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Ask a Negro Leaguer Column

Week of November 30, 2006


Hey Joe: The whole Amendment 2 proposition about stem cells was a huge deal over here in St. Louis. It narrowly passed. Would you have voted for or against, and why?

M. Bree Onic, St. Louis

I don't vote for anything that I am in doubt about. I made up my mind years back to become thoroughly knowledgeable about the issues that confront me before committing myself. Though this does not keep me from paying close attention to my surroundings, whether in Illinois, St. Louis or the nation, and you better believe that I paid close attention to the recent elections, which among other things included the subject surrounding stem cells. However, any topic involving a life being tampered with don't sit too well with me.

Since St. Louis is so close to where I live, I couldn't help but focus on the political viciousness that was displayed via television, which featured Michael J. Fox, the actor, only in this case he wasn't acting. He was being truthful in his representation of the stem cell initiative and its potential for a cure for Parkinson's Disease, a condition he and others are plagued with, which I believe he has a very good understanding of. Sadly, I don't. Hopefully, I will learn more about it in the future.

But Fox stood in his finest hour. His campaign for the potential cure wasn't limited to St. Louis but also for every other city and state throughout the nation, which included all people with diseases that the research could possibly help. And he did it with class without taking a backward step although faced with much criticism. His message was a lesson to most current politicians as to how the game is played: Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

So elated was I about the losses of several Republican senators that I overlooked the victory of Amendment 2, which was pushed to the back of my mind. Though no matter how large or how small the margin, it is my belief that Michael J. Fox turned the tide in favor of the Democratic party, though not because it's any better. In addition to Fox, the only other winners during the recent elections were the voters that ousted several Republican incumbent senators, who were up for re-election and supported George W. Bush. Both parties serve the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution like most elected candidates claim, and they and their families are Christians.

However, in St. Louis, the dog-heartedness of both parties was reflected in television ads regarding the Missouri senatorial race between McCaskill and Talent. Anybody who watched these cutthroat commercials should have a good idea about the true meaning of politics: an occupation so lucrative that those aspiring to attain this goal will spend millions of dollars begging you and me for a job they want by making promise after promise, and after becoming successful at our expense, they'll settle down and enjoy the luxury of becoming millionaires through retirement and sellout campaign funds.

Remember Pharaoh. All those who followed the fool died. Remember Bush. These Republican senators that followed him politically perished, including the evangelical church. Hopefully future voters will recognize that they have the last say and can hire and fire anybody refusing to fulfill their promises by saying what they mean and meaning what they say.

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'.

Direct questions on any and all topics to If we don't like yours, we'll hit Joe with our own.

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