What's up with Belliard and his tongue?

Week of August 17, 2006

Aug 16, 2006 at 4:00 am
Hey Joe: I'm what you call a Latino. I don't look like a negro. Sometimes I watch baseball and I think a player is a negro but no, he's Latino, too. And he's pretty good! What's your take on the Latino baseball player? Is Latino the nuevo negro? Or are the Latinos and negroes just better players than the white guys?

Jesús, Hazelwood

I just became a legal immigrant myself. What about you?! If you are in doubt about your nationality, check to see whether you are in the majority or minority. In reference to baseball, had there been no Negro League, most Latinos would have been locked out of the white baseball leagues. I suggest you decide for yourself about who are the best baseball players.

Hey Joe: One of my friends just got engaged and asked me to be in her wedding. I think her fiancé is an ass and that they shouldn't get married at all. Most of our friends feel the same way. Should I tell my friend how I feel — and risk losing her friendship — or should I shut up and be in the wedding?

Courteney Cox, Los Angeles

Find yourself a way out of the situation and allow your friend to find out herself about the man she plans to marry. This way, you maintain your friendship.

Hey Joe: In answering a recent question, you wrote, "Although I'm no Mike Shannon admirer...." Whatever your problem with Mike Shannon, couldn't you leave it alone, given what he's going through these days? (He's been absent from the Cardinals broadcasts because his wife is battling cancer.)

A Mike Shannon Admirer, Iowa

I'm very sorry to hear that Shannon is undergoing such a stressful period in his life. However, so I can make myself perfectly clear on that issue, I'll tell the whole story about my truthful feelings. I haven't cared for a Cardinal broadcasting team since the days of Gabby Street (nicknamed "The Old Sarge"), France Locke, Dizzy Dean and Harry Caray. I'm sick of these other jokers making gods of the Cardinals and some of their broadcasters. Had you not responded in the way you did, then it wouldn't have reached this point.

Hey Joe: What do you think of the Cardinals' addition of Ronnie Belliard — can he help them lick the competition in the NL Central? And what's the deal with the dude's tongue when he comes to bat? Ever seen anything like that?

Colonel Angus, Paducah, Kentucky

A sandlot player would have fared just as well. The National League Central has proven to be just a bunch of patsies. In fact, any team winning the National League pennant awaits their turn to get an American League butt-whippin'. As for Belliard's tongue, I've never paid any attention.

Prince Joe Henry, one of professional baseball's original "clowns," was an all-star infielder for Negro League baseball teams in Memphis, Indianapolis and Detroit throughout the 1950s. But up until the late 1940s, Prince Joe didn't know anything about the Negro Leagues. His knowledge of organized baseball was limited to the Cardinals and Browns games he attended during his preteen years at Sportsman's Park, accompanied by lifelong buddy Eugene "Gene" Crittendon, who could pass for white.

Perhaps Henry's most vivid memory of those games: Upon entry, white ushers would politely escort the boys to a small section of the left-field stands reserved for "Colored." After climbing past several tiers of bleachers, they'd arrive at their stop, rows and rows behind their white counterparts.

Even at a young age, the boys were conscious of the double standard -- and determined to vent their disdain. The opportunity would arise with the urge to urinate. Rather than head for the latrine, the boys would edge their way to the front of the section and let fly. As the liquid foamed its way down the concrete steps toward the white kids, Henry and his pal would ease back and relax, politely rooting for the visiting team to beat the hell out of the Browns or the Cards.

After all, Henry and Crittendon hailed from Brooklyn, Illinois, a small, predominantly black township just east of the Mississippi River. So hospitable were the residents of Brooklyn that they were known to take in a rank stranger, treat him to breakfast, lunch, supper and a night out on the town -- and afterward, if he messed up, treat him to a good ass-whippin'.

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