Baseball The Way It Oughta Be

By Tony McClean
Updated: July 13, 2008

NEW HAVEN, Ct. — No exploding scoreboards.

No luxury boxes.

No PSL’s, unless you count the fans in lawn chairs.

No ball girls or ball boys for that matter.

No bombastic seven inning stretches.

It’s just baseball in its most purest and natural form.

In a time when many blacks are disillusioned and or fed up with the way the game of baseball deals with them, a simple Sunday afternoon watching the New Haven Cardinals playing the game is truly a gift.

A member of the Connecticut Men’s Senior Baseball League (28 and older), the Cardinals are the oldest African-American semi-pro baseball team in the state. For decades, the Cardinals (who are the league’s defending champions) have been one of the cities most popular baseball teams.

Several minor league teams have been and are still a part of the state’s baseball history. However for many African-American baseball fans in the Elm City, the Cardinals’ tradition is on par with the Yankees and Mets in the Big Apple.

No, they don’t play huge state-funded stadiums in front of 50,000 fans. No, they won’t be moving into new stadiums with corporate names plastered all over its outfield walls.

And that’s just the point in enjoying the simplicity of the Cardinals and their fans.

Most of the players have others jobs during the week. Many of them are longtime friends and other acquaintances who have played a game they loved from younger days.

The phrase “playing for the love of the game” can get overused in sports many times, but in this case it truly applies with the Cardinals.

Manager Jesse Brodie is a perfect example of that kind of spirit. A former Cardinal player who began playing at the age of 16, Brodie has served as the team’s skipper for the last five years.

While acknowledging that the experience isn’t about a lot of pressure, the common goal is still about winning. “For many of us, this is a recreation after work”, said Brodie.

“We all look forward to this every Sunday and it’s a good pastime for us. But we definitely play hard and most importantly — we play to win”.

Even the makeup of the team runs the gamut of ages. On any given game day, half the infield is manned by players in their 40′s. In fact, the day that we watched the Cardinals, arguably the best fielder was a man just a few years away from his 60th birthday.

He could not only field his position flawlessly, he also served as a mentor for the younger players. In this game, he took away at least two hits from the opposition while also being in the middle of the Cardinals’ rally with a key single.

In watching the Cardinals, one can’t help but see the link between them and the Negro Leaguers from back in the day. It relates back to simplicity of the Cardinals, the game itself, and its followers.

Every Sunday, this group of African-American ballplayers carry on a tradition that began with such legendary names as Paige, Gibson, and Robinson. It’s a historical chain that many black baseball fans and players have been a part of whether they be semipros or Major Leaguers.

Instead of harping on what the Cardinals aren’t, I feel blessed to appreciate what they are. And in the grand scheme of baseball, what the Cardinals stand for to me is a helluva lot more important than in the big picture.