time African-American team. And while you are at it, you must go and listen to Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. You will be moved.