Memorial Days

Posted on May 26, 2014

Sports Illustrated has gotten me into trouble before… I picked up this week’s issue anyway in honor of Memorial Day.   In case you haven’t read it: the Blackhawk’s ‘Captain Clutch’ could be the best player in the world; California Chrome strives for immortality; and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver likes shaking hands with Spike Lee and Jay-Z.  Thankfully, I found what I was looking for on page 76 in Steve Rushin’s Point After column, “Memorial Days.”

Memorial Day is the time of year we take a brief pause from our over-scheduled weekend filled with sports tournaments, graduations, birthday parties and family barbeques to remember American Patriots who have come before us, sacrificing for our country and our ideals.

At pivotal moments in our nation’s history, the best in generations have heeded the call to serve.  Our nation’s professional athletes have risen to the call since World War I: athletes like Pat Tillman who lost his life on the battlefield of Afghanistan; Ernie Banks who served in Korea before a 19-year career with the Chicago Cubs; and Joe DiMaggio who served heroically in WWII.

And as far back as the Deadball Era, Major League Baseball players served their country while keeping morale alive at home.  In WWI, Tris Speaker served in the Navy.  His best friend also served, Naval Reservist and beloved Cleveland shortstop Ray Chapman.  After the war, Speaker became player/manager of the Cleveland Indians and Chapman became the team’s star player and only on-field fatality.  Ray Chapman died playing ‘America’s Game’ while fighting for clean sport in a league rife with corruption.   A Sports Illustrated article, “Hit in the Head” by S.L. Price inspired our film project about that tragic and tumultuous 1920 pennant race.

At a time when our society seems fueled by flash without substance shouldn’t we honor those who actually deserve accolades?  Shouldn’t we honor men like Pat Tillman and Ray Chapman and those who fought to make America the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave?”  Shouldn’t we start serious discussions on whether they deserve to be inducted into their respected sport’s Hall of Fame?

As time goes by, memories of Ray Chapman and Pat Tillman become more distant.  Let’s use Memorial Day to honor Chapman, Tillman, and all sports veterans by following #raychapmanhof #pattillmanhof #MemorialDays