Courage: Not Just a Game

Two stories today about shameful history and courageous men.

Charlie Sifford, the first black player allowed on a PGA tour, has passed at age 92. Breaking par, as a caddy at age 13, he was not allowed to play in the PGA until it dropped its white’s only rule in 1961.

“In 1952, he was allowed to play in the Phoenix Open in an all-black foursome that included the former heavyweight champion Joe Louis. When the golfers arrived at the first hole, they found that someone had put excrement into it.”


Tiger Woods has called Sifford “one of the bravest men ever to play this sport.”



Val James, alive and writing his autobiography, Black Ice, helped break the color barrier in another very white sport – professional hockey.  He was the first American born black player in the NHL and endured abuse from Americans and Canadians for years.

Warren Skorodenski, a former Springfield, Mass., Indians goalie who spent parts of five seasons in the N.H.L., recalled Springfield fans yelling racial slurs at James and throwing so many bananas on the ice that linesmen collected them during stoppages of play. A few fans, he said, dressed in Ku Klux Klan-style hoods.

“It was disgusting,” said Skorodenski, who is not mentioned in the book. “To be in his shoes, I just couldn’t imagine.”

In Salem, Va., in 1981, a CBS News crew filming a report on James recorded fans chanting a racial epithet at him. A producer interviewed a proud teenager who brought a watermelon to the game for James. Gallagher shared a copy of the report with The New York Times.

“There is the only way I can explain it for people who don’t understand that feeling,” James said. “Let’s start with women. What’s the worst thing you can call a woman? Imagine having one of those words thrown at you every three seconds for 60 minutes. Now multiply that 40 road games a year.”

NY Times

Heroes in Hard Times

There is nothing I am more moved by than men and women who stand up against cruelty, hatred and discrimination.  These three scorpions are popular pets amongst way too many, carried on their shoulders and in their hearts.  Joe Arpaio would be one such person.  So those who stand against his bullying under color of the law deserve our special attention and should be in our pantheons of heroes way higher than the make-believe heroes we make such a fuss over.

 Salvador Reza, [is] an Air Force veteran with long experience in organizing Latino entrepreneurs and day laborers. When Sheriff Arpaio teamed up with local business owners to harass day laborers in 2007, Mr. Reza helped organize weekly protests outside M. D. Pruitt’s furniture store, a now-legendary series of confrontations that drew Minutemen vigilantes and white supremacists to one side of the street, and Mr. Reza and his supporters, accompanied by traditional dancers and musicians, to the other.

Mary Rose Wilcox, the only Democrat, woman and Latina on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, was an early critic of Sheriff Arpaio’s, speaking out against his “saturation patrols” of Latino neighborhoods in 2008, when few other elected officials dared to defy the sheriff. She paid a heavy price: she was indicted by a grand jury in 2009 on dozens of trumped-up corruption charges.

 Lydia Guzman is like a 911 operator for the community. Her advocacy organization, Respect-Respeto, monitors reports of civil-rights violations by the police and sheriff’s deputies and spreads the word so immigrants know their rights when they are detained.

Dennis Gilman is a relentless independent videographer — the chronicler of Arizona in the age of Sheriff Arpaio. When immigration tension erupts, or bad policing happens, you will often find Mr. Gilman and his camera — at white supremacist rallies, pro-immigrant marches, politicians’ and lawyers’ news conferences and the sheriff’s “crime suppression” sweeps.

And quite a  few others.  Thanks to Lawrence Downes and the New York Times for bringing us news about these folks. Let their courage and tenacity spread like fire to many others.