Baseball: Simeon’s Marshawn Taylor, Mount Carmel’s Jerry Houston excel in Double Duty ClassicJerry Houston of Mt. Carmel in the Double Duty Classic Baseball All-Star game at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. | Al Podgorski~CFhicago Sun-Times
Updated: June 28, 2012 10:45AM
It’s been 65 years since Jackie Robinson broke the modern color barrier in the major leagues and 50 since the Negro Leagues’ last East-West All-Star Game.
But that seemed like anything but ancient history for teenagers such as Marshawn Taylor and Jerry Houston this week. Taylor, a rising senior at Simeon, and Houston, an incoming senior at Mount Carmel, were among the players who suited up in replica Negro Leagues uniforms Wednesday for the Double Duty Classic at U.S. Cellular Field.
Both had big days — Taylor was 1-for-2 with a run, a stolen base and two hit-by-pitches for the East, Houston went 2-for-4 with a run for the West — in the East’s 6-2 victory.
Reavis’ Richard Velez smacked a two-run double for the East. Rich Central’s Jalen Purchase and Harlan’s Austin Hall each pitched a perfect inning for the winners.
What happened on the field, though, was almost secondary to what happened off it. The players learned about who paved the way for them over the past few days, hearing from former White Sox great Frank Thomas and others at a Wednesday morning forum and meeting a former Negro Leaguer and Sox icon.
It wasn’t all unfamiliar territory for Taylor.
“I used to be read about the Negro Leagues,” he said. “People like Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell.”
But books are one thing, more visceral experiences are something else altogether. “It really got into me at the videos there were showing us at the DuSable Museum [of African American History] yesterday,” Taylor said. “[And] I was excited to meet Minnie Minoso, Mr. White Sox.”
So was Houston, who was playing in his fourth Double Duty Classic, which was named for the former Negro League great who was a fixture around old Comiskey Park and the Cell before he died in 2005 at the age of 103.
Though he’s a veteran of the game, Houston wasn’t always a history buff. “I didn’t really know too much till last year,” he said. “I started doing some research, I started paying a little more attention.
“I talked to some of the older guys a little bit about what used to go on.”
That one-on-one experience with some links to the glory days of Negro Leagues baseball is something Houston no longer takes for granted.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “I would always see videos about it, maybe a couple specials on TV about it. But to actually be in the same room — not only in the same room but a couple feet away from them — it’s ridiculous.”