Lester Rodney: ‘The Pied Piper of Integration’
Outside the Lines (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
ESPN.com (Willie Weinbaum’s piece will be posted Thursday)
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Jackie Robinson’s 1947 debut that shattered baseball’s color line is a familiar story to most. Few recall that 11 years earlier a young sportswriter began an aggressive campaign to integrate baseball. Lester Rodney became sports editor of the Communist Party’s Daily Worker newspaper at age 25 and immediately launched a crusade against segregation in the national pastime, promoting petition drives and demonstrations and devoting coverage to the Negro Leagues and to white players who said they’d welcome integration. In recognition of Black History Month, Jeremy Schaap reports on the unheralded efforts of a white sportswriter to break the barrier in Major League Baseball.
“This man was the pied piper of integration. There was no one in the mainstream press promoting integration of baseball like Lester Rodney was doing. He was a soldier and the press was his sword.” — Larry Lester, sports historian
“He was a dynamite dude — that was exactly what he was. I admire somebody for speaking up and trying to help equality and there’s a good chance that we still need guys like him around today.” — Dusty Baker, Cincinnati Reds manager who met and studied Rodney
“It seems strange that almost halfway through the 20th Century there was really no stir about an apartheid ban in our national pastime. So that’s why we had an impact much larger than our circulation.” — Lester Rodney (1911-2009), from 1996 interview with ESPN
Jay McGwire says he Helped Big Brother get Bigger; First Interview in 12 Years
Outside the Lines (Sunday, 9 a.m. ESPN)
Outside the Lines First Report (Monday, 3 p.m. ESPN)
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When Mark McGwire was launching home runs in the mid-1990s, his kid brother Jay was a professional bodybuilder. Jay says he was a heavy user of performance-enhancing drugs and obtained them for Mark while training him from 1994 to 1996. He says he, not Jose Canseco or confessed drug-dealer Curtis Wenzlaff, helped profoundly transform the slugger. While Mark McGwire ended years of silence last month by admitting he used steroids, he was adamant that the only reason he used them was for healing purposes, a fact his brother says is not true. Jay McGwire, a fitness club owner who says he has been clean for many years after suffering severe side effects from the drugs, will debut his book March 1 – Mark and Me — billed as the truth behind his brother’s longtime secret. In his first interview in more than a decade, Jay McGwire speaks with ESPN.com reporter Mike Fish.
“I started him. I was well hooked up with a supplier, and I saw Mark hurt all the time, so I said, ‘Mark this is something you’ve got to think about. This is something that can maybe change your career, in ways of recovery.’ – Jay McGwire
“It was awesome. I was happy for him. As soon as he starts hitting home runs they are kissing his butt. It shows you that the fan wants to see things that are freaky, see records being broken.” — Jay McGwire
“Can you see Mark and Jose (Canseco) in a bathroom stall shooting steroids? Just think about that bathroom stall. Two big guys like that. It’s ridiculous. I know that for a fact. Mark’s just not the kind of person that he’s going to trust a person like Jose.” — Jay McGwire, discounting reports of his brother and Canseco injecting each other with steroids in the A’s bathroom stalls
ESPN.com Black History Month Celebration Continues
In a special section dedicated to Black History Month, ESPN.com is featuring an interactive collection of stories, video, chats and ESPN Insider content that highlights the contributions to the world of sports of African-Americans. Contributors include Mechelle Voepel, Jeremy Schaap, Joel Drucker, Jeff MacGregor, Richard Lapchick and more.
SportsCenter (Sunday, 10 a.m., 6 p.m., 11 p.m., ESPN)
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It was 1974 at Cadillac High School in Central Michigan, and you could hear a pin drop in the way-too-tight locker room before football games. That’s when an enterprising assistant coach named Jim Neff had an idea — why not rev up the defense by playing a little pregame rock ‘n’ roll? Like, for example, KISS? When the bold plan led to a big winning streak and a conference title, Neff and the band he loved hatched a daring plan to bring KISS to Cadillac’s 1975 Homecoming. Chris Connelly looks back at two outrageous days in the history of high school football.
20 Years since Hank Gathers’ Death
College GameDay (Saturday, 11 a.m., ESPN)
Twenty years ago, Loyola Marymount University was on its way to the West Coast Conference championship and an NCAA tournament berth when the Lions’ best player, Hank Gathers, collapsed on the court and died of complications from an enlarged heart. Twelve days later, the team began an unprecedented run in the NCAA Tournament. In choosing to honor the fallen Gathers, who had been trying to perfect a left-handed free throw at the time of his death, Gathers’ teammate and best friend Bo Kimble decided to shoot his first free throws left-handed at every tournament game, and went 4-for-4 as LMU fell one game short of the Final Four. Interviews are excerpted from the ESPN Films “30 for 30” documentary “Guru of Go.”
Myths Surrounding U.S. Soccer Hero Gaetjens Dispelled
ESPN.com (posted Friday on the soccer/World Cup section)
ESPN.com soccer writer Leander Schaerlaeckens dispels many of the myths about Joe Gaetjens, the player who scored the only goal for the U.S. in its upset of England in the 1950 World Cup. Gaetjens was a Haitian — he never became a U.S. citizen — who died at the hands of Francois Duvalier, Haiti’s president from 1957-71.