Karl Lindholm

CHARLEY SYKES, MIDD ’57, goes to the hoop: “He plays with the ease of a pro and is the picture of poise and composure.” Photo courtesy of the family
Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series inspired by the centennial of baseball’s Negro Leagues. “Whether confronting the challenges of world population growth or the nutritional needs of children, building a hospital or overseeing disaster relief, you have been there to serve and to care for the present and future needs of some of the world’s most impoverished people. Your lifetime commitment to CARE and the needs of people in developing countries is a matter of great pride for your alma mater and serves as an inspiration for others who will follow you from this place.” These are the...

MOST RED SOX fans know that Elijah “Pumpsie” Green (above left) was the first African American player for the Boston Red Sox, the last team in Major League Baseball to integrate.
Latest in a series of reflections inspired by the 2020 centennial of Baseball’s Negro Leagues. Larry Doby was the second Black player in the major leagues, first appearing for the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1947, just 10 weeks after Jackie Robinson’s debut for the Dodgers. Every year on April 15, Major League Baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson Day. There’s no Larry Doby Day.  Unlike Robinson, 28, who had a terrific year for Brooklyn, Larry Doby, just 23, struggled in his first season, playing in only 21 games and batting just .156. The next year, however, along with the ageless Satchel...

THE ILLUSTRATIONS IN Kadir Nelson’s “We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball” will take your breath away. The book is a must-read for baseball fans.
Editor’s note: Third in a series on the centennial of baseball’s Negro leagues. Perhaps you have seen the cover of the New Yorker magazine from June 22. It has been widely circulated. This cover is a stunning portrait of George Floyd, from his head to his waist. Floyd’s expression is sober, impassive, expressionless; he looks right out at the viewer — you, me, as if to say, “and what are you going to do about it?” The painting is nearly monochromatic — dark tones, black and gray and brown against a pure white background. Powerful symbolic images of America’s violent racial past are depicted...

BUCK O’NEIL PERSONIFIED, and brought to life, Negro league baseball when he traveled the country in his 90s. This wonderful image created by Mark Chiarello shows O’Neil when he played for the Kansas City Monarchs.
Editor’s note: Second in a series on the centennial of baseball’s Negro leagues. Over the years I have conjured a number of fantasy jobs for myself. None were consummated, of course — reality intruded, but it was fun to imagine myself in these roles. One of my favorite fantasies was traveling the country, under the auspices of Major League Baseball (MLB) or ESPN or the Hall of Fame or some such authority, presenting seminars on baseball’s Negro leagues for people whose profession extends from baseball but who don’t know squat about the Black game in the 60 years the National Pastime was...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA tips his Chicago White Sox cap. He might have more aptly tipped the cap of the Homestead Grays, one of the greatest of the Negro League teams, which played many games in Washington, D.C., now the home of the Obamas. Photo courtesy of tippingyourcap.com
This is the first in a series. Perhaps you have seen this “tip your cap” campaign celebrating the centennial of baseball’s Negro Leagues. In December 1920, Andrew “Rube” Foster, the owner-manager of the Chicago American Giants, gathered seven other owners of Black traveling independent teams and formed the Negro National League (Read about that online at tinyurl.com/Karl-Negro-league). Our four living former Presidents all tipped their baseball caps to acknowledge this landmark date, and other dignitaries, athletes, entertainers, political figures followed with their own tributes. Do check...
A week or so ago, I met Mike, and he asked me (behind his mask) what I thought of the most recent plan to begin the Major League Baseball season. “I haven’t given it much thought,” I told him. “I don’t really care.” He was taken aback. After all, with the Addy Indy’s help, I have somewhat fashioned myself as “Doctor Baseball,” knowing more about baseball than the average bear, teaching classes at Middlebury College on baseball, and its literature, history, and cultural meaning, finding a home in the study of baseball’s Negro leagues.  I had to apologize to Mike for being so brusque. It was an...
One of my heroes growing up was Joey O’Brien, a star athlete at Lewiston High School in Maine, three or four years older than I.  He was a gregarious Irish kid, full of bluster, who loved sports and was really good at them: All-State in football and basketball on state championship teams, and the league champion in the mile run in the spring.  His real name was not Joey O’Brien, but I’m writing about a real person. What was most appealing about Joey was the absolute joy he exhibited playing his games. He played with a smile on his face, exuberant. He was irresistible. After high school, he...

EXCEPT FOR HER time in college, when she was a successful sprinter on the track, Tracey Thompson Turner has always been a passionate horsewoman, and still competes at a high level in an equestrian event called “Combined Driving.”
In the new (2015) field house at Middlebury College, against the north wall (nearest the main entrance), down on the actual playing surface, large boards behind glass list the individual record holders in track and field — men and women, indoors and outdoors. It’s hard not to take special note of the first name among the women’s outdoor records, right at the top: the record-holder in the 100 meter dash — “Tracey Thompson, 11.9, 1979.” That’s a record that has stood for over 40 years, and withstood the challenge of hundreds and hundreds of runners in this exciting event that often culminates a...

JULES TYGIEL’S HISTORY of the integration of baseball is among columnist Karl Lindholm’s favorite non-fiction books on the sport because of it’s first-class scholarship and narrative appeal.
SABR, the Society of American Baseball Research, is in its 50th year. Begun in 1971 by 16 serious baseball fans, the organization today has over 6,000 members. To celebrate it 50th anniversary, SABR is publishing a book of 50 essays, “SABR 50 at 50: The Society for American Baseball Research’s Fifty Most Essential Contributions to the Game,” one for each year. One of those essays, (“The Book”) from SABR’s research journal, The National Pastime, (1996) is by our sports columnist Karl Lindholm and is included in this volume. Here is a condensed version of that piece.   “I never play by the book...

MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE FOOTBALL players line up for the traditional handshake at the end of a recent game with Amherst College, signifying respect for one another’s mutual efforts. Photo courtesy of Middlebury College
“Shake hands and come out fighting.” When I was a kid watching the Friday Night Fights with my dad (brought to you by Gillette — “to look sharp and to feel sharp too ...”), that’s what the referee instructed in the ring center before the boxing match began. The combatants touched gloves and commenced to beat each other up, respectfully: after all, they had shaken hands, more or less. Whenever there was contretemps in the school yard or playing field when I was growing up, the adult who broke up the fight commanded, “OK, shake hands now.” That meant it was over and there would be no further...


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