The new SI cover and its historical inspiration:
That's really awesome!
A marginally sad note, though... in 1968 the Cardinals had among their biggest stars three African-Americans, Hall-of-Famers Bob Gibson (the second greatest Cardinal ever behind Stan Musial) and Lou Brock, and the great centerfielder and trailblazer for players' rights, Curt Flood. (Gibson and Brock were on the 1968 cover pictured above.) As a child I read both Gibson's autobiography, From Ghetto to Glory, and Flood's, The Way It Is, many times, and came to deeply admire both men's toughness and intelligence. (Flood, for instance, was a borderline artistic genius.) When I played baseball, and when my son played, we always tried to get number 45 (Gibson), and our dog is named Gibby. Where are the African-Americans in baseball now? It isn't because of racism... this is the same league that has practically canonized Jackie Robinson.
I think there are two reasons, one benign, one malign.
The benign reason... basketball. Basketball has become the major sport for black Americans, and it isn't close anymore. Young black boys dream of growing up to be Michael Jordan or Lebron James; they don't dream of growing up to be Bob Gibson or Lou Brock.
The malign reason? Think about it... who does every boy learn baseball from? Who plays the first game of catch with a boy, and goes out in the evening and on weekends, hour after hour, to play catch until the boy can throw and catch like a real baseball player? Who takes the boy to the first major league game, teaches him how to keep score and how to read a box score? Who takes him to the Little League games and coaches him up, who hits him grounders and flies on hot summer days, who throws him batting practice in a vacant lot or in the backyard with wiffle balls?
You can play basketball with yourself. Mom can tell you to take your ball and go to the playground. But baseball is a two-man game in its most fundamental aspects. A thrower and a catcher. A pitcher and a hitter. A hitter and a fielder. You can't play baseball alone.
So much of what has happened in black communities over the past few generations comes from fathers just not being around.
Like I said: a sad note.